Lisa Lampanelli returns to Baltimore’s Center Stage this month with her upcoming performance of Lisa Lampanelli’s Losin’ It. Performing on Saturday, November 17th at 8 pm, the show shines an intimate but hilarious light on the universal problems of weight and body image. Inspired to put the show together by going through her own journey with these issues, Lampanelli decided that storytelling was the perfect way to convey feelings and sense of humor about the subjects. Speaking exclusively to Baltimore OUTloud, Lampanelli candidly shared how her recent retirement from stand-up comedy has helped the former Queen of Mean become the new Queen of Lean.
Frankie Kujawa: How would you describe your upcoming production Lisa Lampanelli’s Losin’ It?
Lisa Lampanelli: Well this is a storytelling show. If you ever saw any of the shows where a bunch of stories are told by actors and comedians who offer different takes on similar experiences, that’s what you’ll see with this. My show, it’s more curated – which means the stories are well written, super funny, and a lot of laughs. Every one of these stories exudes has my most passionate subject ever, which is about weight and food issues. I’ve included stories that are told in a positive, funny way.
Lisa, talk to our readers about body image. Why is it so damn hard, especially in society today, to have a positive body image?
Honestly, I don’t think it’s just today’s society. That’s where I disagree that it is social media’s fault. In my opinion, everyone is born feeling they are fine the way they are. However, something happens along the line that causes someone to doubt how they view themselves. Whether it’s a teacher, a parent, an imagined insult (something that wasn’t insulting that we take as insulting because we are sensitive about something) – once that happens we find something about ourselves to have shame about. I don’t think it begins and ends with social media or society – it begins with someone pointing out that thing you’re sensitive about, and for you the world changes. Those raised by even the most perfect parents can’t even make it right. My parents never made me feel less or more than, but I was fucked up about self-images issues. I believe gay men have it the hardest. Straight men have it, too. This show resonates with everyone who sees it for that reason.
As the former “Queen of Mean” title-holder, it seems that lately you’ve recently added the titles “Storyteller,” “Workshop Leader,” and “Inspiration” to your repertoire. It seems the “Queen of Mean” is now the “Queen of Lean” and the “Empress of Inspiration.” Do you find this change liberating?
If you missed it this week (October 30th), I went on Howard Stern, and retired from stand-up. Howard was kind enough to let me do my final act of stand-up comedy on the show. I just don’t want to do it anymore. It’s not helping society. I don’t think it’s something my heart is in anymore. I told Howard that I’m going to do food and body workshops, and these storytelling shows. For me, at this point, if it doesn’t have this message of self-acceptance and self-love on the surface, I’m not doing it. I want to focus on humor with a lot of heart in it. By retiring from stand-up, I want it clear that I have love for everyone. If that message is not going to resonate through my stand-up, then I’m now going to do it this way through workshops and storytelling. This journey now has my heart. Every time I do a workshop or storytelling event, it makes my heart feel better. It hasn’t been that way with stand-up for a long time.
Trust me, I love insult comedy and hardcore comedy, but it’s just not me right now. I do think we change as people. I had some things happen to me in my life, like with my dad passing away and working on some service-oriented projects, and doing this is where I felt best. We only feel best for the world when we do our best. When I went on Howard’s show, and retired from stand-up, I felt like I lost another 100 pounds. It felt phenomenal.
Why do you think that you resonate so well with LGBT audiences? Do you see similarities, as you evolve, with those of the LGBT community?
I’ve been very lucky how well LGBT audiences got me. I feel that they thought, “Hey, she’s an outsider, too.” I think they will roll with my new material, the way they rolled with me from the beginning. I had many gay guys approach me when I did the play Stuffed in New York a few years ago. They told me how many of them went through the same experiences, too. People who change allow change in other people. If someone is sitting around and never evolving, they won’t get what I’m trying to do here, and that’s okay. If I never make a dime from this I don’t care. I’m supposed to have a message and my message is clear now: self-love, accept other people, and don’t fill the hole in your life with food, men, or shopping. What’s the worst that could happen with this new endeavor? My message gets out and I move in with my mother? (laughs) We are always afraid to change. We have to play for audiences who change themselves as people and, but I think audiences will say, “I get it she is changing but she’s the same Lisa. She’s still funny.”
Baltimore is ecstatic about your return to Center Stage after last year’s White Rabbit / Red Rabbit. Did you enjoy your time in Baltimore last year?
It was unbelievable! First of all, I felt that the show was really awesome to do. It was like, “Oh, look at me – I’m being an actor!” But, Baltimore is really cool. I’m asking for a lot from the people of Baltimore because it’s such racially-sensitive city. I want audiences to know this is a very multicultural show. I hope the people of Baltimore include me because I’m not doing that racial comedy anymore. I’ve left the racial comedy behind. It doesn’t work for me, or society, anymore. I want anyone who has suffered from any body-image stuff or weight problems to know they will get a lot out of this show. I want people who ever suffered from body-hatred from food to feel they are not alone, to go, “Oh my God! It’s not just me.” I think that’s why a lot of gay audiences like it, too. With this show, you’ll be laughing 90% of the time and the other 10% is like, “Oh yeah, that’s me too.” Baltimore audiences will find that this show is me, just on a different level. Spread the word all you can, I just want to help people!
- Since 2011, arts writer Frankie Kujawa has covered a wide scope of entertainment stories and celebrity interviews. From the late Carrie Fisher and LGBTQ icon George Takei to comedians Lily Tomlin and Kathy Griffin to performer Idina Menzel, Kujawa’s candid interview ability brings readers past the byline and into the heart of the story. His unbiased previews of Baltimore-Washington’s theatre scene have allowed readers an inside glimpse of today’s most popular local and national performances. A Baltimore-native, Kujawa is proud to call Charm City his home.