Interview: Kathy Griffin

The Tired Hooker schools us on her shtick.

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Kathy GriffinIt's like she inhabited some second-grade teacher's schoolyard advice that "They can't make fun of you if you mock yourself first." She always wins. Carnegie Hall (nycomedyfestival.com). Nov 12 at 8pm; $44--$90.

Kathy GriffinIt's like she inhabited some second-grade teacher's schoolyard advice that "They can't make fun of you if you mock yourself first." She always wins. Carnegie Hall (nycomedyfestival.com). Nov 12 at 8pm; $44--$90. Photograph: Image Mechanics

Most people take a lot more time to process their experiences before making jokes about them.
That's why I get in trouble: I have no time to process and I never know when I've gone too far. And I intend to offend people.

Are you ever onstage thinking, Oh, that was too far?
Constantly. But I also feel I haven't done my job if I don't get a walkout. They're usually very self-righteous: They'll flip me off or they do a very loud harumph or, my favorite, "My God, there are children here!" I usually have an age limit at my shows, so I don't know what their fucking kids are doing there.

Which has been your favorite walkout?
I was taping a special in Knoxville and I started making fun of the Tea Party and this sweet old couple stood up; the old guy kind of elbowed the wife as if to say, get your purse, I've had enough. I never talk to the audience, but I said something like, "What's the matter, can't handle a Tea Party joke?" And this man, who had to be in his mid-to-late-80s turned around, flipped me off and yelled, "Fuck yeew!" with that Southern accent, and the entire audience burst into applause. It was so adorable.

Are there moments when you feel you've consumed too much pop culture and you feel sick?
No, because I travel so much and I'm always looking for good stories [to tell]. But it's a genuine interest. I don't have to force myself to watch Freaky Eaters; I want to watch these people eat drywall. I don't think that makes me a bad person and I won't apologize for it.

When you see someone humiliate themselves so completely in such a public forum, do you feel satisfied?
I'll feel dirty, but satisfied. I don't want to watch anything that doesn't make me feel a little bit dirty afterward.

A lot of other showbiz personalities would cringe from the sort of attention you seem to revel in.
Like telling Jesus to suck it [at the 2007 Emmy Awards]?

Yeah, and you recently reposted a topless photo of yourself on Twitter. Why would you do that?
Ooh, I love the topless photo! It's truly candid. My lack of makeup and fucked-up pool hair make it so very real, and I, of course, live for [that].

Somehow that's not surprising.
It's interesting, because I was at a dinner last night—and I'm going to sound like an asshole because I'm bragging—with Lorne Michaels and Steve Martin, talking about how new media is a little different for them. I said, I have built a business on being a filthy, dirty whore, so there's no photo that could get out there that's any more embarrassing than anything I would say. It's a nice place to be, which is: Whatever you've got on me, I don't give a shit.

Carnegie Hall (nycomedyfestival.com). Nov 12 at 8pm; $44--$90.

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