A lot of people -- both comedy fans and non-fans alike -- often have the misconception that “roasting” is just attempting to be as mean and shitty to people as humanly possible.
For Lisa Lampanelli, roasting is about love.
“Roasting is an art form that will never die,” says Lampanelli, who will be stopping by the Skyway Theatre this Saturday night. “People like Jeff [Ross], myself, Rickles; we would get up and roast people with a wink and a smile to the guest of honor. It isn’t just about being mean; it’s about love, which is sort of counterintuitive to the attitude of the roast.”
Over the past several years, roasting has become more mainstream again, thanks to annual Comedy Central roasts, which have “honored” everyone from Flavor Flav to James Franco. While some may see the inclusion of A-List celebrities as a sign that roasts have become bigger and better than ever, Lampanelli explains that the influx of non-comedians has diluted the spirit of roasting.
“When it starts becoming more about what celebrities you can attract than bringing in good comedians, it just starts to become mean,” she says. “Even when I did the roast of Shatner, I didn’t know him but I faked enthusiasm. Now you’ve got Ann Coulter showing up to promote her book and the people being roasted don’t deserve the honor.”
One of those who Lampanelli has honored with her razor-sharp roasting skills is our current president.
“I’ve roasted him twice already,” she says of Trump, who she has worked alongside of as a contestant on Celebrity Apprentice. “I have a whole new roast I do in my set. It would be a sin not to.”
Though she’ll always have her hilarious mean streak intact, Lampanelli has explored other creative avenues in recent years, including writing her first play, Fat Girls, Interrupted.
The piece is presented from the perspective of four different women, and tackles issues such as weight, body image, and food compulsion, all things that Lampanelli has struggled with herself.
“I’ve dealt with everything: fame, money, power, and ego. But when I finally got quiet and listened to what was inside of me, I realized that the play was the right thing to do. I needed to connect with people and help them by being super real. When you see the play, you can kind of laugh with the characters through their struggle because it’s something we’ve all experienced. It’s important to know you’re not the freak, and you’re not the only one dealing with these issues.”
Lampanelli says that she has dreams of writing another play featuring the same characters while exploring other themes. But just because she is exploring other aspects of her creativity doesn’t mean that she’s not her same brutally funny self.
“You don’t have to crap on your old dream to have a new dream,” she says. “I didn’t get into comedy for any reason than doing comedy, and it’s still the thing I love most.”
IF YOU GO:
Saturday, Feb. 18
6:30 p.m. doors, 8 p.m. show
$49.50, 18+ show