Kathy Griffin is a genius, no question. Through sheer will, shamelessness, and a stomach cramp–inducing sense of humor (if you’ve never seen her perform live, you have no idea what this woman is capable of), she essentially self-promoted her way from being Brooke Shields’s dowdy sitcom sidekick to a larger-than-life comedy and gay icon. Most recently, she proved herself worthy of the title "The New Queen of Mean" as she hosted Comedy Central's Joan Rivers roast and let the world know that the thin and crispy older comedy pioneer has an official heiress apparent. At the roast, Joan lamented that Kathy “stole my gays.”

Anyone who has ever thought that the inimitable Griffin was sucking up to "the gays" for an easy audience should know better by now. After dedicating an entire episode of her Bravo show My Life on the D-List to the very serious topics of gay marriage and the memory of Matthew Shepard, Griffin spoke with us about why Shepard matters so much to her and why his memory should matter to young LGBT people. She also gives us a gory preview from her ingeniously titled new book, Official Book Club Selection (out September 8) and explains how the Teen Choice Awards have assured her that, despite her undeniable success, she is still on the D-list. 

Her response? “Screw you, Miley. Everybody can suck it.” Thanks for talking with us today.
Kathy Griffin: Thank you! I have a little notation here that says this is regarding all my current projects. I like that! It makes me feel like I have lots of balls up in the air. And yes, that’s a double entendre. Yes, pun intended.

I’ll admit that I have sometimes wondered if your love of ‘the gays’ is just a gimmick, but in the “Norma Gay” episode of My Life on the D-List, you took an uncharacteristically serious turn with grassroots advocacy for gay marriage and gay youths, including educating everyone from young LGBT people to your mother about Matthew Shepard. Why do you feel so close to the gay community?
I just always have had gay friends. I was that girl in high school who went to the prom with my gay friend because we both thought, well, we’ll have fun. 
What I admire about the LGBT community is that I feel, as a community, you guys are very good and smart about mobilizing and making things happen. And just as a female -- and as a female in comedy -- I feel that I identify with a group that has had to fight harder and jump higher and prove themselves over and over, so I feel a kinship with the LGBT community. We’re both at a point in our journey where we aren’t afraid to go there.

What I love about gay audiences is that -- I call them "the unshockable gays" -- you can’t really say a lot to them that they haven’t already heard, and there’s not a lot you can say to me that I haven’t already heard. I find that when you enter an environment with that as a jumping-off point, there’s nowhere you can’t go. That’s why I’m so optimistic about everything from the Prop. 8 movement to hate-crimes legislation to "don't ask, don't tell," which is a really big issue to me because I have gay friends in the military. I feel that once you have decided to work together on something, there’s nothing you can’t accomplish. 
That’s a long-winded, serious answer, but I identify with the gay community and I feel that [civil rights] is a struggle we all share. What I feel most proud about when watching [the “Norma Gay”] episode is that my 89-year-old mother, a heterosexual woman who watches Fox News, got up there and had her sign -- and I love that her sign was funny; I think that was a great, smart way to go -- and that’s the kind of support, I think, that makes change happen. Because you’re no longer preaching to the choir; you’re now including people who never really thought about gay rights or thought that it didn’t touch them or didn’t affect them in any way. And then, in a pretty short amount of time with a pretty small effort, we can touch them and get them to go, "Ohhhh, yeah, this is as bad as racism ever could have been. This is something as bad as not giving women the right to vote. This is something that needs to change, and how can I help?"  

Tags: Books