Kathy Griffin talks Cher, Celine Dion and how straight women get laid
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.
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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.