Out-gaying Cher takes someone with a strong allegiance to the queer community. Someone who’s played lezzy, and maybe undergone some plastic touch-ups. Someone like Kathy Griffin, the funny “fag hag” who’s shamelessly self-deprecating about her D-list status, always adding to her Hollywood hit-list and, now, even too gay for Cher.
The comedian’s also a memoirist, a voice in the latest “Shrek” film and down with doing some girl-on-girl action, as she showed on a recent episode of “Law & Order: SVU.” Still got a Kathy craving? See her live on June 12 at the Fox Theatre in Detroit and the next night, June 13, at the DeVos Performance Hall in Grand Rapids. And just days after that, on June 15, the sixth season of her wildly successful, Emmy-winning Bravo reality show “My Life on the D-List” premieres.
Griffin gave us a peek into what she’s calling the gayest season of the series, including her involvement in the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal. She also chatted about how she discovered her queer cult, being inspirational and why she was a “Gleek” before they took over the world.
I noticed something on your Twitter recently.
On my twat? Oh, thank you!
No, no. I’m gay. I don’t notice those kinds of things.
So on your Twitter – not your twat – you actually remind people that there’s swearing at your shows. Isn’t that like saying there’ll be gays, too? It’s pretty obvious, don’t you think?
I had walkouts in Biloxi, Miss. People stormed out. So I just feel that it is incumbent upon me – as a very serious artist – to remind people that when they come to see me they’re not seeing “Mamma Mia!” or “The Lion King,” because I get to play these really beautiful theaters (laughs).
I just want to make sure everyone knows what they’re in for. I just feel it’s fair. Yeah, there’s swearing, but swearing is sort of an understatement. I just did my ad for Vegas, because I’m doing the Colosseum like I’m fucking Celine Dion or something –
It’s beyond gay. In fact, Cher wants me to take it down a notch, that’s how gay I am now. But anyway, I actually had them put in the ad, “Kathy Griffin: ‘D-List’ star doing her stand-up comedy show. Hopes to offend.”
You sell out shows everywhere and you’ve won two Emmys but you still claim you’re on the D-list. How the hell?
I know I’m on the D-list. I’m reminded, I wouldn’t say on a daily basis, but a good twice a week, when I’m called Kathie Lee Gifford. There are still a lot of talk shows I can’t get on. And these are the same shows that are happy to have Heidi and Spencer on, but that’s more of a Hollywood thing. The D-list in my life: I was literally called Kathy Lee Griffith last night. I went to see Ricky Gervais at a theater and I was parking and they said –
( Griffin’s cell phone cuts out for several minutes before we reconnect.) Chris, that was a bit of a D-list moment!
No kidding! Crappy phone?
Yeah, I have an unbelievably cheap phone and it’s now officially broken. I’ve been on an emotional journey with that phone and now I have to realize it’s time to let go. What’s great is that I’m now using my old-fashioned princess phone that I probably got at Sears like 20 years ago. But you know what? This fucker works. Where were we?
The D-list and Ricky Gervais.
Right. Parking attendant. Kathy Lee Griffith. So I had to keep convincing him that I was on the list if he would just get the name part correct.
And then there was the moment during the “Shrek Forever After” premiere recently.
Yeah, that was very A-list until my, of course, D-list moment of standing next to Ryan Seacrest. I really had a moment of thinking, Here I am in this room with Cameron Diaz and Antonio Banderas and Mike Myers and Eddie Murphy. And then it’s time for the photo and sure enough, I’m standing next to Ryan Seacrest.
In that movie you voice a witch?
I’m the head witch, which I’m excited about. I took the other witches down.
That sounds about right.
It’s just like my life.
When did you realize you had your gay audience?
It was really before stand-up, because I would do anything – anything! – to be on stage somewhere. I would go any place that would have an open mic night, and that’s when I kind of discovered the gay club scene because I just went wherever they had open mics. I didn’t care if it was a black club or a gay club or a comedy club or a music club. And then I started going, “Oh, these audiences are better!”
Actually, I write about this in my book (“Official Book Club Selection: A Memoir According to Kathy Griffin,” now available in paperback), the whole question of which came first, the chicken or the egg? How did I find the gays? How did they find me? And it’s sort of a combo. I just always gravitated toward gay people as long as I can remember.
It certainly started in high school with the musical theater clique. I had a great nerd clique in high school and I’m still friends with them today. And we still have our middle fingers up to the cheerleaders. Basically, it was “Glee”; I was a “Gleek” before that show was on.
Since June is Pride month and you’ve been a regular on the circuit, can you share your fondest memory of playing one of the festivals?
Last time I did Orlando Pride, it was outdoors with about 5,000 guys – and a few of the ladies showed up. By the time I got out there, they were still dancing. There may have been a little alcohol involved. And there might’ve been the occasional amount of ecstasy.
Anyway, my favorite part was as I was walking out they were still dancing and then one guy just passed out and fell on the grass. And, you know, those gays did not even move to help him! They just danced around him. I was worried! I was like, “Uh, someone passed out in front.” And somebody yelled: “He’ll be fine, girl!” And I said, “OK, only at a gay Pride fest.”
If that happened anywhere else, there would’ve been an ambulance. But I like that the gays were just like, “Oh, he’ll come around.” And sure enough, by the end of the show, he was up and dancing again. For a minute I thought, Oh my God, we need the gurney! We need to get this guy to the ER! I didn’t know it was basically a girl-down situation.
Celebrity photographer Mike Ruiz recently took some pics of you as Bettie Page. How did that come about?
He really is an artist. One of the best. And he has shot everybody. So he called me with this idea and I’m like, “How could I possibly channel Bettie Page?” But, boy, obviously he pulled it off. It was great. He flew the hair and makeup people in from New York, he got the outfit, and he came up with the whole vision. And I was thrilled, and so we covered that on the “D-List.”
He said he was trying to bring out your “inner vixen.” Do you see yourself as a sex symbol?
(Laughs) I do when I’m with Mike Ruiz. I mean, boy, he’s the one who got away. Mike Ruiz is the very reason that you have these women saying they’re either married or gay because when you look at Mike Ruiz you just want to take a bite out of him.
How is your mother?
(Sigh) Well, she’s coming over today, so we have to stock up the bar. Just know that when she comes over it’s completely normal for (my assistants) Tom or Tiffany to say, “Do we have wine? How much wine do we have?” It’s not really about her walker or if she has a stomach ache. Just making sure we’re stocked up.
Are you shooting more of “My Life on the D-List”?
Of course. It’s the show that never ends (laughs).
The last season of the show was probably the gayest so far. Will this upcoming season out-gay that one?
I fear it might be gayer (laughs). First of all, in Episode One we have Liza Minnelli. So out the gate, we’re pretty fucking gay. And she’s fantastic. And she’s Liza. And we get to go to her New York apartment, which is a dream come true for any gay boy such as yourself – or me.
H ow about the episode in Washington, D.C., involving the repeal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell”?
I’m really proud of that one. I go to Washington, D.C., and do my part to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” because I, of course, have many gay friends in the military and seeing the way that policy has impacted their lives is heartbreaking.
Before I started this episode I really thought these men and women left the military or left their service or were even kicked out because they came out. I didn’t understand that currently you can actually be kicked out if one person makes a compelling argument and just basically says this person’s gay.
So when I went to my first Senate hearing, I heard so many of these men and women testifying saying, “You don’t understand. I didn’t come out.” So John McCain, who I lost total respect for, kept trying to imply that these men and women had been flaunting their sexuality. They didn’t have one single person testify that actually came out; they only had people testify saying, “I didn’t even come out! Nobody was asking, and I wasn’t telling.” It was shocking. A few of them had their personal e-mail accounts hacked into. It was really interesting to watch that process.
What I really learned was, honestly, the best advocate to repeal “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” is Sen. Carl Levin from Michigan. He was so great during the testimony, and John McCain was not (laughs). It was one of those great episodes because we thought it was going to go one way and then this took a turn, and this took a turn. I really learned a lot and it was great.
You actually received some advocacy tips from Melissa Etheridge during the last season of “D-List,” and she recently said she finds you inspiring. Do you think you’re inspirational?
(Laughs) She’s a little more in the inspirational category, but I do like to inspire people to be more profane, to be more foul-mouthed and to be more inappropriate. I’m an inspiration for everything wrong.
8 p.m. June 12
Fox Theatre, Detroit
7:30 p.m. June 13
DeVos Performance Hall, Grand Rapids