When comedienne Lisa Lampanelli was preparing for a concert last Saturday in Topeka, Kansas, she quickly learned she’d have some unusual attendees showing up. In addition to her normal flock of gay fans, her show attracted protestors from Fred Phelps’s Westboro Baptist Church, who didn’t like her support for gay rights.
But Lampanelli turned the tables on them, pledging to donate $1,000 to Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC) for every protester who actually showed up. As a result, she will be presenting a check for $50,000 to GMHC on Wednesday.
We spoke to Lampanelli on the phone about why she made this pledge, what her favorite WBC jokes is, and what her thoughts are about using the word “fag” now that even Howard Stern has given it up.
Are you still in the Midwest?
No, thank god, I’m home. I was in Kansas just about 24 hours. And I’m not one of those people who is a snob and has a problem with the Midwest. There are as many dumb people in New York. But it was a pleasure to get the fuck out this time.
How’d you find out that Westboro was planning to picket you?
Someone had sent me a link to a website with funny anti-Westboro signs. It was hysterical and I tweeted it out. And then they started coming after me. Frank DeCaro on Sirius had told me about them years ago, and I’d forgotten about them. They’re like 100 people or less and hadn’t been on my radar. But then I started reading about them and I thought, oh, my god. I hate them so much!
So we started going back and forth, tweeting jokes. I put up that Westboro Church isn’t really a church, it’s just a shitty sign-making company. They were being vicious. And then, when I was coming to Topeka, their back yard, they started saying they were going to come out and protest. I couldn’t stop them, so I thought of donating a thousand dollars in each protestor’s name to GMHC, ’cause that will stick it to them. I wanted them to know, if you come out to protest the gays, you’re going to end up helping the gays.
I’d like to say this idea came from my love of gays, which part of it did. But it also came from my wish to stick it to these sick douchebags. Their idea of religion and sexuality is so fucked up!
So, there were 48 people who turned up?
What happened was, my husband Jimmy goes over early and does sound check and lighting and security. We hired extra security, because I’d received written physical threats.
Yeah, this guy wrote “she’d better be careful, she’s going to be walking with a limp.” He deleted it, but I’d made a screenshot. So we told the police in Topeka, and they were great, and they said [WBC doesn’t] usually get violent but thanks for letting us know, and we also hired extra security. Which the gays loved. Between the security and Jimmy they were in heaven.
Your husband is a hunk?
Yes, he’s a bear. Gays see him and say it’s bear hunting season. So an hour before, Jimmy calls and says no [protesters] have shown up. And I think, I’ll have to give a donation, anyway. It’s a dick move not to give anything. I’ll have to give them 20 grand.
But then he calls and says, “The first truck load has arrived.” They’re such a stupid stereotype, in white pick up trucks. Just a bunch of fucking losers, in their regalia and with their signs and their children!. And there were about 20 of them.
I thought we’d take the audience out and make fun of them, and we’ll have a gay make out session! Only two gay guys were brave enough, though, which I understand.
Well, they still have to live there with those people.
I know! I had a body guard, and I got to leave. But we go out there, and we’re chanting, “We’re here, we’re queer, we take it in the rear.” I am very proud that that chant was my contribution to the movement. I wrote that. Don’t steal it.
Then we came back in. My driver counted 44 people, but the next day, somebody from those assholes said they had 48. I’m not going to quibble, so I said, “Let’s make it an even 50 grand.” And if they don’t like that, they can suck my dick.
So we’re going to GMHC on Wednesday. I asked if we could put in the memo line of the check, “Courtesy of the in-bred bigots,” but the nice lady at GMHC said that’s a little politically incorrect.
So what was your favorite Westboro joke you told or heard?
I said in a tweet, “What does WBC really stand for?” My favorite response was, “We Be in da Closet.” It’s been great to see people hating on them and laughing at them. Some people have told me that I gave them too much attention. Well, I gave them attention to give 50 grand to help stop AIDS. So shut the fuck up.
Before you go, what do you make of Howard Stern’s meditation about the word “fag” after you were recently on his show?
I thought it was great that he can say what he wants, and he can let guests say what they want. I like that. Sometimes you give up certain words at different stages of your life. Whatever stage of his life he’s gotten to, through therapy and life experience, he’s not into saying the word fag anymore. I totally respect his decision. Maybe, in 10 years, I may not be saying fag. But I hope I am, because the gays sure love it!
It’s funny. When my Comedy Central special was premiering, I twittered that my fags are coming over, and there are going to be a lot of open glory holes tonight in Manhattan. And everyone was cracking up, and different gay guys are telling me different words I can use. But some woman says, “I’m unfollowing you for using that word, how dare you use that word?” And I’m thinking, what were you doing following me in the first place? Didn’t you know what I’m about? I think 99 percent of gay people don’t have a problem with that. It’s just some straight white people who have a guilt problem!
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on May 24, 2011