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Thursday, November 19,2009

Kathy Griffin is actually a gay man, and other comedic oddities

By Gene Ira Katz

Arguably the reigning Queen of Inappropriate Humor, comedian Kathy Griffin is currently riding high with a New York Times bestselling memoir, Official Book Club Selection, a twotime Emmy Award-winning reality series, My Life on the D-List, a series of stand up comedy specials in regular rotation on Bravo channel, and a brand new Christmas comedy CD. Add in her frequent guest appearances on a wide variety of TV programs, such as The View and Insider, and on any given day it’s not hard to find this Griffin woman somewhere in the entertaino-sphere. Known for mercilessly skewering A-list celebrities and other larger-than-life names with her razor sharp tongue, Griffin spares no one her gleeful jabs, even herself.

About 15 minutes late in ringing my cell phone, Griffin apologizes, having just found out she had to call all the reporters herself, noting, “That’s such a D-list thing to be doing.” We chatted a little about her latest Bravo stand up special, Balls of Steel, which didn’t get the level of promotion she had hoped for.

“So here’s what I did, in true D-list fashion, since I also have new Christmas CD coming out, Suckin’ it for the Holidays — fun for the whole family — so, I dressed up like a naughty Santa, which is inappropriate for someone my age to begin with, and went into to a gay bar and waited for the paparazzi to show up, which they did, and I handed out free Christmas CDs and tried to tell everyone to watch my new Bravo special,” she laughs. “Any A-lister worth their salt would never do that. You will never see Scarlet Johansson or Megan Fox do anything like that. Just me. I tried to make it a gay day; I took a lot of photos [with gay fans], left gay outgoing phone messages. It was actually pretty fun. Well, it was fun and a little bit pathetic; I have to be honest.”

Griffin asked what kind of social cross section she could expect to show up at her Buell Theater performance, meaning: will her gays be there? I assured her that with more than a half million attending Denver’s last Gay Pride celebration, she shouldn’t have any problem bringing in “the gays.” How did Griffin hook up with that whole gay thing anyway?

“Well, I am a gay man,” she explains, “and have known I am a gay man since I was 7 years old.

“Anyway, it was an accident. You know how when you’re in the drama clique in high school, and you’re just a big old nerd? Well, I just kind of found the gays, and they found me. In fact, I saw my high school boyfriend last week — Tom is his name — and he now lives in Orlando with his boyfriend David. So, you know the question is, since my first boyfriend is gay, and has been with his boyfriend for years, it’s a chicken and egg situation: Did I make him gay, or since he was gay is that why he loved me? I could be a gay-maker. It wouldn’t be the first. I hope to follow in a long list of gay-makers — Cher, Bette Midler, etc., etc., etc.”

This is not to say that her humor is specifically targeted to homosexuals. In fact, Griffin notes, “What’s nice about the specials and all that stuff, I have accidentally started to attract heterosexuals, yes, and there goes the neighborhood. So now, in my live shows, there’s an unusually high number of heterosexuals attending, and I feel I am like the Barack Obama of inappropriate jokes, that I have the audacity of hope, and I’m bringing together gay and straight people in a way that normal legislation probablycan’t.”

On the Bill: Kathy Griffin performs at the Temple Buell Theatre on Friday, Nov. 20. Doors open at 7 p.m. Tickets are $49.50 to $99.50. 1031 13th St. Denver, CO 80204.

In all seriousness, Griffin is major activists for gay rights issues and a prominent spokesperson for the Gay & Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

“The gays are not happy about the Maine [vote rejecting same sex marriage] and, of course, Proposition 8 [voted by Californians to ban same sex marriage]. We did a whole episode on the D-List about it. The struggle continues, absolutely.”

With a performance résumé that stretches back almost two decades, starting as a member of the Los Angeles based improvisational comedy troupe, the Groundlings, Griffin has navigated through a wide variety of roles, on stage, film and TV, including four years on Brooke Shield’s popular sitcom, Suddenly Susan. Her comedic influences range from the famous, like Joan Rivers, to second bananas, as she explains: “You know what, I love the sidekicks. And so, while I love all the great comedians, and like, my own peers who I really love — Janeane Garofalo, and Margaret Cho, and I love Sandra Bernhard, and, of course, Joan Rivers and Phyllis Diller and Roseanne, so I love all the lady comedians, but also, when I was a kid, I wanted to be Rhoda, so I’m a big sidekick fan. I always thought the sidekicks had the greatest gig. Like, I would watch the Mary Tyler Moore Show and I thought, ‘Why would you want to be Mary, when you can be Rhoda? She has the best outfits, and she has the best jokes, and she comes in, gets a laugh and leaves … I always liked the wisecracking secretary and the hooker with a heart of gold. I think those are the most fun parts for women.” An Eve Arden fan, right? “Oh, am I ever.”

How did stand up come into the picture?

“It was kind of decided for me. When I was in the Groundlings they had this one experimental show on Friday nights, late, where people would try out new material. I started telling stories from whatever happened to me that week, and hopefully it would be relatable and fun for the audience in someway. And my pal from the Groundlings, Lisa Kudrow, she turned to me one day and said ‘You know, I think you’re funniest as yourself. I think you, just telling your spin on things, is really your thing.’ So I started doing stand up … then I started doing clubs ’cause I was on TV, and now I get to do these gorgeous theaters, like the Buell.”

She keeps herself busy, to say the least.

“I like to do a little bit of everything … be a panelist on the Insider sometimes, and then write a book, and then I do the D-List, and then I do a CD and then I tour. That’s what I love to do, a little bit of everything, as long as I get to be funny. I don’t care if it’s a commercial. I don’t care if it’s a TV part. I just want to be funny.”

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