Kathy Griffin on "Gay Lies," Her Stand-Up Comedy,
Fund-Raising Work, and Why She Just Isn‘t Able to Be Quiet.
By Christopher Lisotta
Kathy Griffin knows gay men. The stand-up comic and darling of situation comedies from "Seinfeld" to "The Drew Carey Show," Griffin has always embraced (maybe even French kissed) her loyal and enthusiastic gay audience. Currently packing them in every Wednesday at the Laugh Factory in West Hollywood with her new stand-up act, the former "Suddenly Susan" co-star takes on more than a few media icons: Anna Nicole Smith, Little Richard, Anne Heche and Barbra Walters all feel the brunt of her scathingly funny wit. Even gay men aren’t spared.
Griffin took her creativity and unconventionality to a new level when she got married last year, asking guests to skip gifts and donate money to the American Foundation for AIDS Research (AmFAR) instead. In addition to her work with AmFAR, Griffin has also been a longtime supporter of Aid for AIDS (AFA) and has appeared at the ‘Quest for the Crown’ event that raises funds for AFA. Her efforts on behalf of organizations such as these, along with her no-holds-barred humor, have made her a favorite of gay audiences.
Frontiers recently spoke to Griffin about her career, comedy after 911, working AIDS fund-raisers, her friendship with gay men and her fascination with reality TV.
Christopher Lisotta: In your stand act, you talk about "gay lies" and how you need to put a stop to them. What is a gay lie?
Kathy Griffin: It's my new obsession. I love gay lies, but I made a decision in my life to not discuss any more gay lies. And that was an awakening for me. It was like when Oprah decided to become spiritual, and it was like when Angelina Jolie decided she wanted a baby over Billy Bob.
And it was a Thai baby, not just any baby.
You have to get a Thai baby if you are anyone in this town, you have to get as many Thai babies as you can. And then go to a lot of fund-raisers during the day and be photographed with them.
I remember in the early 90's it was all about the Korean babies.
Korean babies are o-ver. I can feel we are already moving into a Cambodian baby phase.
Interesting. And in the late 80's it was Romainian babies.
But they were too hard to deal with. Those kids had personal problems, and we don't have time for that.
So give me an example of a gay lie.
First of all, everybody has a friend of a friend who was in the hospital the night Richard Gere came into the hospital with the gerbils up his ass. Everybody swears they have a friend who knows the nurse on duty. Just like every gay guy I know has a friend of a friend who got a blow job from Tom Cruise at Rage. And yet somehow there are no pictures or evidence after all these years. One I heard at an ‘American Idol’ party, where the gay lies really are rampant—I really have to crack the whip at ‘American Idol” parties, I'm sorry. This (lie) is (about) a gay who knows a gay who knows a gay who works at a plastic surgeon’s office, and Demi Moore came in and had her pelvis broken and shaved to look thinner. And half of the guys in the room were like, "Oh, yeah, I can see that,” and then finally I lost my shit, and I just started screaming,“We’re not going to do this; this is a gay lie,” and I pointed like Javert in “Les Mis,” and scream(ed) "J’accuse!" The room came to a screeching halt, and I heard gasps, and I know some of my gays were appalled. But then secretly some of my gays said, "You know, that is a total lie." So ever since then I want you guys to know I have my ear out for the gay lies. I'm putting the breaks on them right away.
After 9/11, there was this huge debate among comedians about whether or not irony was dead. Is there material a comedian just shouldn't touch?
My problem is I can’t censor myself at all, ever. I remember doing shows right after 9/11, and it was just me spewing vitriol and saying I wanted to kill every Muslim I could. Maybe not funny, but my point is, if you want to get on stage and do that stuff, I think you should do that stuff but also you pay the price. I think what’s happening with that movie “Barbershop” is ridiculous. There was that one scene where Cedric (The Entertainer) is playing a character saying “That’s it, I'm going to say it right here: 0.J. did it. You know he did it.” And Jesse Jackson is offended. I hate that stuff. That whole politically correct movement is my enemy. I really think that, as a comic, I should be able to say anything and everything, and try to make it entertaining. I personally don't know any other way to do it. I am constantly getting in trouble, and I can’t shut myself up. I don’t like any group telling me I can’t take shots at them. Right now it’s the Muslims. You can’t say one bad thing about Muslims. You actually can’t say one bad thing about the actual hijackers. Because that’s going to make other Muslims uncomfortable, and we all have to be comfortable. And I don’t want to be comfortable. I’m 100% Irish Catholic, and what am I going to do? Sit here and act like the priests aren’t a bunch of pedophiles? That’s what they are. I had a cousin who was one; I know, don’t shit me. Don’t tell me, "Hey, as an Irish American, I find offense that you would imply that all the criminal charges being brought against the Boston Archdiocese might he true.” They are true. That’s why they're going to jail. Or, "As an Irish American, how dare you imply that Irish people are all drunks?" They are. I'm one. I come from a family of drunks. It’s true. I personally don’t drink at all, but still I'm not gcing to act like "Hey, as an Irish American, I don’t drink, and therefore none of us do!"
Were you the funny kid in school?
I was definitely the funny kid in school. But I really wanted to be the shy, pretty girl. That’s all I wanted. Every year I’d go back to school and try desperately to be shy. I would just try not to talk that much, but by lunch I was completely back to being myself.
Are you getting tired of reality TV shows?
No. I think real people are always going to be infinitely more interesting than actors.
But as an actor doesn’t that scare you, because there are fewer roles for actors?
No, I’m all about jumping on the bandwagon. I had a TV show. ("Kathy's So-Called Reality" on MTV) that was me dealing with all the reality people and making fun of all the reality shows. It is a big part of my act. I’m going to be on "Celebrity Mole."
Who else is going to be on there with you?
Right now they're telling me it’s Queen Latifah, who I love, Michael Boatman, from
"Arliss" and "Spin City," and Stephen Baldwin. I’m really looking forward to it. It’s going to be 10 days in Hawaii, and I get to bring my husband. The best thing about "The Mole" is they don’t vote you off. Because they always ask me to do "Celebrity Boot Camp," "Celebrity Big Brother," and you know I’m going to just get kicked off that first day. I’m going to say some shit and get into a big fight with somebody.
I find it interesting that gays do well on reality shows.
It’s really good that all these shows have "the gay." It’s nice to show there is more than just Jack on "Will & Grace." I don’t think every gay person on television has to be fabulous every single second. I think Richard Hatch did more for gay people on television than just about anybody. I think straight guys saw Rich Hatch like, "Oh, he’s a shark like me. He’s not squeamish about anything; he’s not nelly about anything. He’s not what I thought gay guys were. He's a bad-ass motherfucker who’s going to take me down.” Can I also tell you something I’m really sick to death of? And I’m sure this is going to offend some readers. I’m so fucking sick of seeing these goddamn Christians on the reality shows telling me their Jesus shit. If I see one more prayer circle on “Survivor” ... it’s worse than watching an award show. You know, I don’t think Jesus really cares if you win aVMA (Video Music Award.)
You have volunteered at AIDS fund-raisers for many years. Do those things get sickening after a while because they are so not about the disease, or are people really focused on why they are there?
I would say its a little of everything. When you are dealing with the AIDS organizations, a lot of thosee people are very personally touched by that disease. My gripe is I have a big problem with where that money really goes. And I have to say, after 9/11 it was a big wake-up call for everybody. What bothers me is that charities aren’t run like businesses at all. People aren’t accountable. The people that run these charities get giant salaries. I don’t want to do a charity event that is going to cost $100,000 to put on, end they make $100,000. That’s what pisses me off. You know what my least favorite phrase in the charity world is? "Portions of the proceeds." I don’t like that phrase. How much is going where, and when is someone going to check up on it?
Do you want to go back to sitcom TV?
Oh, yeah, I love it. I’m trying to get a show going now. I do guest spots. So I love situation comedy.
What about doing a single-camera half-hour, like “The Benie Mac Show” or ‘Watching Ellie” or playing a character in a dramatic series?
I hardly ever go up for shows like that because people don’t think I can act. They think I'm just a comic. That’s kind of a little obstacle I have. I’m available for parties, basically. I like doing it all. I think I’m good at being funny, and so I really like to do that. I think people see me as doing that well, and that’s fine with me. I’m not looking to play someone with Down syndrome on a Lifetime movie to get my breakout Emmy.
I would pay to see that, though.
I know. It would be very touching. I would do it for scale, and then do a lot of bitching how I had to do it for scale, a Ia Julia Roberts in "Full Frontal." And it would be very traumatic, and would reach out to the Down syndrome community, and then I’d be over it in six months, and then I’d be pissed if I didn’t get my Emmy. And I’d blame the Down syndrome community, too. It would be ugly.
Does TV know what to do with a funny woman? Or is the vapid, generically pretty actress still getting the role?
I think it’s worse now than it was 10 years ago. What really bums me out is when Geena Davis can star in a sitcom and I cant. Or even like Gabriel Byrne, who is a great movie star ...
But is not funny.
And that, to me, is a no-brainer. And what bothers me is they always want to star pretty girls. I hear a lot of "Rebecca Romijn-Stamos is a comedic genius." I think she’s a nice girl, she’s kind of funny—I wouldn’t say comic genius. That’s my nemesis, that whole way of thinking. If you look at the successful shows in history, there is not one show like that on right now. For example, last year the only sitcome starring a woman that was not a gorgeous model was ("The Ellen Show"), and it got canceled. Where is the new Roseanne? Where is the new Brett Butler? Where is Lucy? We have "Sex and the City," but I’m sorry, Sarah Jessica Parker isn’t someone l can relate to. l love watching that show, it’s fun, but I can’t wear dresses with a tail. That’s what amazes me: all these shows that are derivative, and there is no originality in Hollywood. To me the formula is so easy, at least when it come to sitcom. Let the funny person have the show. That’s why "Seinfeld" was a hit. It’s based on his point of view. Then why are we giving a show to Geena Davis? We don’t know anything about Geena Davis. She’s not funny, and we don’t know what her take on life is.
You recently got married. Tell me about your husband.
I am happily married to a very sweet, smart, normal guy.
And he's straight?
He’s straight, as far as I know. Frankly, it’s touch and go. He was really into "American Idol,” that’s all I’m saying. He has his own computer company. He’s wonderful. We love him!
Any last words for your fans reading this?
I just love them, and I’ll see them all at the next pageant party.
Kathy Griffin performs at the Laugh
Factory in West Hollywood every
Wednesday at 8 p.m. through the end of
November. Call 323/656.1336 for tickets.
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