Being mean is not that hard.

But being mean and funny at the same time is a trick not too many people have mastered.

Lisa Lampanelli — referred to often as “Comedy’s Lovable Queen of Mean” — says the trick is to never say mean things about people you really don’t like.

“If you really mean it, it will come out somehow and they (the audience) will see through it,” said Lampanelli, a Connecticut native, in a phone interview. “If I’m doing a roast and there’s someone on the dais I really don’t like, I’ll leave them out of it. I tell people I never joke about the French, because I hate them.”

Lampanelli will bring her tightrope act between mean and funny to Portland’s Merrill Auditorium Friday night.

She doesn’t mind being called an “insult comic.” It helps her stand out from the millions of other stand-up comics. And there are very few comics who have earned that title.

“There are really only a few who are known for that: me and (Don) Rickles and Howard Stern,” said Lampanelli, 49.

So how does one become an insult comic? Does one aspire to be that from a young age?

Not in Lampanelli’s case. She didn’t think about a performance career, even though her father was a painter and she had an older sister who was heavily involved in theater. Lampanelli wanted to be a journalist, so she headed to Syracuse University, known for turning out journalists and broadcasters. She attended a few schools and ended up working as a features writer for magazines such as Rolling Stone and Spy.

But after doing that for a few years, she realized journalism was not what she really wanted to do. She had an idea she might want to try stand-up comedy, and she knew enough from seeing other comics that it was probably best to start small. So she didn’t move to Los Angeles or New York to try her luck at big comedy clubs.

“I did open mics in Connecticut and on the road. After about seven years, I started playing in the city (New York),” said Lampanelli, who began her comedy career in the early 1990s. “I started outside of a big city so no one could see me.”

Until she had honed her craft, that is.

Lampanelli said being an insult comic just grew out of her personality. Since she was about 30 when she started, she knew her personality and knew what she was good at — making fun of people.

And she often does it in a very graphic and profane way. Her shows are intended for mature audiences.

Her big break came in 2002 doing a Friars Club Roast of Chevy Chase in New York. She went on to be featured at several roasts and on specials on the Comedy Central cable network and HBO. Her latest one-hour special for Comedy Central, “Tough Love,” premieres at 10 p.m. March 27.

Lampanelli says she’s definitely doing what she loves, and unlike other stand-ups, she has no grand plan to land a sitcom or make movies. She just filmed a role in an as-yet untitled movie by “Sopranos” creator David Chase, but she said film work doesn’t “tickle her” the way stand-up and making fun of people does.

So how does the Queen of Mean come up with material?

“It’s just whatever in my life annoys me, things that happen with family, friends,” she said.

“Anything is fair game as long as it’s funny.”

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at:

[email protected]