The Queen Is Alive!

Review: Comic Lisa Lampanelli puts the Paramount on blast

Not the person you'd want to meet in a dark alley
Not the person you'd want to meet in a dark alley

Years in the company of eclectic celebrity riff-raff like Donald Trump, Pamela Anderson, and Jersey Shore’s “The Situation” – not to mention a ballroom of dopey pornstars – has imbued Lisa Lampanelli with enough life experience on the margins of sanity and taste to roast a thousand C-Listers, as she proved at the Paramount Saturday night.

The well of “good-natured” slurs, cheap shots, and wholesale raciness that characterize Lampanelli’s style all but ensures a polarity of opinion on the combative East-Coaster christened “The Lovable Queen of Mean.” Can even comedians – who we entrust to say and stylize the tableau of taboo so long as the joke lands – go “too far” if we reason that a given performer doesn’t have hate in their heart?

So pick a side vis-à-vis Ms. Lampanelli: revulsion, because she hammers away at every stereotype in the book, or reverence, because she does it so successfully? How about guarded admiration? Is that “a thing?”

Holding court at the Paramount Theatre to a packed house of adoring hyenas, Lampanelli dove headlong into the evisceration of showbiz friends, peers, and detractors alike with her effusively crude yet simultaneously disarming shtick. The inveterate Comedy Central roastmaster again spent her stage time on the offensive: unloading uproarious invective against a range of negligible pop commodities with furious energy and a conviction reminiscent of a dictator’s call to arms. The fervent masses, for their part, fell in line and rolled on the floor.

Seldom one to parlay introspection or rote masturbatory details into laughs like a number of her mostly male contemporaries, Lampanelli is instead the type of comedienne you wouldn’t want to encounter in a dark alley after finalizing your divorce, having your leg hacked-off from infection, or if you happen to confuse proud anti-intellectualism and a reality TV footprint for popularity and respect.

There are no sacred cows in Ms. Lampanelli’s purview; everything and everyone’s a punch line: gender, race, nationality, sexual orientation, being stupid and Southern, being stupid and San Antonio, Justin Bieber, Susan Boyle’s voluminous pubic tuft, second-row guy spending a Saturday night downtown in a sweater vest, whatever.

Although Lampanelli is best known in the mainstream for her 2012 run on Donald Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice, the tenor and volume of the noises she elicited on Saturday night – a cacophony of uninhibited, tension-relieving cackles and catcalls – imparts a rabid, cult-like aspect to her fan base. It was hard to imagine an audience having a better time in the glow of someone on stage.

Although I probably laughed less than anyone in the room – and occasionally wrestled with the burning question, “Am I the uptight, P.C. douche she speaks of, the foil?” – I was, however, extremely impressed by the enormity of Lampanelli’s personality and presentation. She made the room her bitch – in short: another knockout performance from comedy’s alpha-female.

Austin – ostensibly unlike some down I-35 South – can indeed take a joke. God save you from the Queen, San Antonio.

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Lisa Lampanelli, comedy, Paramount Theatre

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