There's no better guilty pleasure then Comedy Central Roasts. Comedy Central took the tried and true format of the roast, popularized by the Friars club inductions of celebrities, and made it palpable for modern audience. The jokes stayed the same, but the roast subjects went from Sammy Davis and Dean Martin to C-list celebrates such as David Hasselhoff and Flavor Flav.
Comedy Central picks the harshest and funniest comedians to annihilate the subjects, which often feels like shooting fish in a barrel. No comedian has benefited more from the roasts than Lisa Lampanelli. Her jokes are always the crassest and always cut deeper, and they took her from being a club comic to someone who can sell out theaters -- just like at the Fillmore last night.
When Lampanelli took the stage, it was to an adoring, affluent crowd of older couples, a sizeable gay fan base, and anybody wanting to witness a barrage the sort of insult-based comedy that brought Lampanelli fame. Lampanelli didn't disappoint, drawing aim at worthless celebrities, minorities of all sorts, the crowd itself and her husband whom she affectionately refers to as Jimmy Big Balls.
However, with the venue came many audience members, perhaps unaccustomed to going to comedy shows, treating it more like a concert, especially in relation to the start time. Even with the reasonable buffer of thirty minutes between the billed start and when opener Mike Morse took the stage, many patrons did not take their seats well into Lampanelli's set. This unfortunately created a distraction throught the night for the performers and audience, as people arrived late, then made their way to and from the bar multiple times in an evening.
That said, the crowd was ready to laugh and receptive and generous to Mike and Lisa. Lampanelli used her deft improvisational skills to interact, and roundly mock, various audience members in her line of sight. Lampanelli left no stone unturned, prodding the various Asian, black, gay, Hispanic, Italian and old crusty white guys who made up her fan base. It became the comedy equivalent of the splash-zone at SeaWorld, those who weren't afraid of getting a little wet sit up front, the targets of Lampanelli's jokes thrilled to be roasted.
Noticing that our seats were in the middle of Lisa's vantage point, we figured it would only be a matter of time before we received some of Lampanelli's jesting. Surely enough, roughly half way through her set Lampanelli wondered if there were any younger audience members in the crowd. Her eye line immediately made contact with ours. She noticed our hair and vaguely Jewish looks and insisted we were a member of the Tribe, admittedly a common mistake. When we tried to inform her otherwise, she drew a comparison to Horseshack from Welcome Back, Kotter. Upon learning that our age was a few decades younger than her audience's median, Lampanelli asked us to come up on stage and gave us a Race Pop Quiz.
Nervous at the prospect of being the focus of the packed Fillmore theater but more nervous at irritating the wit of Mrs. Lampanelli, we meekly took the stage.
Having to put our years of racially sensitive, inclusionary based schooling aside, we answered Lisa's questions of which groups were the laziest, the smelliest and the one with the greatest affinity for anal sex.
Despite only getting two of the three questions correct (Middle Easterners are smelly, who knew?), Lampanelli and the crowd applauded our efforts. For the rest of the evening we were graciously offered drinks by various audience members, which we were appreciative of, and offered praise inside of the Fillmore's restrooms, which we were less appreciative.
Not unlike how the legendary Don Rickles sing's "I'm A Nice Guy" to underscore his caustic, free wheeling act, Lampanelli similarly was emphatic that her insult-based humor was rooted in love. She bemoaned those too caught up in their celebrity to sign autographs or take pictures with fans. Not a minute went by before an inebriated fan made her way to the side of the stage to request a autograph. After admonishing the fan and the security guard that allowed her to reach the stage, Lampanelli relented and signed the woman's ticket stub.
Lisa Lampanelli understood that a great portion of her fans found her via the Comedy Central celebrity roasts of the past decade. Recognizing this, Lisa dedicated the last portion of her set to roasting 'the talentless celebrities of America'. The Kardashians, the Real Houswives, the cast of the Jersey Shore, Lindsay Lohan and a slew of other tabloid regulars found themselves at the business end of her wit. Acknowledging the old axiom of 'we only roast those we love' Lampanelli admitted there was no love for the aforementioned celebrities, thankful for the opportunity to lambast them in her act as opposed to a roast where she would have to make nice with them at an after party.
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Wrapping up her set Lampanelli thanked those of us who she teased throughout the show. The Blacks, Hispanics, Asians and Jews near the stage were thrilled to be apart of the action. Lampanelli even took the time to rib a paraplegic girl off to the side, recalling a several year period where she dated a gentleman in a wheelchair.
Lampanelli took even more time to play with her large gay fan base, explaining to the hetero portion of the crowd the physics behind fisting. Closing, Lampanelli recounted being finally affluent enough to hire an interior decorator for her home. Hiring a straight woman, she wash horrified to see the designer spend $300 on a q-tip jar.
Lampanelli left the stage with a final word of advice she culled from the experience: "Never send a bitch to do a fag's job". Her adoring fan base leapt to their feet in applause, sending her off the stage. The South Beach audience made their way back to the lobby of the Fillmore, thrilled to witness and, occasionally be the focus of the show.