Thursday, July 19, 2018
Events

Kathy Griffin will needle Trump, Scientologists in Clearwater

You have to be fast to get a word in when talking to Kathy Griffin, who is making her eighth appearance at Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater on Saturday.

On an 80-city comedy tour, the inexhaustible comic promises two hours of new material including musings on her personal run-ins with Donald Trump and the backstage dirt she's famous for. Her recent encounters include Sean Penn and Leonardo DiCaprio.

You have to interrupt her to get in a question. She talks as fast as she does on stage.

She Googled me. She knew I write the "5 things to do under $5" list each week and wanted to be clear that people wouldn't get in free to her show if they wear a toga, like an event I wrote about last week. She knows the Tampa Bay Times has won 10 Pulitzer Prizes, she said, quoting the banner on the TampaBay.com home page.

I had to stop her mid-sentence to ask why she loves Clearwater so much.

She said the area's "Sci-Ties," what she calls members of the Church of Scientology, are a plus. She poked fun at the church's celebrity followers like John Travolta and Kirstie Alley. She pointed to the wife of Scientology leader David Miscavige, who hasn't made a public appearances since 2007.

"I'm going to bring Shelly Miscavige with me in the trunk of my car," she said.

With two Emmys, a Grammy and a record-setting number of TV specials under her belt, 55-year-old Griffin has superhuman focus. This talk was a sales call for her "Like a Boss" tour, making four stops in Florida in April.

Have the Scientologists really shown up in her past seven Clearwater visits?

"Scientologists have never really done anything except wait for me outside," Griffin said, adding that she wished them luck on their trip to Pluto. "But I think Sci-Ties secretly show up. Kirstie Alley and the rest, they like a good laugh as much as anybody.

"I would not be surprised to find John Travolta disguised in a wig in the audience, and I do not mean the wig he's wearing to play Robert Shapiro in the most bizarre performance I've ever seen."

She was talking about Travolta's role on FX's American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson. It's one of several of-the-moment topics she keeps updating in her constantly evolving show.

She changes her act so much she had three distinct stand-up specials in 2013. That year, she made her 20th special and landed a Guinness World Record for "Most Televised Stand-Up Specials by a Comedian."

After making a career of ratting out the private behavior of pop culture figures, Griffin finds herself in the rare position of having some inside dirt on a presidential candidate.

"Not only do I know Donald Trump — and I say that with shame — I have known him for years," she said in the conspiratorial, gossipy style she uses to draw in audiences. "I'm not Steve Schmidt (a political operative and pundit). I'm not a real reporter. So it's odd that I would get to be ringside and be personally able to be an amateur whistle blower.

"I have personal Donald Trump stories that are going to blow your mind... This really is the best and most dangerous year for comedy I can recall."

This is a sales call, remember. You have to buy a ticket to get the stories.

Contact Sharon Kennedy Wynne at [email protected] Follow @SharonKWn.

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