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Amid all the buzz generated from last month's roast of Charlie Sheen, there was a notable omission among the comics holding court over the troubled actor: Lisa Lampanelli.
The Queen of Put Downs had a valid reason for her absence that night: a schedule conflict. That was just fine with her.
"I was happy I was busy that night. I've been having a lot of trouble with getting my head around roasting someone who's got so many problems, I didn't feel like it was the best venue for me to do it," Lampanelli said. "I like to roast people who I really like or respect or are working on themselves. For all his ... past ways, David Hasselhoff, at least when we roasted him, was sober, so it was like a whole different thing. I just felt like Charlie Sheen was a little bit ... it's not like it's too easy, it just didn't feel that nice. It seemed like a toxic atmosphere. I conveniently had another thing scheduled that week so it kind of got me out of it. I'm glad I wasn't a part of it, to be honest with you.
"It's not like I hate Charlie Sheen or anything. He just has a lot of stuff going on that I don't think is really that fun to make fun of. It just wouldn't have been that much fun for me, and that's what it's about really. Because when you're having fun, everybody is having fun with you."
Lampanelli is performing at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Stranahan Theater, 4645 Heatherdowns Blvd. Tickets are $37.75, and are available online at ticketmaster.com, through Ticketmaster at 1-800-982-2787, or by calling the Stranahan box office at 1-866-381-7469.
She probably is best known for her comic roasts of some pretty big names: Gene Simmons, Chevy Chase, Pamela Anderson, William Shatner, Flava Flav, Jeff Foxworthy, and Larry the Cable Guy, among others. But even deflating celebrity egos can grow tiresome, she said, "I mean, how many roasts can you do? It's like, 'OK, we get it, you're good at it, try something else.' "
So the comic teamed up with the same writer who helped develop Billy Crystal's acclaimed one-man Broadway show, 700 Sundays, with a one-woman show scheduled to debut next fall. She also will appear on an upcoming episode of comedian Whitney Cummings' new NBC sitcom, Whitney. In a rare sign of comic solidarity, Cummings wrote the part for Lampanelli.
"Comics hate each other. We're all competitive [jerks], but for some reason Whitney isn't," the 50-year-old Lampanelli said. "She said I was one of her heroes when she started, so that felt really good. We just have a rapport. You know when you meet somebody and you just like them."
Broadway and TV are two ways Lampanellia hopes to expand her career beyond stand-up comedy. But at heart, she said, she'll always be an insult comic.
"I'll always be how [Don] Rickles was. ... [Y]ou know how he did movies and TV shows ... I think that you just keep getting a little more well rounded as a person and in your life and in your career too. But then when you're on that stage, that insult comic thing kicks in and that's what you do. The stories might be a little longer, but there's just as many punch lines. People may see a little different side of you, but every six seconds you have to make a joke."
And like Rickles, Lampanelli isn't afraid of making jokes at the expense of other races, religions, or sexual orientations. But she assures that her put downs all come from a friendly place.
"I think those groups that I really like and feel I have a rapport with I always tend to make fun of. I don't think you can have any prejudice or you can't do it successfully," she said. "I know Rickles is probably the most unracist and unprejudiced person in the world and that's why he can get away with what he does. And I think it's the same for me because we really don't have any of that in our heart."
Just don't agree with her jokes.
"I really don't like when people come up to me after shows and say, 'You said everything we think.' I'm like, man, if you're really thinking stuff like ... blacks are lazy or whatever, then you're the one definitely with the problem and you missed the point of the show, which was kind of to make fun of those stereotypes and not make fun of the people."
Contact Kirk Baird at firstname.lastname@example.org or 419-724-6734.
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