Has cancel culture put comedy and comedians in a their own hot seat?
Lisa Lampanelli is one of the most iconic insult comics living today and has achieved notoriety for her epic stand-up specials, celebrity roasts, best-selling books, and albums which have garnered her multiple Grammy nominations. Out In Jersey caught up with the Queen of Mean to discuss everything from cancel culture to podcasting.
It’s a pleasure to speak with you! It’s been a good four years –
Lisa Lampanelli: If you think I remember every gay I talk to then you haven’t been to the bars. It’s been a while because I’ve been a little off the grid.
We have a lot to discuss. You came up in the comedy world and became an instant hit because you are the Queen of Mean. Your roasts are epic. However, cancel culture seems to be affecting comedy. Whitney Cummings recently expressed to me she feels comedy is under attack. Do you agree?
LL: I am 60 years old so I learned a few things that people in their twenties, thirties, and forties haven’t thought about as much which might be why I have a slightly different opinion. Comedy is fine, it is alive and well, everybody can say what they want and do what they want. I just think they may have to sometimes apologize which is an unpopular view.
I have apologized to people and individuals and just think when you get a little older you start considering what is important. Is it important to say fag every three words? No. If a fag gets their feelings hurt individually, I will say sorry. I tell any comic I coach that if you can defend your joke and not play the victim as if you are under attack, you’re good. When you are on your death bed you are going to be happy you made an apology versus being happy you stuck to your guns and made that Black guy, gay guy, or trans person feel bad.
That is an interesting perspective. I think some comedians feel if you give an inch, the mass wants a mile, and ultimately that an apology will never be enough.
LL: I have had conversations with people who I took aside after a show because it looked like their feelings got hurt and asked if everything was okay. I noticed that if you talk to people like humans, they don’t take a mile. Yes, there is always a chance somebody might, but then that is their journey. I just think sometimes comics get on this soap box about how beleaguered and victimized they are, and I am just like, you guys are making millions of dollars a year, you are not in bad shape, just calm the fuck down.
Some comics, and I do not mean Whitney Cummings, get into this poor us mindset and I think the real thing to do is to look in the mirror and ask yourself, “What do I want to leave in the world?” Sometimes it is not picking the hill to die on for a joke, and it is just coming to an understanding with the guy you speak to after the show.
I think that is a savvy way to handle it especially if you don’t want to catch heat which could be detrimental to your career.
LL: No, I don’t think it has anything to do with your career, because I’d rather lose popularity than not be able to look myself in the eye. For example, if I am on the Wendy Williams Show And she is upset I use the n-word, I apologize to her, she apologizes to me for overreacting, then it is like “oh my God I cleaned up my side of the street.” Then again, there are comics who do not have the same sensibility as me, there are comics who have lived a different journey, and I just think at the end of the day people must answer to themselves.
The more we act as poor comedians who are under attack, the worse it will be. You can say whatever you want, just say sorry if you offend someone. How about the trans kid who is getting beat up and felt bad because of how you used the word “tranny?” Just say sorry which I have done tons of times. I used to be the never explain, never complain guy. Everyone is allowed their opinion; I just don’t feel very sorry for comics.
You made me see it differently. It makes sense in hindsight. You know what you are doing, so you can’t be shocked by a reaction. You can’t feel sorry for someone who knew what they were getting into.
LL: Exactly! Yeah, it sucks the world is a little different now. White privilege is a real thing, straight privilege is a real thing. If you are lucky enough to be like me, a white female who is straight and only has one lack of privilege which is that I am a woman, then you are pretty fucking lucky.
If you are bemoaning the fact you need to include black or trans people in your sitcom, yeah white people you’ve had your time. When I am coaching a comic and they say we can’t say anymore, I reply, “Yes you can, don’t be a little bitch, you want to be offensive, just be ready to either defend yourself or apologize. Just never go into victim mode because no one feels sorry for you with your million-dollar deals.” If you are a comic making millions a year and still complaining, then there is some trauma you have not unearthed. I think there is a lack of gratitude with people who have made it. You can’t imagine that I would be so emotionally unavailable after retiring that I would actually side with comics on this one!?
After you retired you ventured into being a life coach. How was that process?
LL: That was something I didn’t enjoy. I try things and I am never afraid to walk away if I don’t enjoy it. Why be tortured by something you are doing because you said you would do it? The hardest part was lack of identity because who am I if I am not a comic, coach, acting, writing, podcasting? I had to figure out I am just me, I am human, and I am enough without anything else. It took years to realize it does not matter if I never accomplish anything again. This is why millions of people who are rich and have accomplishments commit suicide. If you just work on becoming human, feeling you are enough the way you are, that is the road to more contentment and peace.
You make a great point. Happiness is fleeting which is why people today are not focusing on being content, but rather always looking for their next high in this digital age. Therefore, they cheat, relationship hop, job hop, etc. so frequently.
LL: It is literally why everyone is an addict in some capacity. The culture of busyness is not serving anybody. Happiness is not an indicator of a good life, contentment is. Ups and downs are shitty. Minimal drama and peace are nice. What is more dramatic than show business? No accomplishment lasts long. Per studies nine months is usually where it wears off and you are back to your base level.
Have you been enjoying your podcast, Losers with a Dreamwhich do you host with Beau McDowell and Nick Scopoletti?
LL: Yes because I can bring everything to the table from the comedy to the coaching. We can be funny yet have a lot of heart on the podcast. I feel it is rare to have both. We have been having a good time with it.
You’ve always been a one-woman operation. How is it working with two men?
LL: I like younger people. They are two 30-year-old straight guys who I was surprised could go deep. Usually, straight guys at that age are bro-y, all about sex, and just gross. I don’t have much use for my generation. I find it difficult to work with people my age because many are stuck in their ways and don’t want to change. I get it, I am overly woke up for a 60-year-old (laughs). I am on the other side now. I like the younger generation because they are changing shit, or at least trying. I do have to call them out on their shit sometimes though.
Do you find it difficult to work with another comic who has been in the industry as long as you have given they may want things their way?
LL: I love being the boss. I am so Devil Wears Prada with these guys, but it is all out of love. There are a few comics who I could probably collaborate with who are equals, albeit I do not know what the point would be. I don’t want to achieve anything; I just want to help these guys. Never say never though.
What do you think of the comedy industry today?
LL: I have never watched stand-up comedy because it always felt like homework. Most comics will tell you this. There are people I like personally in conjunction with what they do on stage. I love Brad Williams, Steve Byrne, Nikki Glaser, Hannah Gadsby, and Sebastian Maniscalco. I was never one who hung out intimately with people in the business however Kathy Griffin and Amy Schumer have always been very good to me. My niece has a very successful podcast which is always in the Top 10 called And That’s Why We Drink which is about crime and the paranormal.
Any words of advice?
LL: When you try to be successful, just like when you try to go viral, it never works. I feel my niece’s podcast took off because they talk tons about their personal lives. She likes to drink wine while her cohost is trans and sober. They didn’t try to be these things, they just are. I love it because it shows evidence that without plotting, and instead focusing on quality, you can make a solid living doing what you love. Today, we share a business manager.