Sunday, April 3, 2011

Lisa Lampanelli's "Tough Love"


Lisa Lampanelli is back, and if you're looking for more of the famous insults and zingers that's given her the moniker The Queen of Mean, then you won't be disappointed. If, however, you're looking for something a little different than what Lampanelli's brought to the table her last couple of times at bat, well...Tough Love may leave you wanting more.

When Lampanelli first came onto the comedy scene a few years ago, she kicked in the door with her in-your-face, Rickles-was-a-puss jibes. She didn't give a crap and took no prisoners. Political correctness was out the window, as was racial sensitivity, public eitiquette, and sexual discreetness. Lampanelli shocked us into laughter with her abrasive honesty and no one in the audience was safe. If you sat anywhere near the front of the room, odds were Lampanelli would seek you out and unleash a fireball of putdowns. She was like nothing we'd seen in a long time and with her comedy came a no-holds-barred, anything-can-happen feeling of comedic suspense.

Now, however, something seems missing. We know what to expect from her, and she's managed to desensitize us to her own comedic style: Black jokes, Hispanic jokes, Jewish jokes, gay jokes, and old guy jokes. Lampanelli methodically checks them off one by one, only now her attempts seem forced. Her metaphors seem stretched and her pop culture references are a little dated (Really? A "Ted Kennedy is a bad driver" joke?).

Tough Love is virtually identical to her debut album..and every album she's released since. I listened to Tough Love three times before sitting down to write this review, and nothing stands out as fresh or new. In fact, there were a couple of times where she re-used material from her Comedy Central Roast appearances and even recycled jokes I've  already heard in countless email forwards. Michael Jackson likes Wal-Mart because he heard boys pants are half off? Seriously? I think it's safe to say we've all heard that joke already, and when Lampanelli tries to pass it off as new (and her own), the audience balks; their sudden silence only makes it more obvious. I'm honestly surprised that wasn't edited out of the final product.

Lampanelli has turned her show into something similar to a Gallagher or Carrot Top act, making herself a one-trick show.  Once you've seen - or heard - her, she doesn't give you any reason to come back. Someone as outspoken and brash as Lampanelli shouldn't leave you with a sense of "Oh, I've seen that before," but it's happened. She's like a fast-food chain that only serves cheeseburgers. No fries, no drinks, nothing else. Just cheeseburgers. Sure, they may taste good, but after a while....meh.

Lampanelli seems to be in the same spot that Jeff Foxworthy was in a few years ago. When his "redneck" jokes blew up, they became the focal point of his act and he became stale. I'm still not a fan, but I do appreciate the fact that he has now relegated them to the encore portion of his shows. He recognized he needed to move on, and I only hope Lampanelli comes to the same realization. She doesn't need to stop doing what made her famous, but I wish she would bring something new to the mix.

I like Lisa Lampanelli. I just think she's better than this. I want her to grow as a comic and get past this point of her career. Maybe this project is just what she needs. Sometimes all it takes to move on and move into the next phase is a little Tough Love.

***

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