The Cult of Kathy has grown into quite a mega-church.
Time was, no dregs were too low for Kathy Griffin to scrape in a bid for attention as a self-proclaimed D-lister. Pretend to trip and fall out of a limo so a papparazzo will grudgingly waste a second on her? No prob. Now, she’s the star of the most popular reality program on Bravo and just won an Emmy.
Griffin is like that friend who constantly goes over the top, but is so infectiously amusing that you never get annoyed enough to call her on it. You just sit back and let her rip—and rip, and rip, on pop icon after pop icon at the speed of light. She’s trying to hold on to her D-list status as fiercely and ridiculously as Ryan Seacrest is his youth, but she must realize by now that we just let her get away with it because she makes us laugh really, really hard.
She gabbed with us recently from the dog- and assistant-filled California home so familiar to fans of her cable reality show “My Life on the D-List.”
Q. Exactly how D-list is doing five stand-up gigs in a 2,500-seat theater?
A. Good. Now I might sell eight T-shirts.
Q. You know that tops even Larry the Cable Guy?
A. I didn’t think he could be taken down. There are so many blue-collar bastards out there.
Q. Your relationship with your 88-year-old mom, Maggie, is a key element of “My Life on the D-List.” Are you ever accused of exploiting her, with her muu-muu and box of wine?
A. Me exploit her? She’s on my balcony right now, or as she calls it, Tuscany. When she has her wine and she’s in her muu-muu she’s not quite sure what continent she’s on. Then she blares her AM radio and we are very politically different. We get in many political arguments. She loves O’Reilly. She wants me to date Sean Hannity. Exploitive? First of all, she could drink a frat party under the table. I would put at least 100 bucks on my mom. And I say, “Ciao, bella.”
Q. Sorry to hear you and computer billionaire Steve Wozniak broke up. But I’m so curious about him—tell us something about him that hasn’t been on the show.
A. There are so many levels to Woz. When I was seeing him, I was spending a lot of time with him. He is one of a kind. I’m going to get mushy. He’s a goofball and there wasn’t chemistry, but I’m grateful he’s in my life as a friend. There are moments with him I feel like I was touched by greatness. I can’t talk on his level, but I would see these little windows into his mind—a beautiful mind. He’s beyond eccentric. I want to write a coffee-table book called “E-mails From Woz”—they’re so funny and yet so cerebral I have no idea what he’s talking about.
Q. Who’s the most mad at you: Ryan Seacrest, Clay Aiken, Barbara Walters or Oprah?
A. Barbara. I just ran into Ryan, he laughs at my jokes—which kills me, I hate to think that he has a sense of humor. Oprah, I’m not on her radar. I hear Clay has copies of my specials and watches them.
My issue with Barbara is simple. I really like her and get a kick out of her. She can’t stand me, but that doesn’t stop me from having a secret relationship with her.
Q. Presenting with Don Rickles at the Emmys, you two could’ve been at each other up there, and not in a good way.
A. I love Don Rickles, he is such a sweetheart. Last time I saw Don was at Suzanne Somers’ house at a dinner party. He held my hand and gave me some advice.
Q. About what?
A. I asked him about doing double-bangers, which is what I call two shows a night. He said, “Honey, enjoy it, the day’s gonna come when you don’t even get asked to do one.” This guy did five shows a night in Vegas. I know a lot of comedians and I can tell you they are the nicest people on Earth. Don, Joan Rivers, Howard Stern—he’s just a nice nebbishy guy.
Q. How come you’re not as charitable to other celebs as you are to Howard Stern?
A. Because they’re not all who they appear to be. I’m all about ripping the mask off to see who has a sense of humor and who doesn’t.
Q. Doing shows at prisons and for wounded Iraq veterans at Walter Reed Hospital must be tricky. Do you have a self-imposed rule limiting how far you’ll go for gigs like that?
A. It depends, unfortunately. I try to censor myself but it never seems to work. The prison and soldier audiences are a lot alike because they’ve both been through a lot and are in uniquely dire situations. At Walter Reed I thought: I have to be so careful with these double amputees just coming to terms with what’s happened; I cannot make fun of President Bush. I’m not there 15 minutes when they’re making fun of Bush and telling sick jokes and throwing fake legs at each other. So all bets were off. That’s my dream audience.
Q. The downside to getting more popular is it threatens the D-list status on which you’ve staked your rep. And the upside?
A. I don’t get quite as many walkouts. I used to count about 10 per show. People now know, coming in the door, what they’re going to get, that they’ll probably be offended at some point.
Q. You come off as absolutely socially fearless. What scares you?
A. My inability to keep my mouth shut. Every night when I go to bed I pray to baby Jesus to make me Rachael Ray or Bonnie Hunt.