Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!

Copyright ©2010 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

PETER SAGAL, Host:

And now the game where we invite on accomplished people and ask them to do something that barely registers as an accomplishment, by playing "Not My Job." So if Don Rickles were a woman, he'd be a really ugly woman. But he might sound something like our guest today, comedy's so-called Lovable Queen of Mean, Lisa Lampanelli. Her book "Chocolate, Please" goes paperback next week. She is currently offending people across the country on her stand-up tour. Lisa Lampanelli, welcome to WAIT WAIT...DON'T TELL ME!

LISA LAMPANELLI: Hey, thanks for having me.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Great to have you. So in real life, you're known to be a very nice person.

LAMPANELLI: Yes, I'm a sweetheart of a gal, I really am.

SAGAL: You are. No, no, I totally believe it. But if anybody has seen your routines or gone to see you do your stand-up or listen to your records or seen your HBO special, they know that you have a different persona on stage. You're one of the great insult comics working today.

LAMPANELLI: Well, yeah. I mean, I'm an insult comic, so pretty much what we do is we pick on every race, creed, color and sexual abomination.

SAGAL: Right.

LAMPANELLI: So nobody escapes during Lisa Lampanelli's show.

SAGAL: How did you get into that? I mean, I know comedians get into through deep self-esteem problems, but what led you to become an insult comic in particular?

LAMPANELLI: I think it was the 12 years of Catholic school and the weekly beatings.

SAGAL: Really?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

PETER GROSZ: That'll do it.

SAGAL: I mean, what sort of stuff were you doing before you got into insults? Were you like doing, like, oh, a funny thing happened?

LAMPANELLI: I kind of talked about myself because really, if it's not about me, I really don't give a crap, okay?

SAGAL: Right, okay.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

LAMPANELLI: So what I would basically do is just talk about whatever I was doing at that time. Like at that time, I was in a Weight Watchers group, which I've since quit, obviously, if you've seen my latest pictures. And I just would talk about what had meaning to me and what I loved and I hated and suddenly, I found I loved the audience enough to hate them out loud.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: I want to talk to you about the dynamic of that because it fascinates me, like insulting the audience. But you do something even more specific; you've become a star of celebrity roasts. In fact, you're like the big gun. I've noticed they often bring you in last.

These, of course, are the events often broadcast on Comedy Central, where they've got some celebrity or former celebrity. They sit him or her right there in the middle and they just insult them, one after another. You do this. You get up. You have gone after everybody from Gene Simmons to David Hasselhoff to Pamela Anderson to Chevy Chase. I have a couple of questions. First of all, how do you prepare for that?

LAMPANELLI: Well, first of all, you sit down and you do a list of everything that's terrible about the person you're supposed to roast.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

LAMPANELLI: So this year, we did David Hasselhoff. So I mean, the list was endless.

SAGAL: Oh, yeah.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

LAMPANELLI: I mean, come on, chest hair, bad hair on his head, drunk...

FAITH SALIE: Germany.

LAMPANELLI: Germany, there you go. I know. Yet, he's so proud he's big in Germany. Oh, that's great, the Germans have always been known for their sound judgment.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

LAMPANELLI: Yeah, so it's like you just make the list of all their foibles and boom, you just start writing jokes. It is the funnest process in the world.

SAGAL: And have you ever sat down and you're writing your jokes and you say, oh, I can't say that to his or her face, that's just too mean?

LAMPANELLI: Oh, no, never.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

LAMPANELLI: Because you know what? I actually know that I love these people in my heart, and that's why I can make fun of them. That's the whole thing: You only roast the ones you love. That's why I never make fun of the French.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SALIE: Have you ever made someone cry right in front of you, Lisa?

SAGAL: Have you ever hurt them? Yeah.

LAMPANELLI: I don't think so. You know, maybe they just cry silently in the bathroom in the fetal position. But hey, they already paid for their ticket, so what do I care?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

TOM BODETT: Yeah, you know, it's funny. I've seen Lisa, and I've seen Don Rickles a couple of times. And there's an amazing thing where the audience loves being insulted.

SAGAL: Why is that?

LAMPANELLI: You know what I think the dynamic is? They either have really high self-esteem or really low self-esteem. And either way, that translates to dough for Lisa Lampanelli.

BODETT: Mm-hmm.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

LAMPANELLI: So what I do is, if they want to sit in the front - hey, either they hate themselves or love themselves. It's a beautiful thing, and I love it.

SAGAL: Right.

SALIE: Do you even get heckled?

LAMPANELLI: No, people don't dare.

SALIE: Right.

LAMPANELLI: Because this is kind of like what I do for a living, you know?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Right.

LAMPANELLI: And occasionally, people will - you know, because you'll heckle other types of comics who do monologues and things like that. But I'm fully prepared. I think they're a little scared off, which is nice.

SAGAL: Comedy is traditionally - not exclusively, thank God - but traditionally been more of a man's game than a woman's. But insult comedy has really been something that men have traditionally done. Was it hard to be accepted as a woman doing that kind of material?

LAMPANELLI: No. I think people were just seriously happy to find a funny woman who does comedy like a man. Because I learned how to do comedy from guys, from watching those Dean Martin roasts years ago.

SAGAL: Oh, God, yeah.

LAMPANELLI: And I said to myself, you know, that's what I want to do. However, it took a little while to get there.

SAGAL: Have you ever been roasted? Have you ever been the target of that kind of comedy, in that kind of focused way?

SALIE: The butt?

LAMPANELLI: Well, sadly, no. I really think the biggest honor, as a comic, is to get roasted by either the Friars Club or the Comedy Central or someone like that. Because it really shows, you know, that you've arrived. However, this Hasselhoff roast, if you watched it, oh my God, 90 percent of the jokes were about me. It was so much fun because I got all that camera time, and I got people thinking I could take a joke when actually, I just ran to the shrinks and cried a lot.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

LAMPANELLI: It used to really hurt my feelings, but these jokes this year, seriously, were so funny and they were so on point that I was like, you know what, it's just in good fun. And I dish it out, so I better be able to take it.

SAGAL: This actually brings up a question, which is one of the things you talk about - is, you talk about your relationships and you talk about that in your book. You're getting married, we understand, pretty soon.

LAMPANELLI: Oh yeah, October 2nd. Isn't that something?

SAGAL: Mazel tov, as my people say.

SALIE: Yay.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: That's really exciting. You're going to get married. I'm married. Everybody who is married knows that you get married, and there will come a day when you'll be so angry with each other over something trivial that you will let loose with very mean things you would never imagine saying if it weren't in the heart of combat. Are you worried - or is your husband-to-be worried - that that day will come, and you will turn on him like a predator drone and destroy him?

LAMPANELLI: Well, I mean, you're assuming that day hasn't come already.

SAGAL: I guess so.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Well, the wedding is still on.

LAMPANELLI: Well, we're very fiery Italians. So what you do is you scream and yell, you throw a pot, somebody stabs somebody in the neck with a fork - and then it's over.

SAGAL: There you go.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: Before I let you go, I've got to ask you. You've spent a little time with us now; do you have any insults for us?

LAMPANELLI: No, I don't. I got to be honest with you. I didn't think much of you or this show before I spoke to you.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

LAMPANELLI: However...

SAGAL: So what do you got?

LAMPANELLI: Now I am converted. I will listen to NPR not just for Garrison Keillor and his creepy, femmy(ph) voice.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

LAMPANELLI: I will listen to you guys as well.

SAGAL: Thank you so much. Well, Lisa Lampanelli, we're delighted to have you with us. We have invited you here to play a game that today we're calling...

CARL KASELL, Host:

"Accepted Greetings are the High Five and Fist Bump."

SAGAL: You're known professionally for being rude. So all of your questions are going to be about how to be polite. We were looking at an etiquette guide for international travelers, and discovered they had an extensive section on dealing with Americans. So we're going to ask you three questions about getting along while visiting the USA and dealing with our strange customs here. And if you get two questions right, you'll win our prize for one of our listeners, Carl's voice on their home answering machine or voicemail. So Carl, who is Lisa Lampanelli playing for?

KASELL: Lisa is playing for Ross Rubin from Glencoe, Illinois.

SAGAL: Ready to go?

LAMPANELLI: Yes.

SAGAL: All right, here's your first question. What, according to this guide, is some useful advice to remember when dining with Americans? A, no matter how fattening your food is, always order a diet soda so as to demonstrate your discipline?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: B, always accept second helpings when offered because quote, Americans like people to eat a lot. Or C, if somebody spits food on you because they're talking with their mouth full, do not object or say anything; just wait until they're not looking and wipe it off?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

LAMPANELLI: Well, I always consider it kind of enjoyable to be spit on in any context.

SAGAL: Sure.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

LAMPANELLI: But I think I read somewhere it's the always accepting second helpings because you don't want somebody to feel bad for cooking and then you waste it. I would have to say number B.

SAGAL: You're right.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

LAMPANELLI: Yay.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: You're right. Americans like to eat. They also like to eat very quickly. So watch your hands, people. Very good. Next question, the guide points out a bit of hypocrisy on the part of Americans. What is it? A, Americans hate to be interrupted, but will interrupt you all the time. B, Americans don't know anything about foreign countries, but expect you to know everything about them. Or C, Americans complain about other drivers but are universally terrible drivers themselves.

LAMPANELLI: So this isn't a trick, like - that all three might be true?

SAGAL: No, no, one of these...

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: One of these is in the guidebook, the one foreign visitors...

LAMPANELLI: Oh, in the guidebook?

SAGAL: Yeah.

LAMPANELLI: I don't think Americans are terrible drivers unless you're in Boston. So what was the first one?

SAGAL: Americans hate to be interrupted, but will interrupt you all the time.

LAMPANELLI: Yeah, that's the one. I hate being interrupted, yes, and I do it all the time. So yes, I would say A, I'm an ugly American.

SAGAL: You are, and you're correct.

(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)

LAMPANELLI: Yay.

SAGAL: You're exactly right.

SALIE: Wow.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

SAGAL: Last question: Americans, we are warned, will lie to you. For example, Americans just don't mean it when they say what? A, I love your work; B, let's do lunch; or C, it's not you, it's me?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

LAMPANELLI: Wow.

BODETT: That's another possible all three, isn't it?

LAMPANELLI: Yeah.

SAGAL: Again, it's in the guidebook.

LAMPANELLI: A was which one?

SAGAL: I love your work.

LAMPANELLI: Man, I do that all the time, because did I mention this show is terrific?

SAGAL: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

LAMPANELLI: No, but honestly, I think it might be D.

SAGAL: You'll take D?

LAMPANELLI: No, actually, I really do think it's A. I mean...

SAGAL: I love your work?

LAMPANELLI: That happens all the time.

SAGAL: Well, Americans do say it, and they usually don't mean it. But the answer the guidebook gave was, let's do lunch.

LAMPANELLI: Yeah, that's very true.

SAGAL: It says, quote: When saying goodbye, Americans may say, we'll have to get together or let's do lunch. This is simply a friendly gesture. Unless your American colleague specifies a time and date, don't expect an invitation, unquote.

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: I love that you say to some foreigner, hey, let's do lunch - and the next day, they're at your house, you know. Hello?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

SAGAL: I'm here for lunch.

GROSZ: I have brought a bounty, why are you not ready?

(SOUNDBITE OF LAUGHTER)

BODETT: We are really insincere, terrible people.

SAGAL: We really are.

BODETT: Good to know.

SAGAL: Carl, how did Lisa do on our quiz?

KASELL: Lisa had two correct answers, Peter, and that's good enough to win for Ross Rubin.

(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE)

LAMPANELLI: Yay.

SAGAL: Lisa Lampanelli.

LAMPANELLI: Love you guys.

Copyright © 2010 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.

Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me!