Lampanelli loses weight … and old persona
It sounds like the premise of the Funny or Die short — Lisa Lampanelli as a life coach.
Instead of uplifting encouragement, the woman once known as “the Queen of Mean” would pummel her clients with a nonstop barrage of insults.
That’s the old Lampanelli.
A regular on Comedy Central’s roasts, a two-time Grammy nominee and a star big enough to headline theaters and casinos, Lampanelli retired from standup comedy in late 2018, telling Howard Stern, “The message is getting lost. The message of including people through insults is getting lost and maybe, God forbid, I’m being misunderstood by different races, transgender people, gay people, even though I have love in my heart. I want to do something that has a clear message to make people feel better about themselves.”
That something includes being a life coach, leading transformational workshops, hosting the podcast “Let Lisa Help” and her latest live show “Lisa Lampanelli’s Losin’ It,” which comes to the Robins Theatre on Friday.
In a telephone interview, Lampanelli stressed that retiring from standup doesn’t mean abandoning comedy.
“I can’t see myself ever doing something that isn’t funny,” she said. “It will still be funny, but it has something to it with a little bit more of a message.”
Lampanelli’s professional transformation started with a physical one. She lost more than 100 pounds after having gastric sleeve surgery in 2012. Losing the weight and the emotional issues behind her struggles inspired her to write a play called “Stuffed,” which had two runs in New York.
In an interview with Ticket in 2016, Lampanelli said dividing her time between the play and her standup career had reinvigorated her interest in standup.
“It’s almost like having an affair,” she said in 2016. “It’s a really good thing to add something extra in there sometimes, probably not for the marriage but definitely for the career.”
Reminded of that quote last month, Lampanelli said, “It’s almost like I left my wife for my mistress, I guess. What happened was, I loved doing the play, and I think people were getting this thing from it that they weren’t getting from standup. Yeah, they’ll get laughs, but they also get a lot of messages about things that are important to them.
“I didn’t dislike standup. I always want to leave things before I hate them. That’s probably why I left my husband when I did. I didn’t hate him and we’re still friends. You still have fond memories for what you do did but, ‘Oooh, this new thing. It’s really fun, and it really has some meaning for my life.’ I can’t believe it turned out the way it did.”
“Losin’ It” is a way for Lampanelli to continue to explore the issues in “Stuffed” with a production that would be easier to take on the road.
“I didn’t want to do something with lights and sound and costumes and props. I wanted to just tell the stories. So I kept some of the stories from the play and added three actors — two of them were in the play and I added a gay male character. It’s all truthful stories about what people go through with weight and body images, but it has has that sense of humor.”
Lampanelli believes sharing her experiences on stage and working with others offstage who struggle with their weight has helped her maintain her current lifestyle.
“I think that’s why people who are alcoholic go to AA, to get the support and give it at the same time. It’s reciprocal. I help them work on their stuff and they help me work on my stuff. If I’m talking the talk, I have to walk the walk. It’s helped me keep the weight off for eight years now.”
As a standup, one of Lampanelli’s strengths was her ability to interact with the audience, and each performance of “Losin’ It” ends with a Q&A with the audience.
Lampanelli has “Losin’ It” dates booked through June. She can envision the idea of creating a storytelling-based show around a different topic more than she can envision a return to traditional standup.
“The only thing I know for sure I don’t want to do anymore is insult comedy,” Lampanelli said. “Sometimes, it’s good not to know the next step. It’s good just letting it unfold.”