Kathy Griffin is God: Meeting the Queen of the D-List
I am probably the unlikeliest Kathy Griffin fan on the planet.
Not just because I'??m not gay, or a big fan of reality TV or a little creeped out by people who get massive amounts of plastic surgery.
I think it'??s because a) I love the way she dishes on the kind of stupid encounters with celebrities that most people in the entertainment industry keep to themselves. And b) I have a soft spot for working stiffs who never stop trying.
You can see how hard she works for her A-list home by checking her addictive reality series, My Life on the D-List, a way-cool excavation of all the stuff she must subject herself to as somebody who isnâ??t quite Brangelina or TomKat material.
(Click here to watch the woman who calls herself the â??red-headed Oprahâ?? try to give away money on the streets of Hollywood.)
So for me, the coolest thing about doing my story for Saturday'??s Floridian about the surge in women-centered TV series, was getting 10 minutes on the phone with the Divine Ms. G.
Unfortunately, when we talked, Rosie was still on The View and buzz about Griffin replacing her hadn'??t begun, so there'??s no questions on that. New episodes of D-List start up at 10 p.m. Tuesday; her stand up special Everybody Can Suck It premieres at 9 p.m. Tuesday. See the first new episode here.
Here'??s the edited transcript (BE WARNED:?? there'??s lots of profanity going on here):
Kathy: Bravo'??s so cheap that I had to pay for my own billboard, which I really, honestly, don'??t think has happened in the history of television. I donâ??t know anyone else: you know Heidi Klum'??s not buying her billboard.
Eric: I just have a feeling you'??re the only person in Hollywood who would admit it.
K: (laughs) Ooooh, that is actually a comfort to me. I hope that'??s true.
E: The first thing I wanted to ask you; have you created your own show biz niche here? I mean, I can'??t think of a performer who has kind of is in the public eye but still claims to be so disrespected as you do.
K: Claims? Call Jay Leno, call Conan O'??Brien, call David Letterman. Yeah, I think that we'??re in an era where I think people are responding now to people being honest, you know? I'??m looking at what shows are a hit and Rachael Ray has a giant hit show and this is a girl who sort of, you know, her whole image is ??I'??m kind of like you.?? Even Tyra Banks, who while being a supermodel, her show is very much, '??Sure, come feel my boobs, I'??ll prove that they'??re real,'?? you know. '??Sure, I'??ll put on a fat suit on and see what it'??s like to be fat,'?? you know. So the abject glee that people are experiencing because of the Paris Hilton sentencing really says it all, you know? I think we'??re kind of entering a phase where people are a little sick of celebrities being above the law and want to kinda take the piss out of them, as they would say in England.
E: Yeah, we exalt celebrities. At the same time, we want to bring them down to our level. It'??s a very odd dynamic.
K: I feel the same way. I love celebrities and I'??m fascinated by them but I'??m also sick of their shit. So (laughs), you know, for me, it'??s kind of like life is like high school and I'?m still the nerdy girl that couldn'??t get, you know, onto the cheerleading squad. I still have a lot of fun taking down those cheerleaders in a way that I never could in high school, so I think if, you know, high school kind of set the stage that I'??m gonna just relive that fantasy over and over.
And I'??ve finally figured out how to take those cheerleaders down, and I think people like that. I mean, that'??s really the concept of the D List is that a lot more people relate to me than relate to Nicole Kidman, you know. And when people come to my shows or they watch the D List, that'??s what they tell me more than anything is, you know, I feel like I'??m sitting with a friend in the living room gossiping, or I'??m gossiping on the phone or something. So I think people love to gawk at celebrities and, at the same time, they like to look at their mug shots. I know I do.
E: Yeah, we exalt celebrities. At the same time, we want to bring them down to our level. It??s a very odd dynamic.
K: I feel the same way. I love celebrities and Iâ??m fascinated by them but Iâ??m also sick of their shit. So (laughs), you know, for me, itâ??s kind of like life is like high school and Iâ??m still the nerdy girl that couldnâ??t get, you know, onto the cheerleading squad. I still have a lot of fun taking down those cheerleaders in a way that I never could in high school, so I think if, you know, high school kind of set the stage that Iâ??m gonna just relive that fantasy over and over.
And I??ve finally figured out how to take those cheerleaders down, and I think people like that. I mean, thatâ??s really the concept of the D List is that a lot more people relate to me than relate to Nicole Kidman, you know. And when people come to my shows or they watch the D List, that'??s what they tell me more than anything is, you know, I feel like I'??m sitting with a friend in the living room gossiping, or I'??m gossiping on the phone or something. So I think people love to gawk at celebrities and, at the same time, they like to look at their mug shots. I know I do.
E: The interesting thing to me is, when I heard what you went through with your husband, my first concern was, "??Oh, man, she'??s gonna stop doing the show..."? (Griffin has accused her ex-husband, Matt Moline, of stealing $72,000 from her)
E: ....??cause how could she go out and sort of face everybody after having gone through that? Was there ever a point when you considered not doing it?
K: No, it was...for me it was more how do I deal with it, how much do I reveal and I just keep thinking, you know, I'??m such a fan of reality shows that I thought, you know, if I was watching this show, I would want to kinda know what happened and what the deal was. So I thought, well, thatâ??s what I should do. You know, I thought, well, if Sharon Osborne can deal with her cancer on The Osbornes, you know, and Nick and Jessica got divorced after Newlyweds, you know, I think people can kind of see through it. So for me, it was kind of a survival tool. Also, I just love to keep working during the tough times. So I thought about it. I thought, you know, if I don'??t do the show, what am I gonna do? I'??m gonna sit and wallow, and Iâ??m not good at that, you know. I love a few days off here and there, but about Day 7 of watching Oprah and crying, eating ice cream, I need to get my ass to work.
E: And you have your reputation to maintain as the redheaded Oprah anyway, so...
K: That'??s right... helping people one rejection at a time.
E: Helping people who won'??t let you (laughs). I actually got it because it seemed to me that, you know, if you walk up to some street person and give him a hundred bucks, I mean, who else has handed out money but people who expect something for that money?
K: But they weren'??t homeless people. They were...what about the woman in the nurse uniform on the second phone? "??Uh, I'??m on the phone...I'??m like, I know you'??re on the phone. I actually chose..I did not choose any homeless people. Like, everyone I chose ...the whole idea was to help someone in need as opposed to help a crack addict. And so I really, really tried to target, you know, women who looked like they were coming from work or going to work or, you know, walking down the street with a couple kids in the stroller. Yeah, I loved that I literally couldn'??t give it away.
E: So, now, I saw a comment where you said....and I'??m sure it was a joke but maybe there'??s some truth in there...that you thought doing the show had made you a worse person?
K: (laughs) I'??ve had so much experience in reality, from hosting Average Joe and watching them, to participating in the Celebrity Mole and making a fool of myself, that what I found on my own show is I think I'??m edited 100 percent fairly and I never say to them, "??Oh, that'??s a shot where I look fat"?? or whatever. And they don'??t spare me either. But what I learned from doing reality is you'??re gonna come out pretty much the way you are so, at least in my personal experience, I canâ??t watch the show and say, â??Oh, I was just edited so it'??s that way. Iâ??m really 32 years old with fake tits.?? You know, you pretty much come out the way you are.
E: So you donâ??t have sort of ultimate veto power over whatâ??s shown?
K: No, I have soft veto, which is, I have veto power over the production company but Bravo then can override me, so it'??s total bullshit veto power. It creates the illusion I have power, but I don'??t.
E: Was there ever anything that you tried to exercise that power with?
K: Oh, yeah. And you know, actually Bravo'??s very good about that. Like, if there was something that I thought would really make my mom cry or something, I would take it out. I'??ll take something out if I really think somebody'??s gonna be crushed over it. Oh, Iâ??ll tell you what I take out. I take out stuff where I try not to keep fucking myself. Like, I don'??t want to keep making fun of talk-show hosts and then when it'??s time to promote the show, I can'??t get on any talk show.
K: I will tell you this: In Season 1, when they covered me going to the Jay Leno Show and he made me cry, we cut out --? honestly??? -- everything that made him look bad. We were very, very sensitive to that.
E: And he still got pissed.
K: He still got pissed, yeah. So now I should have left it in. That was some good shit.
E: And you alluded earlier....you listed a bunch of talk shows. You can'??t get on any of them?
K: No, there'??s a list of '??em I can'??t get on. Ellen, Leno, Letterman, Conan, Regis.
E: This is not the way to build your career.
K: I know, but look at The View. I was banned from The View and now Iâ??m co-hosting.
K: So it kinda comes around, you know. I think the nice thing about the Bravo show is it actually lets people know that it really is all in good fun and Iâ??m not really a mean asshole. So thatâ??s what I hear the most is, '??Oh, I thought you were this mean asshole but youâ??re actually a human being.'?? So then The View calls up again and says, well, turns out youâ??re a human being. Do you want to come co-host?
E: And, you know, Star has left the building, so....
K: Which is totally sweet.
E: Your show is coming back in new episodes at a time in June when there'??s actually a lot of new shows coming featuring women. Do you get any sense from where you are now that there'??s a little more opportunity for women or that women are being portrayed a little better or given a few more different kinds of things to do on television now?
K: No, I think it'??s worse, and here'??s why. Because my sitcom era was actually a good era for women. Suddenly Susan sort of rode the coattails of the Murphy Brown/Grace Under Fire, Roseanne, even -- what's the Lea Thompson one? Caroline in the City. At that time, there were a lot of female-driven shows. Even Friends was very much an equal playing field for the men and women. And then something happened where the women just went away and the only roles that I read for, and the only roles that I saw were, you know, the fat, balding husband who the wife, you know, he wants to have sex and the wife doesn'??t want to and yet the wife is the hot girl from Melrose Place, you know, According to Jim, and then she just sort of folds her arms akimbo and says, '??Oh, honey'?? and then the guy does all the jokes.
I was, like, Oh my God, itâ??s like Leave It to Beaver, except now the women are actually just bitchy. So itâ??s worse. So one thing that I like about reality television, and you know, a lot of my TV-actor friends get mad at me because I like reality television, is to me it was kind of a renaissance of seeing real, live women. Sharon Osborne is as real as it gets, and as funny as anybody on Friends or anybody on a sitcom, so I just like good TV. I really donâ??t care if itâ??s a reality or scripted, I donâ??t care if itâ??s drama or sitcoms. But I think thatâ??s a good thing about reality but no, I think the networks have this mantra that female-driven shows donâ??t make money. And thatâ??s the dirty little secret in the business and I donâ??t believe it. I donâ??t know where theyâ??re getting that data but obviously the Roseanne show made a lot of money for a lot of people and, you know, Mary Tyler Moore and Murphy Brown and all those shows were obviously very profitable, so I donâ??t know, but I think sexism is at a fever pitch right now. I think itâ??s very bad right now.
E: Wow. Well, you mentioned the fiscal part of it, but do you think thereâ??s anything besides the economics of it thatâ??s driving it?
K: I just think it??s a bunch of guys running the networks. I mean, Jesus Christ, look at (former HBO chairman) Chris Albrecht. Could you find more of a disgusting pig? This guy is deciding what shows get on the air. Gee, I wonder why HBO doesnâ??t have any female-driven shows except Sex and the City with four gorgeous, gorgeous women with hot bodies. You know, I'??m sorry, thatâ??s not exactly what I had in mind when I said ??female-driven shows.?? So , you know...
K: And Big Love. Thanks, Chris. Why don'??t you beat the f--- out of your next girlfriend in a parking lot in Vegas? You know, donâ??t let the door hit you on the way out, you ass----. I mean, seriously. The truth of the matter is, that'??s who'??s running, that'??s who'??s deciding what shows you watch because Chris Albrecht is beating up some girl in a parking lot in Vegas after a prize fight. It'??s unbelievable. This is the guy who green-lights shows. Thatâ??s him. And he'??s not the only one whoâ??s like that, you know.
E: I donâ??t know If you paid attention to what got picked up this year, but....Well, there'??s a lot of Sex and The City clones. There'??s, you know, NBC has a Brooke Shields Show ...
K: Okay, but Brooke Shields isnâ??t Roseanne. That'??s what I'??m saying. Where'??s the Rhoda? Where'??s the Grace Under Fire? Like where are women that really make me laugh? You know, Brooke Shields isn'??t gonna make you laugh the way Roseanne did, you know.
K: And I'??ve gotta say, thatâ??s actually something that I found really exciting about Rosie going back to The View is, you know, I love seeing a real person for all of her foibles and say things that were brilliant and things that were silly and everything in between, thatâ??s what made Roseanne a great show and thatâ??s what made Lucy great. You know, Lucy wasn'??t a glamazon.
E: Did anybody ever come up with a vehicle like that for you?
K: No, nobody wants to do a female-driven show with a woman in her 40s that isn'??t a model. They just don'??t. And I'??m sorry, but Desperate Housewives isn'??t what I had in mind. I mean, my God, Felicity Huffman is like the '??serious actress,'?? and she looks like a swimsuit model.??
E: To shift gears just a little bit, the other thing that I wondered as I was watching your show is, do you take some of these gigs that you know are gonna be kind of weird, for the show? I mean, do you do the prison gig because you know itâ??s gonna make good television as opposed to â?¦
K: No, but hereâ??s what Iâ??ll tell you. I donâ??t take them for the show but, you know, the show only tapes three months a year, and a lot of those things happen outside the shooting schedule so what Iâ??m more likely to do is Iâ??m more likely to say, you know, all right, maybe I wouldnâ??t do a prison because, okay, like, the redheaded Oprah thing. I did that at Christmas. You know, no cameras, nothing. I just did it. And when the show went into production, I said, you know, I did this thing at Christmas where I thought I was gonna get hugged by everybody and be a beloved member of the community and basically it was like a day of â?¦ it was like 10-thousand dollars of rejection.
E: You did it twice?
K: Yes. I did it twice. And of course with Bravo, I did my own fucking money both times, so Iâ??m 10 Gâ??s in the hole and nobody could even say, you know, thank you. So Iâ??ll do stuff like that. Like Iâ??ll say, okay, well, I did this and I think it would be perfect for the show â??cause it fits in so well to the concept of the D List. But, yeah, itâ??s something I did already. Now, the prison thing â?? that actually was an offer that I had gotten â?¦ that I got about nine months ago and it was kind of sitting on my desk. And you know, I tour a lot and so, you know, I donâ??t really have time to do every wacky offer. But, yeah, when the show started up again, I went, â??Oooh, I actually have a prison offer thatâ??s been sitting on my desk a few months. Letâ??s do it.â?? But no, I donâ??t like make stuff up.
E: The other thing I wonder is, have you reached the point now where maybe other D-listers are trying to get next to you â??cause they want to land in your act?
K: You know, itâ??s a funny thing. Believe it or not, I have a better response from A-listers. The weirdest thing happened. Once the show started, I had other D-listers that were upset that they were associated with me, meaning, I used to do a joke. When people say who else is on the D list and Iâ??d say, oh, you know, Mario Lopez. And Mario Lopez comes up to me at a party and heâ??s all offended. He says to me, â??How could you say that about me? I thought we were homies.â?? I said, â??Do people say homies, first of all, anymore? All right? Electric Bugaloo II, 1987?â?? But that aside, itâ??s funny â?? Iâ??ve noticed that thereâ??s something about really big stars â?? for some reason, they donâ??t mind being in my act. Like Gwen Stefani has come up to me and Larry Fishburne came up to me, it was like, keep doing what youâ??re doing. And Jessica Simpson said, â??I hope you know I would never ever be offended by anything you would ever say about me. I think youâ??re hilarious.â?? And itâ??s the weirdest thing. Iâ??m surprised that the A-listers seem to sort of be more okay with it.
E: Well, they know theyâ??re on the A list, right?
K: Right, theyâ??re more secure, yes.
E: And Mario Lopez is hosting Pet Star, right?
K: Yeah, yeah, which I will say has some very funny tricks on it.
E: Well, you know, I interviewed you a long time ago. I think we were on the second Survivor when I talked to you. And back then, you talked about sort of reality TV fame and how weird it was for the non-celebrities because they get all the intrusiveness â?¦
K: Without the money.
E: Do you still feel that way?
K: Yes! I donâ??t know why those kids go in the real world. I canâ??t figure it out. And now the Vegas ones are doing the reunion after theyâ??ve all been like scarred from doing the first one. It is fascinating to me. I really â?¦ I guess â?¦ I joke about it a lot, but I really donâ??t have an interest in fame for fameâ??s sake. It is a business to me. Itâ??s how I make my living, it helps me tremendously, you know. My touring business has literally quadrupled since My Life on the D List, but I canâ??t imagine being (Real World: Las Vegas participant) Trishelle Cannatella and living for the last three years where the whole country has called you a whore, and Iâ??ve been with her when people are 5 feet away saying, â??Thereâ??s the whore from Real World Vegas,â?? and then doing the reunion. But it is fascinating. Let me tell you, I think the Holy Grailâ??s gotta be Hasselback, right?
E: Right, gotta be...I mean, fame for fame'??s sake is really fame because you have no talent.
K: Yeah, yeah, that'??s true. But hey, I have to go. I have to talk to Okay magazine. Is that a little D-list for you?
E: It'??s putting me on the D list.
K: Wait... and then after that I have to talk to the Shepard Express from Milwaukee.
E: Oh, my God.
K: Hold on. I want to read from my list. Then, Us Weekly, that'??s a big one.
E: I can only hope that I ask better questions than Okay magazine does.