Kathy Griffin: interview

Kathy Griffin Kathy Griffin
Posted: Fri Jun 3 2011

She wins awards as regularly as she gets canned. Celebrity-obsessed comic Kathy Griffin is back in town…

For most people, Kathy Griffin's face will be more familiar than her name. True, her features have been slightly surgically altered since her supporting role in '90s sitcom 'Suddenly Susan' ('In my show I will probably go right to the medical reasons that I had a facelift. There aren't any. I just wanted to look better'), but the double Emmy Award-winner has been a constant presence on our screens thanks to guest appearances in everything from 'Pulp Fiction' to 'Glee' via 'Seinfeld'.

On stage, Griffin is infamous for her straight-talking exposés of celebrity behaviour and pop-culture. Fearless and uncompromising, the self-labelled 'D-lister' doesn't just embrace controversy, she climbs into bed with it and happily spawns trouble. She's been condemned by the Catholic League for telling Jesus to 'suck it' during an Emmy acceptance speech; banned twice from US daytime talk show 'The View'; and fired from hosting entertainment channel E!'s red-carpet events after she joked that the then 11-year-old actress Dakota Fanning had been admitted to rehab.

Her work ethic, however, is unquestionable and she rarely seems to take a break from touring. Clearly excited to be performing in London, she asks me: 'Are you going to come to one of the shows?' I explain that I've got my ticket to the matinee. 'Well, get ready,' she says, 'it's going to be a lot of dick jokes for 4.30 in the afternoon.'

You paint yourself as a celebrity outsider, but you're a big star in your own right…
'It is a challenge, with the global fame, to try to act like I put my pants on one leg at a time, when in fact I have Pippa Middleton help me put my pants on every morning. She's my lady-in-waiting as well. '

But in what way do you feel your celebrity status is different from people you talk about on stage?
'Well, I am an outsider looking in, absolutely. You're not going to see me at the Academy Awards Vanity Fair party any time soon. I'm not somebody who no matter where I go there are paparazzi or any of that nonsense. But I have a little window into that world and I can enter it and dance around. I want to be the audience's ticket into the party. I want to go to the bitchy booth in the corner and judge others unfairly.'

Do you find celebrities being noticeably restrained around you, fearing they might end up as material in your act?
'Have you seen Whitney Houston lately? The answer's no. The great thing about celebrity culture is that they can't seem to stop themselves from displaying their ridiculous behaviour. I feel it's my job as a serious investigative journalist to witness all kinds of behaviour and then report back to the audience through the prism of my own anger and bitterness.'

In hindsight, have you regretted anything you've said on stage?
'Oh, I constantly say things that I regret. I mortify myself constantly. But that's just part of the deal. I'm not really sure what's going to come out of my mouth. In London, I'm sure I'll say things I regret and the audience regrets. You'll leave feeling a little bit dirty. And guilty.'

'Awards ceremonies' is a topic that crops up frequently in your stand-up, and your Broadway run was called 'Kathy Griffin Wants a Tony'. Why are awards so important to you?
'I just like awards because they're shiny and they're a middle finger to Hollywood. It's always important to raise your middle finger to Hollywood or Washington or authority, or ridiculousness in general - and it's easier to give someone the finger when you're holding an Emmy. What are the theatre awards in England called?'

The Oliviers.
'Well, I'd like one of those. Can I have one for just doing two shows? If I'm extra funny? And have a super-cute outfit on?'

You should probably speak to the awards panel…
'What if I was to get Prince Harry to come out on stage completely shirtless?'

I imagine you would win one for that.
'See! You've just got to have an angle. I'd better start writing my Olivier acceptance speech…'

It's been four years since you last performed in the UK. What are you most looking forward to about your visit?
'I'm coming for the food. I guess I could act like I'm an artist and want to bring joy to people's lives, but really I just want some good chips.'

Really? Not many people visit Britain for the cuisine…
'I do! I think you guys have a bad rep. I always have great meals there. I don't like the super-fancy places, I just want some great meat pies. That's really all I ask for: a chuckle and a meat pie. Oh, and a shag! I'm trying to use my British expressions… I might retitle the show, from “Kathy Griffin Wants a Tony” to “Kathy Griffin Wants a Meat Pie, an Olivier and a Shag”.'