Kathy Griffin: Making the fur fly onstage in Clearwater Saturday
For anyone else, getting caught on live TV slinging an expletive at a drunk heckler might be a career-ending injury – the kind of embarrassing faux pas that grows more debilitating every day, thanks to endless replays on YouTube and tabloid news shows.
But comic Kathy Griffin has built a six-figure career on such moments, using the furor over her explicit dressing down of a mouthy bystander at CNN’s New Year’s Eve coverage as yet another excuse to climb out of D-list celebrity status and grab the zeitgeist by the throat.
“I’m thrilled; are you kidding?” Griffin shouted during a telephone interview last week. “CNN got triple their ratings. I’ve never been like a YouTube-moment person, (but) I’m finally a million-view person. I’m so excited that I would be, like, the YouTube clip that makes people at work in the cubicle say ‘Have you heard what this crazy b---- said this time?’” Hear the whole interview here (you will notice the transcript below has been edited for space and clarity).
Fans expect no less from Griffin, whose in-your-face shtick and tireless talent for self-promotion has turned a foundering career as a sitcom actress and comic into sold-out concerts, an Emmy-winning unscripted series (My Life on the D-List) and a $2 million deal to pen her memoirs.
Days before coming to Clearwater's Ruth Eckerd Hall for her only Florida concert stop on Saturday, she took a few minutes to dish on everything from hanging with Satanic Verses author Salman Rushdie to cracking Scientology jokes in the church's back yard.
Deggans: Hi Kathy. Thanks for making time to talk with us.
Griffin: I have a scoop for you. This is a very big news item. I hope you can handle it . . . Right now, I am having my fourth cup of coffee in my entire life. And here’s why: Because we’re furiously taping Season 5 of the multi-Emmy award-winning My Life on the D List. And we just did an episode with Suzanne Somers, who’s basically a surgeon general at this point ‘cause, you know, she’s all into the women and the hormone creams and the vitamins and the supplements. And she’s trying to kick me off my diet soda habit, which is . . . it’s like a Whitney Houston moment for me. And then she dropped the bomb that coffee is okay, which I couldn’t believe.
D: And of course you have to listen to Chrissie.
G: Well, exactly. Look, let's cut the s---; Suzanne Somers, Jerry Springer and Oprah Winfrey run the world. They have more money than anybody. Warren Buffett, my a--. I’m telling you, there’s some secret Forbes list somewhere that we don’t know about and Suzanne Somers is at the top and Warren Buffett is like No. 17.
D: I have got to ask you this: The Bachelor dumping Melissa Rycroft. Did you watch it?
G: It’s not even just The Bachelor dumping anymore. It’s the freakin’ rebound on Dancing With the Stars. You know, when I got my a-- dumped all those years, I never had a dance show to go to. I didn’t know there was an option. Some guy dumps me and then 48 hours later, I’m in like a sequin stripper outfit on Dancing With the Stars? I didn’t get that memo.
D: And, as a former Dallas cowboys cheerleader, she’s kicking everybody else’s butt, too.
G: Now, I don’t know if St. Pete has like an adult middle-aged woman’s cheerleading squad but if they do, I want in ‘cause apparently that is the gateway to fame now. If you can pick just the right football cheerleading squad, then you will become like the most well-known woman in America in 48 hours.
D: Fans can see the only reason you know all this minutiae about Lindsay and Britney is because you follow them. Does it pain you a bit as a fan that they don’t get what you’re doing is really a tribute?
G: Well, yes and no. I mean, my problem is sometimes I meet these celebrities and they’re nice. But there’s no season passes out of my act. I mean, I really do try to focus on their behavior more than who they are. But when I go online and I see (Lindsay Lohan) in what appears to be a coked-out frenzy having a fight in a parking lot in Vegas with her DJ girlfriend – and by the way, girlfriend – then, that is comical to me. You know, you can take the girl out of Long Island but . . . and there’s a part of me that just goes, where’s my DJ girlfriend? You know, is this a trend I’m missing out on?
D: Jump on it, jump on it, girlfriend.
G: Yeah, I’m on it. I’m bringing it to Clearwater. Oh, also, by the way, I just want to announce, I will be talking s--- about Scientology . . . Part of me wants to be in Scientology just for the publicity and then the other part of me thinks, you know, I don’t know, they seem a little suspicious to me. But I do like to make fun of them because they seem to have the least sense of humor, even worse than the Christians . . . So guess who I sat down with yesterday?
G: Salman Rushdie.
G: He was fantastic. There’s this great moment where I said, you know, Salman, you were in hiding for 10 years, a third of the world had an open invite to kill you, including Cat Stevens. I said, ‘What happens when you’re walking down the street and people come up to you and confront you?’ Because, you know, I go, people sort of stop me on the street pretty constantly. And he goes, ‘Well, it’s never really happened.’ And I said, ‘Wait a minute. So I have more people giving me s--- than you?’” And he basically had no advice.
D: You’ve incited more religious hatred than Salman Rushdie.
G: Well, it’s not religious. It’s a lot of young Hollywood – they’re not thrilled with me. But if you are a Hulk Hogan (laughs), and you have a daughter, Brooke, who cannot seem to put a sentence together ‘cause she’s such a moron and has admitted that she has never voted and doesn’t think she should, and you have a son who has been on your reality show speeding many, many times, who, you know, gets into an accident that allegedly appears to be his fault, and you have a wife who wears nothing but leopard dresses dating a 20-year-old, that’s some funny s---.
By the way, I have to do my disclaimer. Please, please print: My show is adult content, leave the kids at home, you know. This is what I call . . . it’s what I call Mommy and Daddy time, or Daddy and Daddy time. I don’t feel I’ve really done my job until there’s a couple walk-outs.
D: Does that still happen now?
G: I believe Ruth Eckerd has a subscription series. I’m not sure.
D: Yeah, it does.
G: So you get people that, they bought the whole season and they’re coming to see, you know, Mamma Mia!, they’re going to see Clay Aiken, they’re going to see LeAnn Rimes, and then they’re also stuck with me.
D: And that’s who you’re trying to drive out of the theater.
G: Look, I will admit that I have many shows where I wish I was LeAnn Rimes and, you know, people are so offended and aghast that I think, oh, I wish I could just bring a band out and start singing. But unfortunately I just have a bag of d--- jokes. So please come with an open mind, and it will be an evening of swearing and negativity.
D: Any special message for your fans before they come see you?
G: I would say, leave the Bible at home. It’s not an anti-Bible show, (but) if you’re the type of person that walks around with your Bible in your purse, maybe you’re not the person to come to the show. The live shows are really where the fur flies.