"Philadelphia is a tough town. People won't sugarcoat how they feel about you. You know you'll get an honest reaction."
Written with Alan Zweibel, early and long on the "Saturday Night Live" team and co-author of Billy Crystal's one man show "700 Nights," Lampanelli's "Skinny Bitch" is, like Crystal's, an autobiographical story blending laughs and poignant revelations that grapple with the comedienne's big issues - food, men and body images.
She used to think it a big deal that she'd whittled down to a mere 218 pounds - "that's Italian anorexic." Now, after gastric bypass surgery, Lisa truly lives up to the show's title. Still an "equal-opportunity offender," to be sure, though no longer the easy, "she's so fat" target of insults at a Comedy Central Celebrity Roast.
"That's not why I've stopped doing the roasts for the moment," she said. "I've given up on everything else but this show. I'm taking acting classes four times a week, working with tutors at Yale. I did Schenectady [N.Y.], York [Pa.] and New Brunswick [N.J.] before Philadelphia and learned a lot there. And we're still working on the script. After the first night in Philly, I cut out seven or eight minutes of material. You want it to be a fighting weight of 84 to 90 minutes."
Getting laughs is the easy part, she said. Where she's focused and concerned is "hitting a nerve - how many people relate to the issues. That's what kept Billy Crystal's show running in New York, long after the initial run of fans came to see it. Anyone who'd lost a parent could relate to the theme."
More tweaks will be in place for this weekend's performances.
Lampanelli's hoping to land the project on Broadway either in the spring or fall of 2014. "The producer said, 'After Philly, let's talk.' "
Innovation Studio, Kimmel Center, Broad and Spruce streets, 8 tonight, 3 and 8 p.m. tomorrow, 3 p.m. Sunday, $38, 215-893-1999, kimmelcenter.org.