Kathy Griffin has met Donald Trump a bunch of times. Once, as a guest star on the current political front-runner's former reality show, The Apprentice. (“Trump called me and said, ‘They’re putting on a show and Liza Minnelli is the singer and will you be the host?’ And I was like, ‘Anything for Liza.’”)
They crossed paths again through her late friend Joan Rivers. (“She won The Apprentice [and] was having a fundraiser and she said, ‘Will you show up and come and buy an expensive handbag?’ And I said, ‘Of course,’ because I loved her and she was really truly one of my best pals and a mentor as well.”)
And, they bumped into each other yet another time as Griffin "was part of a toast, not a roast, to the great Larry King and I was seated next to the Donald all night and he’s ridiculous, he’s a tool. Also, once a week I like to tweet him because I think it’s hilarious that he’s such a bad sport that he actually tweets things like a 12-year-old Demi Lovato fan. Once a week, I like to see if he’ll just tweet me back and I’ll say something like, ‘You know, Donald, I doubt that you’re qualified to be President… but you can get my coffee,' and, one of these days, he’ll tweet me back and it’ll give me more fodder for my act.”
Her stories left us wondering: If this is what we're hearing over the phone, what can we expect from Griffin as she takes over Carnegie Hall during the New York Comedy Festival on November 12? Read on for a preview…
Kathy, thank you so much for giving me the time. I know how busy you are!
KATHY GRIFFIN: By busy, do you mean as in 80 cities in one year? It is fantastic and I’m super excited to be playing Carnegie Hall. I found out that I’m one of only five women stand-up comics to play Carnegie Hall just by myself.
Really? In the history of the venue?
KG: Yes, I looked it up.
Wow, look at that.
KG: I know, I’m very excited. And then, my beloved Anderson Cooper is going to throw my post-Carnegie Hall reception at Trattoria dell’Arte, across the street, and of course, in doing so, I will be trying to get anything I can out of him to use for CNN’s New Year’s Eve Live, where, this year, we’re doing four-and-a-half hours live on CNN. So I think everyone officially lost their minds.
I’ve actually seen you guys tape an episode of Anderson's former daytime talk show together.
KG: Oh, awesome! Yeah, I’ve known him for a long time and he’s the perfect foil for me, as well as being a genuinely talented and incredible newsman.
You guys really bounce off each other. Moving to a different topic: Let’s talk about women in comedy. You, Amy Schumer, Amy Poehler, and Tina Fey have propelled the industry forward for women… but it still seems like there’s something lacking there.
KG: Absolutely. It’s interesting, I actually did an interview with a gay journalist and he said something very frank and honest. He said, ‘There’s been so much progress in the LGBT community. Frankly, women are kind of like the minority now.’ You’re absolutely right. Look, I’ve been an activist in the LGBT community for decades. I’ve gone door to door and I’ve marched and protested and all this other stuff. I don’t just send out a tweet. I’m boots on the ground. But that’s really true and, when I talk to my female friends, it’s something that we need to learn from the LGBT community and other communities, which is women need to do a better job of sticking together. In stand-up comedy, forget about it.
What do you mean?
KG: In my experience, and this is just me, I love doing what I do. I love having two Emmys and a Grammy and a number-one selling book and I’m proud of my accomplishments but, I’m not going to lie, it’s a grind. It has been really, really tough, tough, tough every rung of the ladder and I’m so not at the top.
What I’ve learned is, playing Carnegie Hall is a dream. Playing 80 cities is fun. I write all my own stuff, I have no writers. I love it but, I’ll be honest, I have never been in a situation where I’ve had a Judd Apatow or Lorne Michaels or a big studio behind me or a big network behind me. I’ve kind of learned the hard way at 54 years old [that] you kind of need that. You need agency support, you need real network support, so I’m hoping that opportunity is still out there for me because I am not done. Not by a long stretch. I have nothing but ideas and energy. I am having the time of my life and yet I still realize [that] to get that big ad campaign, to get my next consistent television presence, which I’m looking forward to, it takes a team.
Speaking of writing your own stuff, how do you come up with all this material?
KG: What I pride myself and really enjoy is actually not repeating material so I do an insane amount of research and development for every single city and every market. Every city is different so I never get tired of my material because I truly change it up every single show. I mean, every single day either a pop star or a politician or my 95-year-old alcoholic mother or I am doing something crazy and insane that I love to talk about. I’m constantly watching 24-hour news, I’m reading actual newspapers and magazine. I know that’s old-fashioned. Honestly, I don’t know what I’m going to say until like two minutes before I get the microphone. I love to be open to anything that happened backstage, on the way there, what I had for lunch.
How do you stay energized while doing this much work and headlining this many shows?
KG: The way I stay energized is really old-fashioned and corny: I work out every day, I eat well. When you’re doing 80 cities, you’re kind of an athlete. I’m sort of constantly in training so I really do try to stay in shape and eat well and all that external stuff. Then, when I hit the stage, all bets are off. I say everything inappropriate, I have walkouts, and I love all of it.
Do you find the industry has changed since you first started?
KG: I’ll tell you, it goes in waves. Right now, we’re actually in a scary period, where things have become more politically correct than even in the ‘90s. So, one thing that I am just hell bent on defying is not being P.C. at all. And people get offended a lot easier now. Jerry Seinfeld wrote a piece about how he’s not going to play colleges anymore and Dave Chappelle said he’s not going to play colleges because young people are so offended so easily and they have trigger warnings and you’re not supposed to say this word and that word and I’m like, ‘That’s fine for heads of state and elected officials and your teachers and professors and law enforcement.’ Not comics. You don’t want stand-up comics to be holding back, that is the last bastion of people that should be doing and saying the wrong things. [...] I don’t think I should be trying to be funny and trying to get a belly laugh but also be cautious.
It’s sort of liberating to hear that and to actually watch you during your act. Like you said, everyone seems so uptight and devoted to this political correctness that they kind of came up with themselves… watching you is sort of like a breath of fresh air.
KG: When I see comedians that I feel are really just letting loose, I think its very emancipating and liberating to watch them because it’s fun to watch somebody just blow off some steam and it’s infectious. The audiences then start to feel [like] they’re more relaxed and I love doing it that way. Also, guess what? It’s the only way I know how to do it. I’m going to do my thing and the audience [is] either going to like it or not, but I take it show by show and they’re all different and they’re all fun and they’re all a challenge and, at the end, I go over my set and go, ‘Okay, what can I change for tomorrow?’ It’s a 24/7 thing. I live and love it.