How Funny Is Fat?

Margaret Cho matured fast, and unwanted attention drove her to gain weight as a way of remaining a child. As a grownup, she slimmed down, but it was never easy. After an Amsterdam- and hot dog-related lapse, she gained 15 pounds and showed a comedy club audience her stomach, stating, “I just don’t care any more.”

Fellow comedian Christina P. has also been known to peel her shirt up and give the house a good look at her spare tire. The now ultra-slim Jen Kirkman topped out at 168 pounds before getting a divorce. Marriage really did not agree with her!

The incredibly raunchy Kristine Levine has probably never told a single joke that could be repeated here, and remains “proudly overweight.” Lisa Lampanelli, whose autobiography is titled Chocolate, Please!, is said to possess the ability to turn a stick of butter into parental love — but no longer uses that dark power.

Last year she was quoted as saying,

There’s so much built towards hate with being fat; if you’re fat that means you’re lazy, or you could be doing better — there’s a lot of complex issues that go into food whether it be anorexia or compulsive overeating.

Around 30 years ago, when her weight had gotten up to 350 pounds, Roseanne Barr had gastric bypass surgery. As she recently explained on Joe Rogan’s podcast, a side effect is that her body does not absorb nutrients correctly, so every three months she needs an infusion:

Rogan: Could you have it reversed?
Barr: They would reverse it but what the hell, then I’ll weigh 800.
Rogan: You wouldn’t.
Barr: Yeah, I would. That’s why I had it, because I couldn’t stop. Talk about addiction. All day long, eclairs, what have you. I loved it. It was great.

It is a show business maxim that all comedians are profoundly broken people, but they do put in the effort to get better — through therapy and/or through working it out onstage. Take Louie Anderson, for example. The standup comedian is also an author, actor, TV host, and obese person who “finds overweight a reliable topic,” because battling it is a constant challenge to him.

Anderson jokes that his act covers all the F-words, which in his case are “food, family, fat, and over fifty.” An abusive father fat-shamed him; a misguided mother compensated by feeding him. In the TV series “Baskets,” Anderson plays a character based on his mother (yes, in full drag.) Of the treatment from his father, who was an addict of the alcoholic variety, he says:

I do not minimize how cruel that was, but I think it made me funny, it made me fight back, it made me a stronger human being.

Anderson is also quoted as saying, “[…] you just have to give up certain things… You can’t eat the same amounts of those things,” and should have stopped after the first phrase. The warning is technically correct only if the speaker and listener define “not the same amounts” as “zero.” In Dr. Pretlow’s W8Loss2Go program, withdrawal from a problem food is meant to culminate in abstinence. Otherwise, it isn’t really withdrawal, is it?

Nevertheless, Anderson participates in a food-addiction 12-step program and finds it very helpful to share experiences and hear those of others.

Several years ago, comedian and actor Seth Rogen wanted to be in the “Green Hornet” movie and formed the goal of losing 30 pounds in 10 weeks. But when he did, reaction from the public was not all positive.

Rogen formed the impression that some of his fans were disappointed. Apparently feeling that he represented them in some way, they seemed to interpret his reach for health as a betrayal. Fellow pound-shedder Tom Arnold once expressed a related thought:

There are people who think losing weight is selling out. And those are usually other fat people.

To lose weight, Rogen stuck with all-natural food products and supplements. Naming a specific amount of time and number of pounds is said to have helped him focus. As people do in Hollywood, Rogen had a personal trainer who not only showed him what to do, but acted as his motivational muse and accountability czar. He later said in an interview, “stay fat, people. That’s my motto. It’s no picnic!” (Just kidding… We hope.)

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Lights on: Comedian Lisa Lampanelli on losing weight and winning herself,”, 01/12/17
Source: “Joe Rogan Experience #1184 — Roseanne Barr,”, 10/11/18
Source: “How Louie Anderson Says He Dealt with a Fat-Shaming Father,”, 07/04/18
Source: “Comedian Louie Anderson focuses on the ‘F words’: food, family, fat and over fifty,”, 03/24/17
Source: “Louie Anderson Says Being Fat-Shamed as a Child Was ‘Cruel’ but it ‘Made Me Funny’,”, 05/03/18
Source: “Seth Rogen’s Amazing Weight Transformation — HOW!?,”, 03/22/16
Source: “Are comedians funnier when they’re fat?,”, 09/23/11
Photo credit: Brian Jeffery Beggerly (beggs) on Visualhunt/CC BY

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Profiles: Kids Struggling with Weight

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The Book

OVERWEIGHT: What Kids Say explores the obesity problem from the often-overlooked perspective of children struggling with being overweight.

About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

Food & Health Resources