Saturday, April 14, 2012

Lisa Lampanelli's "Equal Opportunity Offender"

The new greatest hits collection from Lisa Lampanelli, "Equal Opportunity Offender," is pretty much exactly what you would expect from a greatest hits collection from Lisa Lampanelli. Black joke, gay joke, Asian joke, Hispanic joke. Black joke, gay joke, Asian joke, Hispanic joke. Repeat as desired.

Fans of Lampanelli know just what to expect from her and on this compilation we are given all of the zingers, insults, and racial slurs that have made her "The Queen of Mean" we've all come to know and love. Granted, she isn't for the faint of heart but at this point in the game that should come as a surprise to no one.

Because Lampanelli doesn't really work in a story-like structure or use callbacks, her comedy is actually quite conducive to a "best of" collection woven together from different albums. One thing that struck me about this project is how even it all is. Many times on "best of" collections, as you hear more recently-recorded tracks compared to earlier ones, you're able to see how much the comedian has evolved and grown over the years as a writer, performer, and storyteller. 

That isn't really the case with Lampanelli.

Her approach and style haven't changed a bit since she first got going and except for the fact that she's single in some tracks and married in others it would be nearly impossible for a newcomer to tell the difference between which is new and which is her older material.

I still haven't decided if that's a good thing or a bad thing. On one hand there's something to be said for consistency. On the other, because Lampanelli relies mostly on racial one-liners and gay-bashing, it may get a little repetitive. Mostly, though, the material suffers from lack of surprise. The first time I heard her comedy I was shocked into laughter by the things she was saying. After you've heard the jokes a couple of times, though, they tend to lose their potency. Since she relies on the shock factor, once you've been shocked, there's not much else there to cling to.

Take someone like Bill Cosby. He has routines like "Noah" and the one where he shares a bed with his brother Russell I've probably listened to one hundred times and they've never gotten old. His style is more about the storytelling, structure, and journey rather than one punchline. Lampanelli works differently and that's not necessarily a bad thing, it just has a much shorter shelf life. When I listen to Cosby albums I still laugh out loud. I smiled a few times when I listened to this project but that was about the biggest reaction it got out of me.

I understand it may not seem fair - or even sensible - to bring up Cosby in a Lisa Lampanelli review because they are so different in their approach. My issue may just be with insult comics in general, as I feel the same way about Don Rickles, whose comedy is much similar. I find him humorous for the first ten minutes or so, but then I begin to get antsy for something else.

Remember how cool the opening scene of Daniel Craig's Casino Royale was the first time you saw James Bond chase the bad guy through the construction site? Now imagine how quickly you'd get tired of it if the whole movie was just two hours of that same four-minute sequence over and over and over again. To me, that's a bit what it's like when it comes to Lampanelli. Yes, she made me laugh and ooh and ahh the first time she said that gay people have AIDS and Black people steal things and Hispanics are all maids, but...ya got anything else? Anything?

There's another factor that I must admit has tainted my Lisa Lampanelli experience and it may seem a bit surprising: "Celebrity Apprentice." In my opinion, watching her on that show has taken away a bit of her comedy street cred. It's a little hard for me to separate seeing her on TV getting all emotional and teary-eyed and upset because a guy called a woman a bitch and then hear her on stage calling people in the audience (and in the public eye) the "N" word, the "C" word...and pretty much all of the other A through Z words you can think of.

The long and the short of it is, Lampanelli's die hard fans will enjoy this project. If you're unfamiliar with her albums, this CD also sums up the Lampanelli experience nicely and may serve as a nice introduction although now that you're able to buy individual tracks as opposed to full projects, I would recommend that as the way to go. I won't suggest specific tracks because really, they're all pretty much the same (have I mentioned her material includes Black jokes, Asian jokes, gay jokes, and Hispanic jokes?). And if you're a general comedy fan and you've heard Lampanelli're probably good.


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