[12 June 2007]
When Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List premiered in 2005, the title was accurate. She was a D-Lister, best known as a supporting player on the Brooke Shields sitcom Suddenly Susan. In the years since then, Griffin has moved up. She’s selling out top venues and rubbing shoulders with Barbara Walters as a guest host on The View. Her divorce was tabloid fodder. Her reality series was nominated for an Emmy, as Outstanding Reality Program. And she has a new Bravo stand-up special, Everybody Can Suck It.
If Griffin still lacks the “star power” of Nicole Kidman or Beyonce, she’s no longer on the same list as Gary Coleman and Trista Rehn. Her Bravo series, My Life on the D-List, is now entering its third season. This behind the scenes look at her life has endeared her to a new set of fans, who may not have warmed to her trademark caustic comedy. Gone from this new season is Kathy’s now ex-husband, Matt. She admits to not seeing or speaking to him in eight months, and her breakdown discussing the situation shows she isn’t quite over the split. (Back in 2006, Griffin told Larry King that Matt stole $72,000 from her—a charge he has denied—and that the relationship couldn’t continue with the loss of trust.)
Since Matt served in so many roles for Kathy, from manager to hairdresser, she is now forced to supplement her staff. In addition to loyal assistant Jessica, Kathy works with Tiffany, Jessica’s assistant, and Tom, Kathy’s dogsitter, roommate, and manager. Griffin’s parents, John and Maggie, are back, and on the first episode, she was shocked to learn that despite his poor health, her mom and dad have been visiting a hot LA gay bar on a regular basis, because the happy hour hors d’oeuvre buffet is only three dollars.
Also returned from the last season is a focus on Griffin’s insatiable ambition. In the season opener, she took on two new jobs, shooting an industrial film for hair company Redken and playing to a sell-out crowd at Carnegie Hall. The gigs offered a good example of life for the non-A list celebrity, that she’s bound to take work that pays well, even if they don’t expand her fan base.
Griffin’s irreverence grounds her stand-up, which skewers the A-list stars with whom she wants to dine. In Everybody Can Suck It, her comedy special, she ridicules Lindsay Lohan while confessing that she’s chummed up the young star at a party at Drew Barrymore’s house. During the reality series opener, Kathy tried desperately to get Liza Minnelli to attend her Carnegie show, noting that it’s her “gay fantasy”, but had to settle for a note from Minnelli wishing her well. Griffin argued that this situation defines who she is, a big enough celebrity to get a note from Minnelli, but not big enough for Minnelli to attend her show.
Such an observation speaks to the conflicts Griffin embodies, at least as she sees it. On the day before her Carnegie appearance, she had a sit-down with good friend Whoopi Goldberg and dinner with Joan Rivers, and palled around with Rosie O’Donnell before a guest appearance on The View. Griffin lamented the cheesy film work she does for Redken, but mentioned that the premiere of the film featured musical guests Fergie and Jennifer Hudson. None of these celebrities are D-Listers’ usual cohorts.
D-List has not only made a bigger star out of Griffin, it’s also made a star out of Jessica and Kathy’s parents. Jessica was mobbed outside of the theater after the Carnegie performance and admitted to feeling bad about stealing attention away from her boss. Likewise, Kathy mentioned in her Suck It routine that Bravo requested she take her parents along during her performance on O’Donnell’s gay family cruise. Her mother’s curse-filled reaction to the invitation was one of the highlights of the special: “Alaska!? Goddamn, Jesus H. Christ. Why can’t they go to San Jose, goddamnit? Holy Father, Holy Spirit, whatever the hell they’re calling Him these days… goooooddamn!”
The title of Griffin’s special comes from a line she shouted at the Emmy Awards after losing. Certain she would lose to Extreme Makeover: Home Edition, which had submitted for consideration a heart-tugging episode about terminally ill children who live in a group home and have formed a choir for terminally ill kids, Griffin decides she’s not going to take losing gracefully. As she recalled, she jumped up as the producers of Extreme Makeover walked onto the stage to accept their award, and screamed, “I was robbed! Everybody can suck it. Everybody can suck my dick!” The Emmy folks, Bravo TV, and her lawyer all failed to see the humor in her prank.
Whether or not you enjoys Griffin’s stand-up will depend on your familiarity with celebrity gossip. I became a fan after seeing her dead-on, hilarious imitation of a spacey Macy Gray several years ago. In Everybody Can Suck It, she blasted the Olsen twins and Al Roker, but also raised overtly political questions, taking on “nut-case” Ann Coulter.
You don’t need to “get” Griffin’s sense of humor to enjoy her reality show. Her interactions with those around her are both amusing and touching. Though she teases her parents mercilessly, it’s obvious she cares deeply about them and worries about their drinking habits. The series reveals Griffin’s commitment and the hard work necessary to maintain a show business career. Although her self-deprecating remarks sound increasingly hollow as she gains more notoriety, her bouts of insecurity provide a sharp contrast to the take-charge woman we see on stage. No matter what her career path might indicate, in her mind, Kathy Griffin still lives on the D-List.