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."
Advocate.com: 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?"
So yeah, it was a really great episode to work on. I got to meet interesting people and I got to hear answers I didn't like...and then you kind of go forward from there. I watched it along with everyone else -- I didn't see a rough-cut episode -- and I heard from [Matthew Shepard's mother] Judy Shepard.
My only regret is that I would have liked Matthew Shepard to have been featured a little bit more in the episode, because even though you could say there's not really a connection between Matthew Shepard and gay marriage, I still think that gay marriage being illegal in California [is] absolutely discrimination, [and] I don't think it's that big of a jump to say that people who think that gay people shouldn't have the same civil rights are a couple of clicks away from people who think that it would be OK to treat a gay person differently.
Well, I wasn't going to get into this, but just on a personal note...
I know! I feel like I should get to the funny stuff...
I have a friend who married another man in a church in Atlanta...
Well, now, that's a niche market.
[Laughs] Yeah, well, of course, although he could get married in a church in Georgia, he can't get married legally, and he was moved to tears by the Prop. 8 episode. I think a lot of people were blindsided by "Norma Gay," to see your consistently hilarious show delve into serious subject matter in such an effective way. And since you brought up Judy Shepard...did you know her book is coming out within days of yours?
No, but I'm going to get it! I admire her so much. She's a warrior. One thing that really, really shocked me and I was determined to change was that, when I asked the LGBT Learning Center about Matthew Shepard, and not one of those kids had ever heard of him, or had even heard his name, I was on a mission. I was like, yeah, I know it's the Prop. 8 episode and I know it's about gay marriage, but you know what? I think that these kids are going to identify more with [Shepard]. So I was very glad that we could include Matthew in the episode. I would have liked to include him a little more. There was one version where Judy's foundation actually gave us the clip package that we put on the show. Someone Twittered me -- or, as I say, twatted me -- about it asking where they can see that Matthew Shepard clip package. I'm pretty sure that it's on YouTube.
So is Official Book Club Selection more of a serious memoir or a humor book?
It truly is both. It definitely has some serious moments, and I absolutely peppered it with as many jokes as I could fit in. It is not a straight-up humor book, and it's also not a really, really serious "I-was-abused-as-a-child" book, but it definitely has both of those elements.
Hopefully you'll get a good chuckle out of it. But there are a few bombs in there. There are some things that I've never revealed before. Which is funny because people say, "My God, you talk about your life and your acting, you've got this reality show, there are cameras in your house -- how can there possibly be anything we don't already know?" And I've been saying, "Well, you know, someday I'm going to write a book." And it's out September 8.
Can we get an exclusive on something really juicy from the book?
Oh God, I'll tell you one thing that's in there! It's so horrific that I had to put it in there. All right, so, I had a lot of liposuction in two thousand and...fuck! I can't even remember. But I decided to -- oh, this is so disgusting -- I've printed in the book four of my post-op plastic surgery pictures. They're from the neck down and they are horrible. They are absolutely horrifying. It's like the most bruised, horrible, you know, beyond-Rihanna thing you've ever seen in your life. They're so heinous that I thought that, You know what, they're so horrible that now it's funny to me. So I put them in the book.
You know Barbara Walters is going to sink her teeth into that. You know Barbara's going to give me shit about it, but I just couldn't resist. I used to actually show [the photos] in my act. When I used to do shows at the L.A. Gay and Lesbian Center, I used to talk about my liposuction, which, by the way, was botched, and I used to show the pictures and the poor gays were hurling in the aisles. I guarantee you have never seen pictures like this. Except for, like, crime scene photos. They're disgusting.
But you made it through. Are you glad you did it?
No! First of all,
the lipo for me was a complete waste. I didn't realize that there was a
thing called diet and exercise that works better. I actually thought
that I could go to a plastic surgeon and come out looking like Jennifer
Aniston. But it didn't go my way.
Something is working for you. I
have a friend who is 24 and when I told her I was going to be talking
with you, all she could talk about was finding out how you got your
Oh yeah, I have a bangin' bikini bod. Which Paris
Hilton, my BFF, revealed to me. 'Cause Paris got me in a bikini for the
first time in like fucking 10 years, and then when the paparazzi took
our pictures -- because, golly gosh, I wonder who called them? -- next thing
you know, I'm pretty much splitting my time between gay activism and
bikini modeling. I'm being tugged in both directions.
I'm only doing one of those things, fortunately for the rest of the world.
I assume it's bikini modeling!
I feel your pain.
[Laughs] Any hot lesbian action in your book?
would love to have a hot lesbian relationship, but, I'm gonna be honest,
I would probably be doing it for the publicity. Currently, I think the
best person I could have a lesbian relationship with would be Kate
Gosselin from Jon & Kate Plus 8. Because I think that would get us
on the cover of Us Weekly faster than anything.
She kind of has that look going on. Suze Orman hair.
exactly, she already has the lesbian haircut. I could get a matching
haircut and I would be happy to go down on her and then, accidentally,
the paparazzi are there!
Some pictures for your next book?
Yeah! If not, I think maybe a lesbian one-nighter with Dina Lohan could be a good photo op.
That would be...brave.
Exactly. It would be One Night in Heaven in Long Island.
You are a guerrilla marketing genius.
you have to admit that you're now on the A-list. Where do you have to
go from here? Do you really need to go down on Kate Gosselin to get a
OK, first of all, let me tell you that I'm flattered that
you think I'm on the A-list, but I'm going to prove you wrong right
now. Just when I was having a moment that I felt like I was on the
A-list because -- you should know -- I am nominated for not one but two Teen
Choice Awards. That's right, two Teen Choice Awards. And I was feeling
very young and hip and, Oh my gosh, I'm going to run into Miley at the
Teen Choice Awards and I'm going to see the Jonas Brothers and Oh!
They're my people! And then I get a call and it turns out that my two
categories that are nominated -- Choice Comedian and Choice TV
(Reality) -- are in the non-televised version of the Teen Choice Awards.
the fuck knew that there were non-televised awards at the Teen Choice
Awards? What the point of that would be, I have no idea. I don't even
know what website would benefit from the non-televised part of the
Teen Choice Awards. So now I have had to bite and scratch to get two
tickets to go to the Teen Choice Awards -- 'cause I already picked out the
outfit, which means I'm going, and I have just been told by them that
I'm not even invited by them to attend the ceremony.
Yeah. So I am absolutely on the D-list.
How can you be nominated and not allowed to go?
well, that's the Teen Choice Awards -- or as I like to call them, the
Schmeen Schmoice Awards. It's just life slappin' me in the face one
more time. Just reiterating that I am on the D-list.
Oh, whatever, the Teen Choice Awards don't matter. Who cares? You have Emmys.
[Laughs] Screw you, Miley! I'm gonna be there and I'm gonna be in the front-fucking-row.
You had better!
You bet I will.
You'll make it onstage one way or another?
Yeah, I want one of those giant surfboards so it can sit in my garage for the rest of my life.
Maybe you could mount a giant Jesus on it...
then everybody can suck it! You know, if you can get through a gay
wedding in a church in Atlanta, there's nothing you can't handle.