"I’m not going to lie to you," comedian Lisa Lampanelli says when asked about Donald Trump, in whose "Celebrity Apprentice" reality competition she battled into the Final Four last year. "He’s never been anything less than a gentleman to me. Also, the fact is he does a lot of stuff, he’s just like me – we all do these things to be controversial and to get attention. And you know what? That’s what this business is about, keeping yourself out there, and he definitely does that." Leave it to Lampanelli, a brash insult comic with a slash-and-burn approach, to implicitly point out the nature of Trump’s real business: show biz.
Lampanelli, who plays Saturday night at the Paramount Theatre, bills herself as "Comedy’s Lovable Queen of Mean." You might have seen her roasting various celebrities on Comedy Central or elsewhere, or remember her 2009 HBO special, "Long Live the Queen," or even read her book published that same year, "Chocolate, Please: My Adventures in Food, Fat, and Freaks." (She’s since slimmed down considerably, dropping more than 100 pounds since having gastric sleeve surgery last year.)
Lampanelli says she hasn’t read the comments of fellow contestant Penn Jillette, who blasted Trump and "Celebrity Apprentice" in a recent book. "Penn is a good friend of mine, I love him," she says. "But I’ll tell you, I don’t have a problem with Trump. Basically, it’s America, you know. He’s allowed his views. I don’t agree with a lot of them, but you know what, he’s allowed to talk.
"Ever since I did the ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ last year I’ve got pretty much an hour of new material. A lot of it is about ‘The Apprentice,’ a lot of it is behind the scenes stuff that happened on ‘The Apprentice’ that I’m totally not supposed to talk about, but hey, at least he can’t fire me twice, so here goes."
Lampanelli regularly stirs up controversy for slinging ethnic stereotypes and racial slurs in her standup act, and for mixing it up with some of her "Apprentice" co-stars, notably former Miss Universe Dayana Mendoza, who objected to such a slur directed her way. "I never explain myself, because my motto is never explain, never complain," Lampanelli says. "I’m not going to complain about somebody (complaining) about my act. I would just say that I think Lenny Bruce really did a good job of saying if you use words without hate, it takes the strength out of the word. Quentin Tarantino is not saying the n-word in his movies to take that lightly, you know. He’s showing how horrible some people talked back then.
"I’m not about to ever apologize for a joke. I would apologize in real life if somebody felt hurt. I’ve made a million apologies to people who had their feelings hurt offstage in my daily life, but as a comic, if you can’t take a joke, then change the channel or listen to somebody else."
Lampanelli says she prepares for about a month for an appearance at a roast, working with a team of writers. "You want to look for angles that not everybody is talking about," she says. "If you’re roasting Pam Anderson you don’t want every single joke to be about her boobs, you want it to be a little creative. So I do a lot of research online and find out weird facts about the people. I write jokes very well about people I like.
"I don’t have a lot of walkouts, I don’t have crazy people getting mad at me," Lampanelli adds. "They all know it’s in good fun. I think a lot of it is that people know that I don’t mean what I say to them, that I’m making fun of the stereotype and not the person, so I still get away with it – and I’m probably a little bit angrier now that I’m not eating, to fill some kind of void or stuff. I’m kind of like a little more pissed off because I’m hungry, so I make fun of them a little bit more."