A kind of female crowd-heckling Don Rickles with a dash of the foul-mouthed Andrew Dice Clay, American stand-up and insult-slinger Lisa Lampanelli earned every letter of her nickname, "Queen of Mean....
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Born Lisa Lampugnale on July 19, 1961 in Trumbull, CT, Lampanelli grew up in a middle-class Italian family. After attending Roman Catholic schools, she studied journalism during her undergraduate years at Boston College and Syracuse University. After graduating, she dabbled in journalism as a copy editor at Popular Mechanics and as an assistant at Rolling Stone magazine. She also worked for The Bridgeport Post but reportedly was caught plagiarizing reports. Deciding journalism was not for her, she quit and became a party DJ in 1990, finding that she enjoyed entertaining partygoers via the microphone. Following a trip to a comedy club, she took a course in improvisation. This led to her first successful stand-up performances in New York City in the early 1990s, where she slowly developed a fan base that followed her brand of caustic yet self-depreciating routines.
It was in the new millennium that Lampanelli's "Queen of Mean" persona helped her land her first big break. In 2002, she achieved national attention with her scorching roast of Chevy Chase at the New York Friars Club, the only female comedian invited to the show that year - an amazing feat for someone who had attended a Hugh Hefner roast as simply an audience member just one year prior. Hosted by Paul Shaffer and starring Richard Belzer, Stephen Colbert and Beverly D'Angelo, Chase's often painfully awkward roast was broadcast as "Comedy Central Presents The NY Friars Club Roast of Chevy Chase," making this Lampanelli's official television debut. Also that year, she scored her first cable stand-up special "Lisa Lampanelli: The Queen of Mean," in which she performed her particular brand of humor for a delighted crowd at Rascal's Comedy Club in West Orange, NJ. Another big break for the comic was impressing radio legend Howard Stern, when she was invited to be a regular guest and co-roaster on his Sirius XM Radio program, "The Howard Stern Show" (1986- ) alongside the likes of Gary Dell'Abate, Artie Lange and Andy Dick. In 2002, she irreverently spouted off about how she had to date African-American men because she had been unable to find any decent white men. Politically incorrect quips like these proved a perfect fit for the outrageous Stern, and helped her earn another nickname - the "Queen of Roasts."
After appearing as herself on MTV's series documentary, "I Love the '70s" in 2003, she went on to participate in another Comedy Central roast, this time of funny man Denis Leary, emceed by "Curb Your Enthusiasm's" Jeff Garlin. Aired in the fall of 2003, it was reportedly the most watched program in the channel's history up until that time, excluding episodes of "South Park" (1997- ). In 2004, Lampanelli mined her crossover appeal when she became one of the few white comedians to perform on BET's "Comic View," (1992- ). The following year she blossomed into a Comedy Central mainstay. Her first album, Take It Like a Man which was tied into another cable special with the same title, was not only a hit on Comedy Central, the CD and the DVD ranked high on the comedy charts. She also appeared on the network's staple series "Premium Blend" (1997- ) and on "Last Laugh 2005," as well as headlining the Comedy Central roasts of actress/pin-up Pamela Anderson and the blue-collar comedian, Jeff Foxworthy. Apart from work on her mainstay network, she appeared in the celebrity-laden feature documentary, "The Aristocrats" (2005) in which a host of performers delivered their own versions of the world's dirtiest joke, old-burlesque style.
Lampanelli made her motion picture debut alongside fellow comic Larry the Cable Guy in his film, "Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector" (2006). Along with another roast - this one of Star Trek captain William Shatner - Lampanelli taped another stand-up special, "Dirty Girl," in 2006 which aired on Comedy Central in early 2007, along with the release by Warner Bros./Jack Records of a Dirty Girl CD and "Dirty Girl - No Protection" DVD. In 2007, Lampanelli was thrilled when her CD was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album of the Year. That same year she also appeared in the action comedy "Delta Farce" alongside Larry the Cable Guy, Bill Engvall and D.J. Qualls. And again she was a Comedy Central co-roaster, this time of rapper Flavor Flav, along with the assistance of Ice-T, Jimmy Kimmel and Snoop Dogg. Ending the year, she played a hilarious Mrs. Claus at an office party on VH1's "Larry the Cable Guy's Christmas Party" about a Santa Claus roast.
In 2008, Lampanelli landed another film role as a mother in "Drillbit Taylor," an Owen Wilson comedy about three children who hire a bodyguard to protect them from a bully. Shortly afterwards, she roasted KISS frontman, Gene Simmons, this time on A&E's reality-TV program, "Gene Simmons: Family Jewels" (2006- ). At the end of the year, she taped her first one-hour HBO special at the Wells Fargo Center for the Arts in Santa Rosa, CA, which aired in 2009 as "Lisa Lampanelli: Long Live the Queen." Directed by Dave Higby, who also directed her "Dirty Girl" special, the show received rave reviews. Then, marking the first time that a past roast master turned roastee, she served as roast master for the "Comedy Central Roast of Larry the Cable Guy." Penning her experiences as a comedic performer, Lampanelli saw her memoir Chocolate, Please: My Adventures in Food, Fat, and Freaks published in 2009. Mining her past journalism training, she also wrote a regular column entitled "Women" for Playboy magazine alongside Nick Tosche's column entitled "Men."
After slinging insults again on the "Comedy Central Roast of David Hasselhoff," (2010), she married Jimmy "Canno" Cannizzaro, a former New York club owner at the New York Friars' Club that fall, and also reunited with Higby once more for the Comedy Central special "Tough Love" (2011). Not long after slamming Donald Trump on the "Comedy Central Roast of Donald Trump" (2011), Lampanelli was announced as one of the contestant's on the fifth season of the business tycoon's "Celebrity Apprentice" (NBC, 2004- ), competing with other celebs such as Cheryl Tiegs, George Takei and Deborah Gibson.
By Ela Lindsay
From classic movie palaces to the state-of-the-art IMAX screens.