Forget everything you think you know about Last Comic Standing runner-up Tammy Pescatelli. Although the funny lady appeared to be the joke-off's shrewdest manipulator and most gleeful backstabber, she's really a down-to-earth sweetheart who'd sooner dish out lasagna than insults. Or so she insisted when TV Guide Online recently caught up with her. We're inclined to believe her, too; the straight shooter wouldn't even cop to the competitor for whom she's rooting in tonight's finale (airing at 9 pm/ET on NBC). Um, there are also those Mafia ties at which she's always hinting.

TV Guide Online: Since being eliminated, have you met any interesting new fans?
Tammy Pescatelli:
Yeah, Garry Marshall [the Pretty Woman and Runaway Bride director]. I mean, you just go, "You've got to be kidding me. I grew up on your shows [like Happy Days and The Odd Couple]! Everything you've ever touched, I enjoyed." So that's huge for me. I was invited to the premiere of Princess Diaries 2 [which Marshall also helmed] because he wanted me to come. I was so honored. He's so talented — and he's Italian!

TVGO: I assume you're not getting quite the same response from the sister-in-law you repeatedly called a slut.
Ah, it's just jokes and jokes and jokes. Everybody gets better Christmas presents this year.

TVGO: Especially if some savvy network executive saw your series pilot pitch. That was really smooth!
Thank you for saying that, because it was a whole pilot pitch, and they didn't show one idea, one character, one thing! They just showed the topic sentence. But a lot of people have said [it was well done], so if that's good enough, hey, we'll take it.

TVGO: Some complain that your act trades in Italian stereotypes. Care to respond?
As a comic, your whole career, people tell you to find your voice. My voice comes from my family. My family may be stereotypes, but I'm not embarrassed of them, and if other people are, that's their problem. Pass me a meatball and shut the hell up! It's my family, and they're proud of me. Twenty-six of 'em showed up at the taping. And let me explain something to you: If Italian people are upset with you, they will not spend money to come out and see you!

TVGO: When I spoke with Ant, I got the distinct impression that you were the mastermind of the house alliance...
Trust me, if I was the mastermind of something like that, I would definitely take credit for it. But I wasn't. There was no alliance. There was only one time when we were even simpatico [in our voting pattern], and that was in the beginning [when Bonnie McFarlane got ousted]. That's just my Ant, whom I love so much, being the center of the universe.

TVGO: You have to admit, he's much funnier than, like, the Sun. Who will you be rooting for to take the title?
I know Alonzo Bodden has come through a lot of obstacles to get to this level in his career. And John Heffron... boy, he's just a walking Everybody Loves Raymond. Gary Gulman, I think, is the inside favorite. But you know what? I'm not [playing favorites] in public. I don't think that's fair to the guys. They all deserve to be the last comic standing.