Kathy Griffin: The TV Squad Interview
Posted Jul 21st 2009 11:15AM by Nick Zaino
Kathy Griffin is so ubiquitous these days, you might have to dust off an old clichÃ© (and change it slightly) to describe her – The Queen of All Media.
Kathy Griffin: My Life On the D-List is getting the best ratings of its run, she was a guest on Privileged, her CD, For Your Consideration, was nominated for a Grammy, her book comes out in September, and she continues to tour as a stand-up comedian. She was also recently tapped to host the Shmemmys (The Creative Arts Emmys) and to roast her good friend Joan Rivers for Comedy Central. She may not be getting Ryan Seacrest‘s 45 million dollar paycheck, but she may be challenging him for most entertainment jobs held simultaneously.
I caught up with her by phone recently and had a long conversation. So long, in fact, that we have posted two different versions – this is the short one. There is an unedited version here, for those who need every last morsel of Griffin they can get.
Griffin actually started out by asking me a question.
So is this interview going to run anywhere or is this just for your personal collection?
It’s going to run on TVSquad, AOL’s TV blog.
You know what? I have an exciting announcement. By the way, I’m looking at it myself, I knew, but it was officially announced today. I am hosting the Shmemmys this year. Now if you recall, two years ago when I won a Creative Arts Emmy, I got in a little trouble for telling Jesus to suck it. And now, two years later, when The D-List has its highest ratings ever, they want me to host. And that is what I love about Hollywood.
How did you get the news? Do you remember where you were when you heard the news?
You mean like how people remember where they were when JFK died?
Yes. It was a little… I got a call from my publicist – very Hollywood. I just couldn’t believe it. What was so funny is, when you’re on the D-List, that is the biggest announcement you can possibly have. So when I see other celebrities hearing about when they were when they were nominated for an Academy Award, where were they and stuff… In my world, hearing you’re going to host the Creative Arts Emmys… Now I know how Meryl Streep feels. All those times. Or whoever is the most Oscar-nominated person in the world. It’s probably actually Randy Newman or John Williams or somebody. I’m very, very excited. It’s a triumph for me as an artist, and as a foul-mouthed artist.
Do you have anything planned?
Yes. My goal this year is to be so offensive they actually shut down the Creative Arts Emmys altogether. And that this is their final year. They’ll have to fold the entire operation in shame.
Sounds like a big goal.
No, I’m kidding. I’m going to be so well behaved you’re not even going to recognize me. But wait, it gets better. Normally they cut down the Shmemmys, which is about a 17-hour awards show and they cut it down to an hour on the E! channel. This year, they’re making it a two-hour special on the E! channel. Which, you could assume, that Ryan Seacrest, whether he likes it or not, is forced to at least have to watch a commercial for me hosting the Shmemmys. Which means I am one step closer to taking down Ryan Seacrest. Which is my goal.
One of his jobs must necessitate him being there.
Oh, no no. He wouldn’t go anywhere near the Shmemmys. He’s too big. However, I did read about his 45 million dollar deal yesterday to continue to host American Idol. So I would like to give you a world exclusive and say that I am pregnant with his octuplets. And Debbie Rowe-style, I will be seeking compensation. And guess how much I want?
45 million dollars.
That’s rather convenient. When did this happen?
I think we can call it a wash. So as long as Ryan just signs over his 45 million dollar check to me, I promise to not bother him with our octuplets. And I will be happy to hand them over to Diana Ross.
Were you actually disappointed to lose the Grammy to George Carlin?
I wasn’t, and that’s very unusual for me. Because I’m normally bitter, and happily so. I wear my negativity like a blanket, no pun intended. But no, losing to Carlin is not really losing. If I had lost to anyone else, I would be happy to sit here and say, “Fuck the Grammys.” Because it’s George Carlin, it’s different.
You got “the face” a lKathy Griffinot when you told people who you were up against.
Every time. Every time. And I also spoke to a lot of people outside the D-List cameras that really knew him well. It’s a respect thing. I really respect other comedians. I don’t have that comedian thing where I don’t like other comedians. I’m actually a huge fan of comedy. I like all comedians. I’m not into dogging another comedian. I will be, however, hosting the Joan Rivers Roast on Comedy Central, which I’m very much looking forward to.
Are you two in regular contact?
She is an actual pal. I dig her as a pioneer and I’m happy to be roasting her. The funny thing is, neither one of us has ever done a roast. I’ve never been on the dais. I’ve never, I mean, I’ve roasted off-camera. I roasted Jeff Zucker at some NBC big corporate thing a couple of years ago. But I’ve never done one of the Comedy Central roasts. And she hasn’t, either, and I just assumed that she would have done a couple of them over the years. But she said no, she never did them.
Since you’re pals, do you feel you have better dirt or do you feel like you have to hold back a little.
Oh, no, I think I have better dirt. I feel I have insider dirt.
Anything you want to hint at?
She’s going to be running scared, believe me. I have a whole plan to make fun of her with a lot of insider dirt, and then what I plan to do afterwards is I plan to buy her love back. There is a part of Joan that is very into the fancy. Maybe some spa treatments at the Four Seasons, or a couple of meals at Jean Gorges, I might be able to get her back.
Is there anything really left to say about Jon and Kate and Michael Jackson? How do you approach something that’s so saturated?
Michael Jackson’s not saturated in the stand-up world because it’s been taboo for a while. But as the other aspects of the custody battle and all the pubic statements, you’ve got La Toya doing a paid interview for one of the London tabs saying he was murdered, you’ve got the father going on GMA for no reason at all with his eyelids half closed like he’s on something himself talking about how Paris – not Hilton – Paris Jackson might have a future in entertainment. I mean, regardless of the true tragedy that is Michael Jackson’s death, there is a swirl of insanity that, as a comedian, I’m only human, I can’t not talk about it.
So it has not been overly saturated from that point of view. I mean, it’s overly saturated with the pundits, the speculation, etc., but the circus that the people on the inside are causing themselves. You’ve got the chef getting a payout from Radar-online, saying that he thought that Dr. Chad Murray was Michael’s boyfriend and that’s why he went in the room every night. It just gets weirder and weirder, so you can’t ignore it.
And then Jon and Kate, of course it’s not saturated, because who knew that 72 hours ago he was going to be hand-in-hand with his new 22-year-old girlfriend in fucking San Tropez with that Ed Hardy guy. And who the fuck is going to buy Ed Hardy t-shirts designed by Jon Gosselin? Not me.
I’m unaware of his previous experience in the field.
It’s zero. Maybe he could get a little experience raising his children instead of getting them to model for him. That’s something that a week ago wasn’t even around. That is the beauty of pop culture and the news in general, is that it really is the gift that keeps on giving.
And how about Governor Sanford just getting a free ride? And then we have Governor Palin. We have governors just freaking out in this country. We have governors acting like drugged out rock stars with erratic behavior that’s right up there with somebody on the fuckin’ Hills. Sarah Palin might as well be on The Hills with LC at this point. Sanford might as well be the new fuckin’ Bachelor while we’re at it.
What else are you working on?
I just did my CD, I just recorded my CD. And that’s coming out – it’s not at all a ploy to get another Grammy nomination at all – but you should know that it’s a holiday CD. It’s called Kathy Griffin: Suckin’ It for the Holidays, and it’s for the whole family, as long as the family’s over 18 years old.
Then, of course, my tell-all book comes out September 18. That is called Official Book Club Selection. I am looking at my mother right now, who is relaxing on the chaise lounge, and our main topic of conversation these days is when she nervously asks me what is in the book about her. And, you know, I’m having what she has, because she has protectively selective memory. My actual memory is quite good, but when I talk to her, I’m selecting the things to tell her that are in the book. She doesn’t quite understand the concept that it’s already gone to press. She thinks that I can make changes to the book actually after it’s come out. So that should be quite a week, because the book comes out the 8th, I’m hosting the Shmemmys on the 12th, and we’ll see if anyone is talking to me by the 13th.
Are you getting any of this for another season of the D-List?
No, because I can never talk the geniuses at Bravo into doing anything off-season or as a stand-alone special, because what I would like to do is, I would love to do a special just about my Emmy journey. Just all the stuff that happens and all the craziness that goes into hosting the Shmemmys. They get some big stars to come to the Shmemmys. Last year they got Tom Hanks and James Gandolfini. It’s pretty impressive, the people they get to come to the Shmemmys. And no one’s ever covered it or made a big deal about it. I wish Bravo would just do a special about what the two weeks preceding that are like. But nobody listens to me over there, because I’m not flipping a table from my house in New Jersey.
Are you getting any footage yourself?
You know, the flip-cam does amazing things. I might Twat about it. Twitter, you know.
Yes, I’m still getting used to the past tense.
I might Twat about it. Or I might put it on my FacePlace. I don’t know if you know this, but my mother took over my Facebook page.
I saw that on the show, with the drunken post. Kathy Griffin and her mom
Okay, so, first of all, this started out as a joke. We thought it’d be fun to have my mom do FacePlace. And now, she’s totally into. She’s lost her mind. She thinks it’s TV. She doesn’t know the different between FacePlace and TV. The people from Facebook actually contacted me after years of me contacting them trying to say, you know, there’s all these fake sites and they’re not me, and isn’t there a way we can have one that’s officially me and all this other stuff.
But they were so excited that my mother is basically the unofficial spokesman for FacePlace. Like her good friend, Paris Hilton. The FacePlace actually contacted me and said, “How can we help?” So once again, my 89-year-old mother is able to move mountains and have relationships in Hollywood I cannot. And, you should know, my mom is now up my ass for me to take Paris Hilton out of my act because Paris Hilton said “hello” to her, and now my mom feels Paris Hilton is understood and I’m too hard on her.
She’s unfired from the Facebook page?
I had to rehire her because she’s so fucking popular.
Did you have to offer her a more competitive salary and negotiate?
She is lounging poolside at my estate right now. She is holding me hostage in my own home.
You’ve had a much higher profile for the last couple of seasons. When will you consider yourself off of the D-List.
Oh, never. And I have moments where I might be kind of high and might. I definitely have A-list moments. But I gotta say, you know what I love so much? I love when the moments are captured on the D-List show. In that moment when I was with Paris Hilton at Kitson and they rang up my bill and it was something crazy like 14,000 dollars, and when she said, “Okay, for you Katy,” those moments are… I can’t buy them. I can’t write ’em and I can’t pay for ’em. So that’s how I know, even if I am standing next to Paris Hilton at Kitson on Robertson, where all of young Hollywood shops, Lindsay and Nicole Richie, and I’ve just rung up a 14,000 dollar bill, the salesgirl still says, “And your bill is, Katy.” That’s how I know I will always be on the D-List.
My favorite moments from the season so far are you with Lily Tomlin and Don Rickles.
Oh, my god. Weren’t they both just incredible? All the guests have been so… It’s been really truly amazing for me to get to meet these people and hang out with them. I just love it. I got to go to Gloria Estefan’s house, and we had dinner off camera a couple of times. Paula Deen was so much fun, and I visited her again off camera. That’s been the most fun part.
Because after the fourth season, I went online and I read everything online, and I try to ignore the really heinous stuff, but sometimes I actually get good suggestions. There’s a consensus. People say, “we want more Maggie.” The one thing I kept hearing was, it’s starting to feel a little false because, my situation is, it’s not really honest to act like I literally can’t get a job or that I can’t even sell out a little theater. That is no longer the reality show, that is no longer the reality. Thank god. But what I am thrilled about is that I went to Bravo and I said, what if we made it a hybrid reality show/talk show, and I think the format really worked. And they fought me on it tooth and nail, but I said, you know, I can’t keep acting like stuff is happening in my life that isn’t happening.
That’s what I’m really proud of, I sort of have these A-list moments where I’m hanging out with Gloria Estefan, but at the same time, the Realtor gets pissed off and calls me a cheap bitch. So we have the elements of the D-List you know and love – meaning my mother – and then this kind of great transitional thing that’s happening where I’m hanging out with A-listers and being an A-lister in training. It’s great. I think the guests have all been happy because it’s hopefully kind of an unusual thing to do with them, and maybe you see a side of Bette Midler you haven’t seen before. And yet you still have me going to sleep at the Holiday Inn during my construction.
Were you surprised that Bette Midler was offended by the dick joke?
Yes, I was. Because the Bette Midler that I grew up with was, “Fuck ’em if they can’t take a joke,” the name of her last tour was “Kiss My Brass,” performed in a bathhouse. That’s been one really fascinating thing for me, getting to know these A-listers is what they’re really like. I’m learning so much. And Bette’s philosophy is, in her show, she does very, very raunchy material, but she does it as her Sophie character. And off camera, she’s not vulgar at all. She’s not raunchy at all.
And Gloria Estefan is a really, really astute, very good business woman, which we knew, but I didn’t know how smart and on top of it she was, and how really bad ass in focus she is, and yet she’s so warm. And she’s really like a nurturing person. And so talented and been everywhere and done everything. And those are the people I really like. And also Paris Hilton was an absolute breeze to work with. An absolute breeze. I love to make fun of her and give her shit, but the day with her was so crazy with those paparazzi. And yeah, I called some of them, but believe me, even I can’t call a fuckin’ hundred of them. That was so crazy, and to kind of walk in her shoes for one day, it was quite a learning experience.
Was it tough to eventually write the book?
It was a lot of fucking work, and anybody who says it isn’t is fucking high on crack. Because when they came to me, I was, of course, thrilled and flattered. I had thought about it for a while. I had tried to do a book about seven years ago and basically I couldn’t get a deal. The D-List hadn’t started yet, and I kind of didn’t have as much to say. But at 48, I have kind of a collection of war stories under my belt. And I think the time is right, because I’m not sure what I’ll be doing with my post-D-List life.
After being open about your life in the act and on the D-List, was there anything left you hadn’t already said onstage or shown on the show.
Absolutely. [pauses and laughs] Obviously, that’s the first question I got, and that’s the first thing people said, “Well, really, you’ve got a reality show, and you’ve been open about your life in your act,” and I’m like, believe it or not, there’s a couple of bombs in there.
How much longer do you think you would do the D-List?
Let me tell you, it’s interesting. I was absolutely convinced that this would be my last year, and I’m positive Ari Emanuel doesn’t want me to continue, because I think he would like to get a much more lucrative deal for me. I really don’t know what’s going to happen.
Are you signed up for another season yet?
No I am not.