"Best of" stand-up albums don't usually work, because they yank material out of context and remove any sense of structure from the overall set. A routine can be funny on its own, but on a "best of" album it has no relationship to the routine it precedes or follows and there is no rise/fall to the album. It's like listening to comedy through an iPod on "shuffle" mode, and while there are undoubtedly some people who don't mind it, that's not how I like to listen to a stand-up album.
Despite being a "best of" album, Equal Opportunity Offender, the latest album from Lisa Lampanelli, doesn't suffer from any of these problems. Lampanelli's act isn't structured that way -- the bits don't need context and have no relationship to one another. They're mostly just a series of one-liners that don't require any setup beyond a line or two. It's like being told a series of knock-knock jokes; there's a complete reset after each punchline. For an insult comic like Lampanelli, a "best of" album is a great idea -- it's a non-stop assault of only her funniest material, with any of the past bits that don't quite work as well trimmed away. If you're a fan of her comedy, this is conceivably the only album from her that you ever need to own.
That's because after hearing Equal Opportunity Offender, you've basically heard all that Lampanelli has to offer, comedically speaking. She teases minorities and homosexuals. She uses the crudest possible language to describe anything that could possibly be crude. She's all about shock value, even though that's a futile pursuit by now -- everyone knows what to expect from a Lisa Lampanelli comedy show, which makes it difficult to actually shock. Just consider a few of the track titles found on the album: "Homos Are My Favorite People," "The Luckiest Bitch," "Stereotypes" and "Roast of Worthless Americans." Those read like a parody of Lampanelli's act, not like material she's still doing. The latter bit, in which she basically delivers roast jokes about celebrities she can't stand (fairly easy targets, too, like Tiger Woods, Paris Hilton and the cast of Jersey Shore), is the best part of the album and closes it out strong, mostly because Lampanelli knowns how to write a good joke. It's just her subject matter that's uninspired.
It should come as no surprise that Equal Opportunity Offender is a comedy album that exists solely for diehard Lisa Lampanelli fans, who like this material so much they're willing to buy it twice. But it shouldn't necessarily be that way; a "greatest hits" comedy album should be the one that everyone could own (the way everyone owns Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' Greatest Hits). It should be the gateway to wanting to seek out more of Lampanelli's comedy. Instead, it's almost entirely indistinguishable from anything she's ever done. If you're Don Rickles, that's ok. His material is timeless, classic and always funny. Lampanelli, on the other hand, is doing a very specific kind of comedy that already feels completely outdated, like listening to an Andrew "Dice" Clay record in 2012.
It's strange to think of just how popular Lisa Lampanelli became for a short time. Thanks to some strong performances on the Comedy Central roasts and a brief resurgence in the popularity of insult comedy, Lampanelli was poised to take the world by storm. But then an interesting thing happened: the general audience evolved and she did not. That's not to say that Lampanelli doesn't still have a huge and loyal following -- she does -- but what seemed like would turn out to be mainstream success never quite materialized. Equal Opportunity Offender helps to offer some explanation as to why that is.
- Album Release Date: 4/17/12
- Label: Warner Bros.