Kathy Griffin is one of the most accomplished — and often overlooked — female comedians on the scene today. The Grammy-winning ginger’s secret to success is an unconventional standup style in which she shares personal anecdotes and eviscerates pop-culture icons and politicians. Aside from standup, Griffin has crafted her own brash brand of celebrity as an awards-show host, a reality TV star, a sitcom actress, and a memoir author.
Griffin, who grew up outside of Chicago in a large Irish-Catholic family and now lives in Los Angeles, is in the midst of a massive tour that brings her to Orchestra Hall as the featured comedian for the Twin Cities Pride Festival.
City Pages: What do you think it is about your act or your personality that appeals to the LGBT community?
Kathy Griffin: I think the reason I’ve always had a good relationship with the LGBT community is as long as I’ve been doing standup, there’s nothing I can say to shock a member of that community. We’ve always gotten along well and it’s been an organic relationship.
CP: Have you ever had any same-sex experiences?
KG: I have not, but I am no prude. I will say, though, that I’m 55 and my boyfriend is 37.
CP: Good for you.
KG: That’s another thing: If this were a room full of gay men, they would cheer at that. I think I also relate to the community because I feel kind of like an outsider looking in. When you’re a female standup comedian — especially when you’re over 50 — it’s a whole other struggle. As much as I adore all my male counterparts, they don’t have a clue! It’s so much harder when you’re a chick. When you do shows for LGBT folks — or anyone — you kind of just learn along the way: Don’t hold back.
CP: Tell me about the hurdles that you feel that you’ve had to face as a female comedian. What are the struggles that you’ve experienced?
KG: I don’t “feel” I have struggles. I’m telling you I did. You know that. Sexism is alive and well. It’s really flourishing in standup comedy. The ageism thing is really huge, too. Every time I take the stage, it’s kind of an act of feminism. Here I am, 55 years old, I work out every day, I eat well, and I do all this because I know that as a female, I just don’t have the same opportunities given to the guys that are my age.
I’m in the middle of doing 80 cities on this tour. Eighty cities in one year! I’m very, very proud of that. I write all my own material, which I love to do, but I change it every single show. The most important thing I want the Orchestra Hall folks to know is that if you’ve seen me before in Minneapolis, if you’ve seen me even six months ago, this is going to be all-new two hours of material. I don’t have an opening act. It’s just “An Evening With” and I roll into town and I tell my offensive jokes and hopefully people have a good time.
CP: How did you come up with “Like a Boss” as the title of the tour?
KG: It’s ironic. It’s not like I’m a rapper. It’s more of a tongue-in-cheek expression. I have two Emmys, a Grammy for Best Comedy Album — one of only three women in the history of the Grammys to win for Best Comedy Album, the others being Lily Tomlin and Whoopi Goldberg — and I’m in the Guinness Book of World Records for having the most televised standup comedy specials of any comedian, male or female, living or dead. I’ve had a New York Times number-one bestseller.
There’s nothing that could ever replicate the live experience of just standing there, by myself, onstage with just a mouth and a microphone. In order to do that for 80 cities, change up your material every time, you’ve got to be the boss.
CP: Are there any uncharted areas of comedy left that you’d like to explore? Or any area where you feel like you’re still a novice?
KG: Yes, absolutely. I don’t want to be put out to pasture. I’m out there trying to be as funny as possible every moment. I would love to do a signature film role. I definitely would like another television experience. People have this perception that television is completely dead and gone, but it’s really not. It’s still the number-one watched medium. Also, I would love to do a really clever ad campaign. Now a lot of ads are starring comedians, and they’re edgier than they were when I started doing commercial [work].
CP: You don’t drink. How do you take the edge off?
KG: Oh my god, you are asking such a great question. I had a conversation with — do you know who Wayne Gretzky is?
KG: He came to my show about two weeks ago, and we had dinner afterwards. It’s always been a dream of mine to meet him, because growing up in Chicago I’m a hockey fan and I know you guys are hockey people, too. I don’t know a lot about sports, but I certainly know the great ones. So we had dinner, and he turns to me and he says, “How are you going to come down tonight?” And I said, “Oh, my god. I was going to work up the nerve to ask you, like, after games, would you be able to go right to bed?” And he said, “No, I never could.” I said, “Thank you for being honest. I don’t know anybody that can just go to bed.”
I have this whole system, and it’s so twisted. I typically eat three hours before the show, and I have, like, a Cobb salad, because it has all the nutrients you could want. After the show, I crave really decadent food. So that is a problem. Because after the show, I’m going to want to go to — is it Pizza Luce or Café Luce?
CP: Pizza Luce.
KG: I love that place. Plus they’re open late. One of the things when you do 80 cities in one year — you know, when you’re the boss — you look and see what places serve food late. I would never go to a bar after a show, so I go to a restaurant or back to the hotel and just have a super-quiet meal with my boyfriend, who is also my tour manager.
CP: Oh, cool.
KG: My boyfriend and I travel the world together, like Loretta Lynn and Doo, and have the best times. After the show, I always rethink the set in my head. I have trouble getting to sleep. I have a whole process.
IF YOU GO:
Kathy Griffin: Like a Boss
8 p.m. Thursday, June 23