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Lisa Lampanelli mixes jokes with emotion in ‘Losin’ It’

WARREN — Advertising is built on the concept that it takes multiple “impressions” for the public to grasp an idea or embrace a new product.

Clearly, some in the audience Friday at the Robins Theatre for Lisa Lampanelli hadn’t gotten the message that she’d abandoned her insult comedy persona for a more serious presentation exploring issues of weight and body image.

There were more than a few walkouts during the 80-minute show as well as idiots who decided they were bored and chatted through the performance.

Then again, maybe the word did get out. Lampanelli regularly headlined theaters as a pure standup comedian. It may be generous to say the Robins was half-full on Friday.

I guess insults sell better than insights.

Those who went in knowing what to expect from “Lisa Lampanelli’s Losin’ It” probably enjoyed it, although it’s a bit of an awkward hybrid between a one-woman show and a single-topic “Moth Radio Hour” episode.

Lampanelli was joined on stage by three other performers — Frank Liotti, Lauren Ann Brickman and Eden Malyn — and the show mixed monologues by each of them with group rants on topics ranging from jeans to fad diets.

Lampanelli says she has retired from standup comedy, but she still relies on the instincts and timing honed during decades of club work.

She knows when she needs a laugh, even in a serious monologue, to hold the audience’s attention, and her discussions about weight included a couple of roast-worthy jabs at Harvey Weinstein and her former “Celebrity Apprentice” boss. And she can be as brash and vulgar as ever.

Frankly, “Losin’ It” might work better if it was just Lampanelli on stage, crafting it into a single-topic piece that blurs the line between standup and something that has more of a narrative arc, similar in structure to Mike Birbiglia’s work.

That’s not a knock on Lampanelli’s companions on stage. The pieces they performed — Malyn on body dysmorphia; Brickman on allowing the opinions of others to devalue her self-worth and convince her that she could never be loved as she is; and Liotti on the entanglement of his sexuality and his food issues with his relationship with his father — had moments of real emotional impact.

But they also felt more scripted than Lampanelli’s segments, which are deeply personal. Adapted from “Stuffed,” the play Lampanelli wrote, “Losin’ It” feels like the bridge between that and what her solo act ultimately will be.

Lampanelli could expand on the stories she told Friday about her need to get away from the self-destructive eating habits of a boyfriend known as Fat Tony and how getting gastric sleeve surgery in 2012 was in no way the “easy path” to weight loss.

Those group segments could be personalized into a solo voice, and the ongoing struggles to maintain her 107-pound weight loss should provide continued inspiration for new material.

Like many comedians before her, Lampanelli can use jokes like jabs to set up the emotional gut punch that “Losin’ It” is capable of delivering. Sharing the stage with three other people disrupts the rhythm for it to be a knockout.

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