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Hope for Lisa Lampanelli's sake that her current tour of theaters works out, because she says she'll end up "Xeroxing my twat at Kinko's if I ever have to go back to clubs again." Lampanelli has pursued her brand of warm-yet-abrasive comedy for 16 years, but her recent gigs insulting celebrities (most famously Pamela Anderson) on Comedy Central's roasts have made her a go-to insult comic. (Though she's happily respectful of nearly every other successful comedian out there, from Larry The Cable Guy to Patton Oswalt.) But she says that her subject matter branches out in her new Comedy Central special and CD, Dirty Girl, both due out in January. Lampanelli recently went pretty easy on The A.V. Club during a talk about the finer points of offensive humor and her former career as a journalist.
The A.V. Club: Do people ever think you're joking when you assert yourself in earnest?
Lisa Lampanelli: Yes! Dude, it happens all the time, which is good in one way, because you don't lose fans. But it's bad in one way, 'cause they don't respect you. I'm really nice. I sign stuff after the show, every single thing. I will stand there for three hours, how Larry The Cable Guy did it—it really helps your fans feel a connection. And it's fun, too. I don't give a fuck. I think it's fun to sign shit and have people take your picture. But sometimes somebody will be drunk and push too hard and just won't leave and move along, and I'll be like, "Move it along, fuckhead." And they'll go, "Ha ha ha, great!" And they'll stand there, and I'm like, "No, you're a douche-cock and everybody hates you. Die of cancer." "Aaaah ha ha! She's so funny."
AVC: What was your journalism career like?
LL: Right out of college, I was a feature reporter for this newspaper in Connecticut, and they pissed me off, so I quit and said, "I want to work for a magazine that's interesting and that everybody knows so I can brag about it." Subconsciously, I'm sure I said that. I worked at Popular Mechanics, and it sounds so gay, but it's famous, so I said, "Fuck it." I was a copy editor there, and I got a job as an assistant at Rolling Stone. I didn't want to stick to it long enough to pay my dues to become a writer at Rolling Stone. I was writing freelance, so I started writing for all these heavy-metal magazines because I love writing about the music business and those longhairs. And it was the '80s, so I was interviewing heavy-metal bands and Bon Jovi for Hit Parader and all this stuff. I just loved that. And you got all these free records, and you could sell 'em the next day. Then I decided my life had no meaning, and I decided to go to Harvard for a publishing-procedures course, where they teach you how to be a hardcore publishing magnate. And I continued to do a little journalism, and this and that. But then I was like, "My life's meaningless again, so why don't I be a teacher?" I have these weird, emotional decisions I used to make, 'cause I was like, "I need warmth in my life, I'll teach and touch children's lives." And then I went to Columbia for that, and decided I hated kids after half a year of student-teaching. Then somehow, thank God, I decided to do comedy, and that's the one thing that really hit right in my heart.
AVC: The insult-comic thing is working out pretty well for you, but are you trying other kinds of material?
LL: [The new special is] 100 percent different. I was really scared that the audience was gonna say, "Why isn't she calling us spics and chinks anymore?" I was so angry in the last year, 'cause I had this breakup, and I was so angry with my dates and so angry with how my life was going, except for my career.
AVC: You're working on a movie called Drillbit Taylor with Owen Wilson. What's your role?
LL: I went in to audition for the role of some kid who's getting bullied, and it was for a "sassy spitfire." I'm like, "Whatever," so I go in and I'm just Lisa Lampanelli, I'm hardcore, and the director was so flattering to me—"I'm such a fan of yours from the roasts and this and that," and I'm like, "Cool." It's nice that Hollywood people even know who the fuck I am. I get a call three weeks later, and it's guaranteed I didn't get that part, because they would've called in a day, and he goes, "Hey, you know what? We wrote in this part, and we want you to totally be yourself, and Owen Wilson thinks it's hilarious. Owen Wilson thinks it's kind of an important role, even though it's small, because you do something that really impacts him," and I'm like, "Oh my God!" So I write all my own lines. I had to go into this acting teacher, and we're like, "What's my motivation?" and all that bullshit. And I'm one of the bullies' moms, and I have to be totally hardcore Lampanelli, just really nail 'em. And I did my scenes—I did my second one on Saturday, and I felt like a real actor. I felt like a celebrity. It was so cool to have producers going, "Oh my God, we're so honored you could do the part," and I'm like, "What?" I know it's an honor to have me as a comic, but as an actor, that'll be nice if that continues.
AVC: You often pronounce "Arabs" as "A-rabs" and "whore" as "hoo-uh." Is that natural?
LL: No, I just fuck with words a little bit, and I use bad grammar on purpose because I was a journalist and I had the best copy-editing and English skills in the world. I'm just anal about all that, so I know if you know all the rules, you can break them. I have a joke about a kid being in a car accident, and I go, "Come on, the kid's 1 years old, how attached could you really be?" That's just part of the joke. I say "1 years." I know it's not "1 years," but it sounds funnier to me.