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Thursday, September 2, 2010

Kathy Griffin interview

Kathy Griffin - January 6, 2008

"I call them the unshockable gays. Who knows if somebody used a slur or if in any way they had to deal with any kind of anti-gay sentiment in their day, so by the time they come to a comedy show they're just willing to go there. They want to laugh. Gay audiences are the very least likely to walk out in shock at anything I say. I mean, what haven't they heard?" – Kathy Griffin

Kathy Griffin: I have a funny story for you.

Guy MacPherson: Oh, okay.
KG: Alright. So we're just starting taping season 5 of My Life on The D List. And we're going to River Rock and we're not going to cover it because it's another stand-up gig. This year on the D List we're actually a lot more celebrity-oriented. So the theme of the year is that I'm an A-lister in training. So for episode one we have Bette Midler and we have an episode with, you know, Rosie O'Donnell and I go spend the night at Gloria Estefan's house, and all these fabulous celebrities. And we just nailed down Lily Tomlin. I'm nominated for a Grammy for best comedy album and Lily is one of only three women in history to win that Grammy. So I had set up a day to shoot with her in Los Angeles and I had another thing to shoot for the D List that day and I was pulling my hair out. And all of a sudden I happen to see your interview request and it said "click here for other articles" so I clicked on the Lily one and my jaw just about dropped when, at the end, it said Lily is going to be at River Rock the night before me.

GM: You didn't know?
KG: No, but you have created pandemonium. I started calling the Bravo producers last night at one in the morning going, "Oh, my God, is there any way we can mobilize? Can we get the crew into Canada? Do people have passports?" And by the way, I haven't even asked Lily yet. I left a message on her home machine and I hope she'll go for it. Now I love the idea of doing a whole half an episode with Lily but at River Rock. So I'm hoping it happens. I'm going to go in early to see her anyway because I've never seen her live show, I'm ashamed to say. But I just think that River Rock will be a great setting for the show. I don't know if you've ever seen the rooms but they have some really wacky suites there. And we can do stuff in Vancouver. So I'm so hoping she says yes. And I'm so hoping that our crew can get together quickly. But it's all your fault, basically.

GM: Well, thank you.
KG: I'm really excited. I might have a heck of a busy weekend on my hands but I hope it comes true.

GM: Were you going to film up here anyway?
KG: No, that's what was funny. We weren't even really gonna start filming for another two weeks. We were going to shoot Bette in Vegas and then we're going to Savannah, Georgia, to do Paula Deans. Do you know who she is, on the Food Network?

GM: No, I don't.
KG: She's a huge Food Network star. She's just great. So we were kinda like thinking we were gonna gear up but then boom, I dropped the bomb on everybody last night at one in the morning. So anyway, I will definitely be coming up early to see her for sure.

GM: I'm looking forward to seeing her. I haven't seen her live. I've seen you a couple times.
KG: Cool.

GM: Once in Montréal, and once here at the River Rock.
KG: Oh great. Did you see me at the gala or a theatre?

GM: I saw you at a small theatre [in Montréal].
KG: Oh, then you saw... That was my triumphant Canadian appearance where I learned - I was very trepidacious but I learned that the Canadians will let me make fun of your very own Canadian songbird, Celine Dion.

GM: Oh, please. We hate her.
KG: Because I went up there and I was doing a lot of Celine material at the time and I thought, God, normally I'd open my show with this whole story about her. What if they turn on me and throw tomatoes at me in the first five minutes? And it was hysterical. I mean, the response was huge. And I was like, oh this is a license to kill. So I love that you will let me make fun of your very own.

GM: Is there anyone that we won't let you make fun of?
KG: I love to make fun of Chrétien but only because nobody there seems to know how to pronounce his name the same way. You can talk to ten Canadians and get ten different pronunciations of his name. And also I think it's funny that when I was up there last time he had just be re-elected and everybody was upset because they thought he was too boring. And wasn't he involved in a scandal recently?

GM: Chrétien was. And we have a new prime minister since then.
KG: What? What happened to Chrétien?!

GM: He resigned. Now we have a really, really boring guy, Stephen Harper.
KG: Oh, I'm sorry, what am I saying? That's what I meant! I'm sorry. Because the joke I was making was that everybody kept calling him Arper and I didn't know that name had an H on it. I was making fun of Chrétien because he was like the more gutteral, working-class guy and then all of a sudden they got Arper, so I started talking about Arper not knowing that his name is Harper, and then I was making fun of the Canadians for not knowing how to pronounce the name of their own prime minister. But wait, didn't Harper get in trouble recently?

GM: Well, we hate him.
KG: I thought there was something. A little racial thing.

GM: He was playing against the Quebeckers in a recent parliamentary crisis. It's complicated. You don't want to get into that.
KG: Okay. I am trying to keep on top of things but it was so funny, when I did Montréal I was going around to any Canadian I could find and saying, "Tell me what topics interest you." And they all just went off on "Arper". The Liberals didn't like him because he was boring, and the Conservatives didn't like him because he was boring. And I said try having a moron cowboy president for eight years who got you into an unjust war and collapsed the financial system for the world. So don't come complaining to me because your prime minister is too boring.

GM: We kind of think of him as Bush-like. Nobody likes him but he got elected twice.
KG: So did Bush!

GM: I know. That's why he's kind of Bush-like.
KG: It's a mystery. Believe me, there's a lot of Americans walking around lying and saying that they didn't vote for Bush in 2004 when they did. But enough about that. At the River Rock, of course I'll be talking about my scandal on New Year's Eve, which I hope you know about.

GM: Yes, I do. That's when you squelched a heckler saying, "I don't come down to your work and--
KG: "I don't go to your job and knock the dicks out of your mouth." Now, first of all, you have no idea how excited I am at the age of 48 to be a YouTube sensation. I have never in my whole career had what they call the YouTube moment and now it's had something like a million views. And I am absolutely in heaven. I got calls the next day from Entertainment Tonight, The Insider, AP, Reuters, New York Times, New York Post, I'm the lead guest on Jimmy Kimmel tonight. I mean, I live for this shit.

GM: This is why you're an A-lister in training.
KG: Exactly. And by the way, when I talk to Lily Tomlin, I'm sure that she will be one of many, many Oscar nominees, Grammy winners that will say, "Maybe you shouldn't say things like that." But I can't help myself and I had an absolute blast on New Year's Eve.

GM: How does that even happen that you end up on CNN?
KG: It's a complete fluke. What happened was I did it last year and I think CNN is actually doing a very smart thing because they're really tapping into a demographic no one has really tapped into. For example, of course they're never going to beat the Ryan Seacrest big network numbers, but when you think about it they are kind of giving an alternative, a place to go. Like, I know that my friends aren't going to watch Ryan Seacrest. It's just not their cup of tea. So they had triple the viewership they had last year. So they are, as far as I know, happy campers. I mean, they got 2.31 million viewers, which for cable is a huge number. I think they just kinda took a chance last year and the ratings were up last year and then they were way up this year. I think they got their water cooler moment.

"It's the oldest, Borscht belt, hacky comedian heckler line in the book. Still makes me laugh. And Anderson absolutely doubled over in laughter. He goes, 'What did you say?' I was like, 'Where have you been, news anchor?'" – Kathy Griffin

GM: You have a great rapport with Anderson Cooper.
KG: I love him. This is a guy who is obviously so smart. This is a guy that could have truly been a trust fund baby and rested on his laurels. He took a camera crew and went to Rwanda without any network sponsorship and said I think there's a story here. He's a perfect foil for me because he's so gorgeous and of course he's an actual real, live journalist and I'm just a... I'm not sure what I am. A D-lister, basically. And he just rolls with it. You've never seen anything like it. The moment that comment came out of my mouth, which I truly thought was happening during the commercial break, the moment one of the producers said, "Oh my God, I think it went out live", I turned to him and I said, "Are you in trouble? Am I in trouble? Are we fired? Am I fired? Are you fired?" And he acted like it was nothing. He said, "No! It's cable. The FCC doesn't govern it." And I said, "You can say 'dicks' on CNN?" And he goes, "Yes!" Joe Scarborough said the f-word during morning drive time on MSNBC. It was just funny. He wasn't concerned with it. He was on to the next thing. He was more concerned with the Texaco problems and which city we were going to go to next. He was like sort of running the show and I was much more worried about it than he was.

GM: So you didn't hear from any producers or anything?
KG: Oh, no. I mean, I thought that their statement was very kind. They made a statement and it was completely honest. They didn't throw me under the bus like the E-channel did when I made a very innocent Dakota Fanning joke. They could have honestly said anything. They could have said, "Oh, she's horrible" or anything, but they just said, "We realize her comment was inappropriate but she's a comedian and she didn't know her mic was on." Which is completely the truth.

GM: Because you weren't on screen.
KG: No. First of all, I'm not on camera if you look at the tape. And I had been told we've gone to commercial. And at that point it was 13 degrees. I know that doesn't impress you, being Canadian, but it's pretty eff-ing cold. And at that point we had already been on the air for almost two hours and we were so freezing we were almost kind of slap-happy. And my goal during every commercial break was just try to make Anderson laugh by any means necessary. So I was saying all kinds of heinous things during the commercial break and unfortunately my mic was just live for that one.

GM: That was kind of a stock line that you threw out there, too.
KG: Well, of course. It's the oldest, Borscht belt, hacky comedian heckler line in the book. That line is certainly long before me and long before Shecky Greene. I mean, that's what funny to other comedians about that joke, is it's like the oldest, hackneyed response to a heckler in the world.

GM: And it still gets a reaction to this day.
KG: Still makes me laugh. And he absolutely doubled over in laughter. He goes, "What did you say?" I was like, "Where have you been, news anchor?" So I was just goofing off.

GM: And speaking of Anderson Cooper, you're huge with the gays. I don't know if there's a connection there or not, actually. But it's funny because I've seen you live and it's not like you, excuse the expression, bend over backwards to please them. You go after them and they just love you.
KG: Well, you know, what I've found about gay audiences that I love so much is that they'll just go there with me. That's why gay audiences really are the best audiences. I call them the unshockable gays. You know, this is a group of people, truly an oppressed minority. Here in California we just had this Prop 8 nonsense where now the gay community has to go, "Oh, I thought we made some progress. I guess we were wrong. Here we go again. Let's mobilize again. Let's see if we can educate people again." And so I find that, as comedy audiences, that's the kind of day they've had. Who knows if somebody used a slur or if in any way they had to deal with any kind of anti-gay sentiment in their day, so by the time they come to a comedy show they're just willing to go there. They want to laugh. Gay audiences are the very least likely to walk out in shock at anything I say. I mean, what haven't they heard? So that's what I love so much as a comedian. I don't know what it's like in plays or for singers. I just know that in the comedy world, that's a dream audience for me. You want an audience that is open to just about anything and will absolutely go there with you. I love the unshockable gays.

GM: You're well enough known now that I don't imagine you get too many people walking out in shock at something you've said because they know basically what to expect.
KG: I still get a few. I like to think I haven't really done my job until at least one person's walked out. A casino audience is a perfect example. A casino audience is atypical because some of them are high rollers and they lost money and so they get comps to whatever show's happening, and they don't know it's me. But they lost some money so the casino will say, "Well, let's take you to a show." It could be me or Lily Tomlin or Dionne Warwick or Damon Wayans. Secondly, at a casino I definitely get people that don't know who I am or what I'm about. Or certain theatres have subscriptions so people subscribe to the full season and one day it's Mamma Mia and the next day it's me telling dick jokes. So believe me, I still have walkouts.

"I had done a few acting parts and wasn't really getting any leverage. I had little parts on this and that. But I started doing stand-up and then, boom, I got an HBO special and another special, then I got the Suddenly Susan part and I got parts on Seinfeld and all these kind of cool shows. So stand-up really changed everything for me pretty quickly after plugging away as a bit player actress for quite a while." – Kathy Griffin

GM: I first came to know of you on Suddenly Susan.
KG: Yes.

GM: But before that were you a stand-up?
KG: I was but you know I really went about the whole thing ass-backwards, as my mother would say, because I started working as an actress first and I was in a company called The Groundlings, where a lot of the Saturday Night Live people came out of. I was doing all the sketches and trying to get on Saturday Night Live like everybody else, but a couple other girls in The Groundlings, one of them being Lisa Kudrow from Friends, we were in Groundlings together and she said, "You know, Kathy, you're really funnier as yourself than putting on wigs and wearing cat-eye glasses and having wacky characters and costumes." A couple people at The Groundlings actually said to me, "Why don't you try to be yourself a little bit more?" And then I started doing stand-up after doing The Groundlings. Most people do stand-up and then they get little acting parts but for me it was totally the opposite. I had done a few acting parts and wasn't really getting any leverage. I had little parts on this and that. But I started doing stand-up and then, boom, I got an HBO special and another special, then I got the Suddenly Susan part and I got parts on Seinfeld and all these kind of cool shows. So stand-up really changed everything for me pretty quickly after plugging away as a bit player actress for quite a while.

GM: I remember seeing you on the talk shows and you were really in your element there. Do you still love doing those?
KG: I love it. And in fact, this year My Life on The D-List... Bravo has been talking to me about possibly morphing into a talk show. I'm not sure if I'm going to do that but this year the D-List is going to be kind of a hybrid of like a field talk show, like if we're able to get Lily I'll interview her and we'll hang out probably in her suite at the River Rock or we'll go someplace in Vancouver. And then the other half of the episode would be sort of a normal D-List episode that you've come to love and expect. And yes, that means my mother with a box of wine.

GM: It's my wife's favourite show and I like watching it with her.
KG: Oh, that's so nice. Thanks. Is she going to come see me on Saturday?

GM: I took her last time you were here.
KG: Tell her it's all new.

GM: She can't make it this weekend. She'll be out of town. I'll be bringing a different date. So that's it. Anything else?
KG: Yes, I want to pick your brain.

GM: Okay.
KG: Okay. So you have to help me produce the episode. Let's say I'm able to get Lily. Can you think of any places near the casino that would be very uniquely Richmond or uniquely Vancouver where I could take her. You know, obviously I'm not going to take her to some big chain restaurant or something. But is there any, like, mom and pop places you can think of or some place to go eat or something that is uniquey Richmond or Vancouver?

GM: If you're talking Richmond, it would have to be Chinese, because there's a huge Chinese population there.
KG: Okay. Do you have a mom and pop kind of down-and-dirty place you like? I want you to e-mail it to me. And do me a favour, if anything pops into your head, if you can think of anything that you think would be comedic or stick out because we want to do locations that couldn't happen anywhere in America. If you can think of anything that you feel like is uniquely Canadian or uniquely Vancouver or uniquely Richmond and a place where they'd let us shoot. Not like the top of the Merriott. We're too ghetto. And I'm not sure if she's going to want to shoot after the show – she might be a night person like I am – or she might say, "Well, I can only give you two hours during the day." So I'm looking for anything. The casino's going to be easy because I think that's sort of a funny location but I would love to say we've cleared this one location that is uniquely Canadian. I'm trying to think. When I go to Vancouver I guess I usually have Chinese food. I could do Montréal because I know Montréal so much better. If I was going to do Montréal, I would take her to probably the crankiest, Frenchiest, with the meanest French waiters who just yell at you when they're giving you your food. Something that I think would only happen in Montréal. If you can think of anything, would you please, please e-mail me?

GM: I will.
KG: Okay. I appreciate it so much.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

See now, that doesn't seem like an interview at all. It's just you and Kathy talking. Which is great. Which is Kathy. No walls, boundaries. Just Kathy. Like her act. I read her book a few months ago. Gave me a whole new appreciation into her being. No act. Just being. Getting rid of the wall seems like such a tough thing to do. She's completely transparent. Hilarious.
Thanks, Guy.
Colleen Brow