We can credit our new president, Donald Trump, with one thing right off the bat: Ever since he announced his run for the White House, he's helped boost the employment numbers — mainly for comedians who found new material.
Of course, now that he’s taken office, the jokes have largely given way to jitters. But one person who hasn’t substituted sobriety for satire is Lisa Lampanelli. She has a history with the Donald, having been a contestant on The Celebrity Apprentice, the reality series that helped pave the way for Trump's current reality series, the one that sees him playing the part of president.
Lampanelli has a reputation for lambasting everyone — celebrities, politicians, ethnic minorities, racial minorities — and she doesn’t plan to make any exception when it comes to the commander in chief. New Times asked her about her special relationship with the 45th POTUS.
New Times: The president doesn’t seem to take too kindly to people making jokes at his expense. His reactions to Alec Baldwin’s sendups on SNL make that pretty clear. As far as you’re concerned, is he still fair game?
Lisa Lampanelli: I’m doing a lot of Trump roasting — not in front of his face, but definitely behind his back.
Are you worried he might find out and target you in a tweet campaign?
That would be great. I wouldn’t answer back, but I’d get more famous. It would be a win-win for everybody, especially me.
At first, few people took Trump seriously, and he became the focus of every late-night monologue. Now nobody thinks the situation is so funny. Are you worried about making him the subject of your satire?
I’m lucky because I roasted him in person twice, once for Comedy Central and once at the Friars Club. I did Celebrity Apprentice for 16 weeks, so I know him pretty well. I did some charity work for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital with his son Eric, so I know them better than a lot of people. I’ve joked around with him, done roasts with him, and now I’ve inserted this big, long Trump roast into my act, which I’ll be doing at the Hard Rock. Me making fun is how I do my job, so that’s just how I attack it. Honestly, I have no hate for him and no hate for the family. I just don’t agree with him at all politically. I do political comedy, so I joke about him, and I’ll continue to do so. Thank God I’m not employed and [don't] have to worry about being fired for the things I say. I just say things and hope the audience laughs no matter who they support politically, because with me, it’s all about jokes.
President Trump doesn't appear to feel the same way.
I feel fortunate every day that I get to do what I want to make a living. There’s still freedom of speech, thank God. So if Trump ever got mad at me, I’d say, “Hey, dude, I was just joking around.” I think he really does like me. This might be my last chance to get invited to the White House ever, so I might as well take my chances and say, “Hey, have me down for a dinner or something.”
They were looking for headliners for the inauguration festivities.
Yeah, that probably wouldn’t have been a good career move for me. Honestly, the best spot for me would be the White House Correspondents' Dinner. Since he does like me, have me do that roast and lighten things up a little. I’ll get my digs in for all the Democrats out there, and since the Republicans are so dumb, they’ll actually think I’m just joking.
Trump is clearly thin-skinned, however.
You know what’s weird? When I roasted him the two times, it was the exact opposite. Maybe it’s because I know how to pull off insult comedy. I am making fun of people I love, for the most part. Every ethnic group, every sexual orientation — nobody is spared. I think Trump actually thinks I’m kidding. He thinks I’m actually joking around. There’s something about our chemistry that’s allowed me to get away with a lot with him. He’s always laughing at me. I take full credit for my comedic talent and his stupidity. I don’t have some national platform where I’m going out and bashing him every night. Roasts are really fun, and it’s an honor and a joke, so hey, by the time I’m in Florida, things may blow up and he may hear about the jokes and get mad at me. But there’s something about knowing the person and throwing a few jokes his way. I don’t spare anyone.
8 p.m. Saturday, February 4, at Hard Rock Live at Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, 1 Seminole Way, Hollywood. Tickets cost $40 to $60. Visit myhrl.com or ticketmaster.com, or call 800-745-3000.