Imagine your smartest, cattiest, most foul-mouthed, celebrity-obsessed friend, hopped up on a steady intake of Diet Coke and Oprah episodes, ready to dish on everything from movie stars who are secret Scientologists to why Gloria Estefan runs Miami like a pint-sized, pop music-singing Scarface.
That's a hint of what it's like to step into comic Kathy Griffin's world.
Forget about AIG, the economic meltdown and whatever Barack Obama is up to today. In Griffin's house, the most important topics at hand are celebrities, gay culture, pop culture and the dysfunctional behavior that binds them all.
The carrot-topped comic brought a hyped-up crowd of 1,875 along for a twisted ride Saturday at Ruth Eckerd Hall, taking on the Church of Scientology, Nancy Grace's Caylee Anthony obsession and her own 89-year-old mother's fixation on Judge Judy.
"Did the Sarasota gays make the drive up?" Griffin yelled, calling out to her gay fans after an introductory montage of video clips featuring bit parts on shows ranging from Seinfeld to The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. "Upscale gays in the house — thank you for crossing the bridge."
Dropping curse words like snowflakes, Griffin offered X-rated takes on famously overweight singer Wynonna Judd's new diet pills ("You know those pills are just tiny doughnuts"), all the free stuff people have given octuplet mom Nadya Suleman ("You know that wouldn't be happening if her name was Shaniqua Suleman") and Winfrey's continuing weight struggles ("I think it's amazing that Oprah is so wealthy and powerful she just noticed she's fat again last week").
For those who only know her for the controversies — directing remarks to Jesus when she won an Emmy and slinging a curse word at a heckler during CNN's live New Year's Eve coverage — it's easy to dismiss Griffin as a headline-grabbing vulgarian.
But her 90-minute show at 7 p.m. Saturday, the first of two shows that night, showcased the oddball blend of down-to-earth cattiness and relentless talent that has converted legions.
Tossing off spot-on impressions of Winfrey's shouts and Grace mispronouncing Anthony's name, Griffin nailed the vortex of cynicism and absurdity where today's celebrity culture thrives.
"I want to see Paula Abdul's head fall into the table once a week — and she never let's us down," Griffin said, explaining her love for the loopiest judge of American Idol. "That new (judge Kara) DioGuardi made her put down the vodka and Vicodin. … And I don't know if I'm ready for a Paula Abdul who can walk upright and drive a car."
Unfortunately, some of her best jokes could never make the pages of a family newspaper.
For fans who came for a serious dose of pop culture cynicism with a dash of gay-friendly sex jokes, Griffin offered an evening of relentless comedy powered by her boundless love for the big names she's constantly trashing.
What more could you ask from a pop culture-obsessed pal?