Frisky Q&A: Lisa Lampanelli Talks Divorce, Self-Acceptance & Twitter Haters
Tonight is the premiere of comedian Lisa Lampanelli’s much anticipated fifth stand-up special, “Back to the Drawing Board,” and here’s a little scoop: She’s funnier than ever. The equal opportunity offender has a new look (having recently shed 100 lbs) and is recently divorced, and both changes are reflected in what is her most honest special yet. Lampanlli’s comedy has evolved into a highly insightful blend of personal exploration and her trademark “queen of mean” anecdotes. I had the great opportunity to chat with Lampanelli — check out our Q&A below!
The Frisky: Your life seems to be very defined by many radical changes. Does that please you or do you sometimes wish your life could be a bit more normal and stable?
Lisa Lampenelli: Well, my life is actually simple now because I do what I want. I’ve started saying ‘no’ so much more now as far as just events and different things that I don’t feel like doing. I never wanted to be an actor but I felt as though I should. My friend said the other day, “You were living a dream but it was somebody else’s.” My dream was always just to be a performer, to work, live, have fun and do what you do. So I’ve since really stopped doing things I didn’t want to do. That’s the reason this last year-long period I’ve just started saying, “No, I don’t want to do that.” I just go along and work on myself a lot. I think there comes a point when you reach a certain age where you just learn to make the changes you want and not for anybody else.
I think Oprah said that 50 was the best year of her life.
Yes! You know it definitely just keeps getting better and better because you just know what you want and what you don’t want and nobody can talk you into it.
Even me, I’m turning 34 next week, and just turning 30 was such a big improvement!
Yes, absolutely and it just gets better if you keep doing the work, if you keep doing the hard internal work that it takes. Success has nothing to do with money or fame or anything else. It just has to do with being happy. Nothing fills the hole like accepting yourself.
Do you find that as a woman it’s harder to get there?
No, because I’ve met a lot of men who’ve had struggles, whether they’ve had bad childhoods or whether they were victims of molestation or grew up gay in a town that was super red. Everyone has got their journey and their struggle and I’ve been super lucky because my childhood was pretty normal – but I still had food messages and appearance messages or the you’re not good enough from the outside [world], like teachers or whoever, and you just go, You know what? It doesn’t matter. Compare and despair. If I compare myself to anyone else I’m just going to be in despair, so let me just work on my stuff and be grateful I didn’t have it a lot worse.
Yes, I guess that’s what I was hinting at, the weight issue, it’s obviously a lot bigger of a deal for women.
Yes, and I think women buy into it. They buy into the media and into what really should be a standard. And you know what? I’m totally a victim to that. If I went above a certain size right now I’d be totally freaked out and I would work on it, you know mind, body, spirit, the whole deal. Figure out why, figure out what is going on. I think it’s up to us to stop buying into it. Like, STOP, you can’t be a model, that’s their job. That’s a different species. That is a job and a calling because they’re built a certain way, stop trying to be somebody you’re not!
Do you mind if I ask about our divorce (from Jimmy Big Balls)?
No, not at all! It was the easiest decision of my life and the easiest divorce in history. I mean we’ve gone on shows together to talk about it a lot!
You guys can be the poster children for divorces!
That’s what Wendy Williams said! She was like, “Oh my god, how did this happen?” And I said it was because we got out before someone cheated or stole or lied or was a douche. That’s the way to do it. You recognize something is missing and you go, “Yeah, this isn’t right let’s not even fight, let’s stick to the pre-nup, we’re cool.” I was out with him and his new girlfriend the other day and they’re just a good match. They are everything that we never were. Now, I’m not upset that I had the wedding because I loved it and it was so much fun and I love weddings — when I think back on it, it was a big family reunion and that was kind of its purpose, so, no, I am so lucky to have picked somebody good enough to have a good divorce with.
HA! That is a great bit – is that a bit?!
Ha, no I just thought of it right now. That’s actually a great way to judge who you should marry: “Will he be a douche in a custody battle?” If so, then get out. He actually brought up the pre-nup. He was like, “If you need me to sign anything, I’m game.” That’s when I knew he wasn’t a scoundrel. It was just a very pleasant divorce. If you are living your life in some way that is not meant to be, then you are living a lie.
It seems like you are really focused on that idea of radical honesty and living honestly.
Yeah, I’m trying to really look inside. That’s the reason the weight loss was a big thing because then it was about looking at the internal stuff, on what made me eat and turn to food and go out on dates when I wasn’t feeling right. I just had to muscle through and continue working on myself and then I’ll eventually get to a place where – I mean there will always be work to do, but at least I’ll uncover my core issues and keep working on those throughout my life.
Do you think that maybe some of us were meant to have our careers as life partners – or can we truly have both?
Yeah, I think I did for a while. I think that I had to make my career first, and certainly did for 25 years, but part of me thinks that now that I’ve gotten the idea that your career doesn’t really fill the hole I feel different. It used to be the priority, but part of me now thinks that there isn’t anything that’s supposed to fill you up other than you. God forbid you lost your job tomorrow and you were paralyzed from the neck down and you couldn’t work. How would you have enough esteem to keep going without worthiness problems? There are people who this has happened to and they are shattered. And there are people who feel confidence and feel acceptance for themselves internally and aren’t – yes, they’ll miss their jobs, but it’s not like their life is over.
So my goal is to get emotionally healthy enough to not care about my career at all. I care very little about it now. I care enough to want to pay the bills, to take care of my mother, to have enough money to help my nieces and nephews if they need it and then go “It’s fine!” It is what it is, I’m still really funny and thank god I get to make people laugh and feel good about themselves and their lives for a couple minutes a week. But yeah, I don’t know if career is supposed to be that important – or a romantic partner for that matter. I think it has to be yourself. I think I’m all about finding out what defines me, and it is nothing external.
That’s so fascinating and such a great message to anyone starting out in the comedy industry but also any career really. Especially people who live in NYC where it’s SO driven and where everyone is crazy.
Well, as they said in Eat Pray Love, New York’s word is “Achieve.” In India, I think it was “Prayer.” How come the poorest people are the happiest? There’s just a LOT of miserable rich people. I just think that life is a lot simpler when you’re trying to get your good feelings from you rather than somebody else.
Yes and your work speaks to that.
All I’m trying to do is distract people from their cares of the day. If you lost your job, if you have a parent who’s dying or if your kid is sick – at least you can come and laugh about my issues. And I really put them all out there and talk about them in this special. I talk about what my real issues are and the viewers can laugh at them and then laugh at their own. I kinda like that. That people can lighten up when comics go up there and tell their life issues.
I love that, that’s so beautiful! So, do you ever read comments about you on the internet?
I stopped reading my Twitter mentions when I got the gastric bypass surgery. You can’t heal physically if you’re worried about that stuff. But then two years after that, I felt well enough and healthy enough where I was like “Oh I can read this and not worry about it hurting my feelings.” Whatever is out there being said about me, I am my own worst enemy. I say so much worse things to me than critics could even think. Like, you’re just an amateur compared to me, Twitter people. If they say, oh you’re too thin, oh you’re not funny now that you’re thin, you look better fat, you put on a few pounds, you lost too much weight, you’re ugly and you’re old. It’s like, DUH. I’ve said all that about myself already, stupid! So the good thing is I don’t read them unless I am super armed and have fun with it.
For example, I read all the comments after I was on Wendy Williams yesterday and 99 percent were amazing, and one said something against Wendy which I didn’t like, and then one said, “Oh girl, pink highlights on you – I don’t think so.” But it was so funny! It was some gay guy who loved to go “Guuurrrrrrll.” I think I retweeted it, because I thought it was so funny. You just have to be made of steel on particular days and look at them and have fun with it.
In the new show I’m writing for Broadway, Fat Girl, Interrupted, there’s a bit in there about what people say to me on Twitter. I wouldn’t have that bit if I didn’t read those comments. But you have to read it when you are ready.
Lisa Lampanelli’s new special, “Back to the Drawing Board,” premieres tonight on EPIX at 10 p.m. ET/PT, 9 Central.