For the better part of three decades, Kathy Griffin has been performing standup -- but the two-time Emmy winner may be best known for her television domination. With more than a dozen comedy specials under her belt and multiple TV series with Griffin as the star, the comedian has found success in being herself on screen, using both the reality and talk-show formats to expose all aspects of her personal life. An outspoken ally and LGBTQ activist, she is also known for confronting opponents of equality head-on.
In advance of her appearance this Friday, May 10, at the Buell Theatre, Griffin took time to chat with us about being an ally, petting Celine Dion's hair and what it was like to meet Barbra Streisand for the first time.
See also: - Lily Tomlin on stand-up, Kristen Wiig and playing Reba McEntire's mother - Comedy review: Chris Hardwick gets cozy in Kigurumi pajamas at Comedy Works - Death of the civil unions bill got you down? Just marry a gay guy
Westword: You've had great success with film and television. What continues to bring you back to standup?
Kathy Griffin: Oh, my God, Bree, it is my first love. I'm going to die on stage -- I'm one of those. Because first of all, the uncensored nature that only live performing can give you is something that I am just DNA-wired to love. I just did another Bravo! special. I love doing standup specials -- and by the way, it was my sixteenth special. Will somebody please make a big deal out of the fact that nobody else has done that in the history of comedy, for fuck's sake? In bitterness -- I'm not going to lie.
In fact, Friday night at the Buell is going to be kind of like, well, I would say the theme would be an evening of bitterness and negativity. You can't do that on TV. This is cliché, but there truly is a relationship that goes on between the performer and the audience, and it's something that can't be replicated any other way except through live experience. I'm so encouraged by people supporting live entertainment of any kind that it is always a shot in my arm to do a live show.
Popular culture -- celebrity culture, specifically -- is something you are not only an active part of, but also have a discernable opinion on. Do you prepare a lot of material prior to each show, or do you tend to riff on what you've seen lately?
I change my material every single show, and I have to. Did you see what Kim Kardashian was wearing at the MET Ball? I mean, I can't just do the same old joke. Primarily, I would say, the crux of my act has always been personal experiences I have. I was talking to a comedian the other night at a party, and somebody said, do you find that you've been doing standup for so long that it's common for someone to steal jokes from you?
I know that happens a lot in standup, but that rarely happens to me, because most of my act is so personal and is experiences that only happen to me. It can't really be stolen. When I think about a story, like going to Cher's house for my birthday and having birthday cake and taking the rest of the cake home, you know, you can't really steal that story, because it only happened to me.
Or going to see Celine Dion, going backstage, getting a picture with her and petting her hair like she's a dog -- because I was nervous and started petting her hair. You know, it's not like that's a one-liner that some other comedian can do; I have a picture of it; it only happened to me. So I'm very conscious when I do my specials and my live act that anybody can tell a one-liner about something they saw online that day. But I try to bring the personal material, like, I got to meet Barbra Streisand for the first time and it went like this, or I was nominated for a Grammy again this year, and here's the backstage dirt from the Grammys that I saw during the commercial breaks that nobody else will tell you.
I try to keep it personal but also talk about subjects people are buzzing about. Then I have my political rants and I offend people. Though, I have to say, Denver is like a great comedy city because it's not super far-left or -right. But I do enjoy a good walkout. So I'm hoping at some point, someone gets so offended that they walk out.Speaking of being in the right city, we just legalized civil unions in Colorado. You're a big GLBTQ activist and ally. How do you feel about the current state of equality, in that respect?
What's so great about something like that is, it was so recent that I would go on stage and do a rant about how when we were talking about Prop 8 and the legalization of gay marriage and even civil unions. It's changing so rapidly that now I'm actually looking forward to Jason Collins and his sit-down with Oprah. That's what it would take for me to get interested in basketball -- not that I don't love the Denver Nuggets. Especially their star player...
I couldn't even tell you.
Shit. I thought you would know. I'll just do some research and development. Because I'll find someone on the Nuggets that's, like, a cute guy. And then my ladies and gays in the audience might know who he is. But anyway, I am now slightly interested in basketball, because, finally, a player did my two favorite things: He came out and went on Oprah. Now I might actually watch basketball, because I'm hoping they will all turn gay and then all will eventually go talk to Oprah. That is what equality is all about. That's why we march with the LGBTQIA.
Yes. I always forget the IA.
Did you hear there's another one? So now I'm hearing it's LGBTQIA2. I'm trying to understand the 2, which is a spirit drawn from Native culture, to refer to people who walk in two worlds. So it is my understanding -- and god help us both if we fuck this up -- it is my understanding, from my gays, that the 2 is for Native Americans that walk in between the culture of females and males. It's kind of weird, because I think I'm a 2, except I'm not Native American.
I don't know about you, but there are a lot of times I feel like I have a dick, even though I don't. I've been thinking I've been an A this whole time -- but maybe I'm like an A with a little bit of a 2 thrown in.
I personally sometimes feel that -- based on my interests -- I'm a gay man trapped in a straight, heterosexual woman's body.
That is the best of both worlds. I mean, I finally met Barbra Streisand for the first time, and that was like me coming out as a gay man, once and for all.
That's how I felt when I met John Waters.
Exactly. It's like, I've been dancing around the notion that I'm a gay man. Can we add another letter? I think that is what's missing -- I don't think "ally" really covers the kind of women who feel like, I've known since I was seven years old and I didn't know how to tell my family: Mommy, Daddy, I'm not a lesbian, I'm a gay man. You must accept me. I want a parade.
My show Friday is going to be kind of a parade of gay guys, straight women, women who feel like gay guys, and open-minded straight men. Although here's my dirty secret: I'm telling you, if you have any single, straight-guy friends, believe it or not, tell them to come to the Kathy Griffin show. They are going to get laid. It is so in their favor. If these straights had half a brain and could take a night off from fucking foosball farting and whatever else these straights do, they could actually get laid.
My audience is filled with a lot of single ladies that have maybe had a drink.
And are intelligent individuals because they hang out with gay guys all day.
Exactly. I'm telling you, that's the dirty secret. If you're a straight guy and you like to laugh, you're going to come to my show and laugh and probably get laid. You could have a throuple.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
Kathy Griffin performs this Friday, May 10, at the Temple Buell Theatre in the Denver Performing Arts Complex. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show starts at 8 p.m.; tickets are $49 to $99. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit Ticketmaster's website.