Kathy Griffin talks improv, being a boss and celebrity run-ins

(Courtesy of Maggie Gardner)


(Courtesy of Maggie Gardner)

Savannah Norton, Staff Writer

The two-time Emmy and Grammy award-winning comedian will be performing Thursday, Feb. 11, at 8 p.m., at EagleBank Arena, one of the 80 stops on her tour. Fourth Estate and WGMU were able to chat with Kathy Griffin before her “Like a Boss” tour stop in Fairfax for Mason’s Homecoming Week.

“My friend and Academy Award host, Chris Rock, asked me if I owed child support,” Griffin said. “That’s a lot of shows to do in one year! But I am very excited to be in Fairfax.”

As an improviser, Griffin never knows what’s going to come out of her mouth during her shows. “I honestly don’t know what I’m going to say until two minutes before the show at 8 p.m.,” she said.

On Thursday, Griffin will be talking about things that happened to her personally as well as current events.“My act is truly ever-changing,” she said. “It’s not airline peanuts jokes or knock knock jokes.”

She also plans to do a little research on the Fairfax area before the show. “I’m hoping that the flooding and snowing has died down a little bit, because I watch the weather like I’m Jim Cantore from the Weather Channel,” she said. “I’m going to say the stuff at George Mason that I can’t say even like on HBO. I’m going to say things that are heinous, and I stand by them.”

Griffin stays true to herself and believes in going all out at her shows. “As a comedian, I have a reputation for not holding back, and that’s what I strongly believe is essential to stand up comedy,” she said.

Before she hits the stage at Mason, she will be presenting an award at the Director’s Guild of America Awards (DGA) on Saturday, Feb. 6. “It’s going to be star-studded,” she said. Her experience at the event should add to her repertoire for Thursday’s show. “I will be seeing Morgan Freeman, a lot of people know him as God, and your generation might believe he is God,” Griffin said.

Griffin doesn’t always get love from everyone who knows her. Some fans send her hate mail on social media because of the snubs she has made at their celebrity favorites. “I’m going to bring you my personal run-ins with the likes of Demi Lovato whose Lovatics, by the way, are actively trying to kill me via Twitter on a daily basis,” she said. “So we are going to hash all of that out.”

Griffin is also friends with someone who is currently very popular in the news and might be our country’s next president. “I actually — and I say this with shame — I actually know Donald Trump,” Griffin said.

She explained that viewers aren’t just going to get stories about Trump’s hair. “I’ve actually been with Donald Trump when he was driving a golf cart and in the back seat of the golf cart [were] myself and Liza Minnelli,” she said. “I’ve had Lovatics come after me, and I was more afraid of that golf cart.”

Many comedy tours, like Robin Williams’ a few years ago, use a promotional photo in which the comedian’s mouth is covered by a piece of duct tape, indicating that the performance jokes may ruffle a few feathers. In line with this tradition, one of the photos promoting “Like a Boss” features Griffin’s tongue caught between a pair of scissors.

“I love that photo because it was taken by the great Tyler Shields, who loves to do edgy photos,” she said. “The reason we took that photo is it kind of exemplifies everything my act is about.”

The photographer, Shields, decided to use a man’s hand to hold the scissors in the photo. “It represents how stand-up comedy is a very male dominated field,” Griffin said. “There are still people out there that say things like ‘Chicks aren’t funny,’ and it makes me insane.”

Griffin is an advocate for many important causes, including LGBTQ rights, for which she organized a rally against Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell in 2010 in Washington, D.C. She also feels strongly about women’s rights and works to prove every day that women are just as funny as men. The only female presenter at the Mark Twain Awards last October, Griffin said she “got to walk out on stage and say, ‘I’m Kathy Griffin and I’m tonight’s diversity hire,’” she said.

Griffin speaks her mind and there is no doubt her show will do the same. “If you are, lets say, faint of heart; if you are someone who walks around all day with your Bible, this probably isn’t the show for you,” she said. “If you are someone who doesn’t like cursing and negativity, this is not the show for you. But if you’re in the mood to really hear me say the things that have fearlessly gotten me in trouble and fired for decades, this is your night!”

She explains that every show is different, since they are all improv.  “I’m going to bring a personal touch to the water cooler talk,” Griffin said.

Comedians like Chris Rock and Jerry Seinfeld avoid college shows because they are worried that politically incorrect humor might offend college students. Griffin is actually looking forward to seeing college students’ faces in the crowd. “I played a college last year where they put a sign [with] … a list of all the things that I might say that might trigger someone,” she said. “So let me just be clear, I want to trigger you!” She is going to say everything on ‘the list’ — and more.

“I’m so glad you guys are letting me be part of your homecoming weekend because years ago, my agent said touring is gonna go away,” she said. “Everybody is just on their phones and their devices. And yet you will see the level of vulgarity and inappropriateness that I bring to that stage will be something that you realize cannot ever be filled.”

Live entertainment is Griffin’s obsession. “I have been doing standup for a long time. I love it, it’s my favorite thing to do in the world,” Griffin said.

On Griffin’s Twitter account, she has been asking fans about the GOP (Grand Old Party) debate, something she is excited to talk about at her shows. “When you’ve got this political landscape happening, how can you not talk about it?” she asked, noting that she sees “any[one] from Ted Cruz to Donald Trump” as “fair game.”

She finds it funny when a person gets so offended that they leave the show. “I have to say I enjoy a moment when someone stands up, usually an older person, and just goes ‘screw you!’, and then they storm out,” she said. “What I find is audiences don’t mind a storm-out and neither do I. If a stand up comedian triggers you to do something that endangers you in any way, then I don’t know, bring a Xanax.”

Listen to the live radio interview here: