After 10 years of writing for Spy and Rolling Stone magazines, former Syracuse University journalism major Lisa Lampanelli decided to try stand-up comedy. Good call. In her 16 years on stage, she has evolved into comedy's Queen of Mean, the female equivalent of Don Rickles, but with a fouler mouth. Next Thursday she will make her third appearance on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno," and she is a fixture on televised celebrity roasts. On Saturday she will play the University at Buffalo Center for the Arts at 8 p.m.
>You're practically the U.S. Roastmaster General these days. Were you a fan of the Dean Martin celebrity roasts growing up?
Those roasts were my thing, man. I never watched stand-up comedy in my life until way after I started [my career]. I always thought comedy was just those Dean Martin roasts.
>Did you start your career as the Queen of Mean, or was it something that evolved?
I always tell people, you never start where you end up. Because you're not good enough to pull it off. Right now I'm skilled enough to be able to use the N-word or to call people [expletive] and have them not get mad.
>You like to insult people in your audience, like Don Rickles does. Is there a lot of back and forth with the crowd?
Just forth, not back. I insult you, you shut the . . . up.
And I don't really care how they respond, as long as they laugh. And if somebody doesn't laugh, I kind of move on. They are paying to not be miserable.
>Michael Richards got blasted for the way he talked to some African-American people who were heckling his act. Why can't Richards get away with what you can?
Anyone who's seen my act knows that I spread it around to every group equally. And also, there's love behind everything I say, which is why I work.
I don't know Michael Richards, but I think if the first thing you say when you're heckled [is the N-word], you probably have that in your heart.
I'm wondering why him and Mel Gibson went right for that. It shouldn't be on the tip of your tongue that easily.
>You and the comedian Sarah Silverman are both successful, and you both use words that probably shock a lot of people. Is this some kind of Golden Age of Dirty Mouthed Comics?
I hope so, because I'm so sick of everybody editing themselves to get on sitcoms.
If you curse in real life . . . you have to be that way on stage, or the audience will sense when you're holding back. They HATE when you're holding back.
-- Greg Connors