Griffin cuts celebrity down to size 


Steve Carr

Kathy Griffin
Hilbert Circle Theater (45 Monument Circle)
Friday, April 28
Tickets: $20 to $125; 317-639-4300.

Wise-cracking, reality television staple Kathy Griffin, the Chicago-reared red-head who found celebrity by biting the hand that feeds her, sprung from the same mid-’90s Los Angeles comedy scene that spawned Ben Stiller, Janeane Garofalo and Andy Dick. Griffin spends her stage time spilling the dirt on the rich and famous, but isn’t too proud to get plenty of mud on her own face in the process. Like an avenging super hero who uses her gossipy powers for good not evil, Griffin mocks Hollywood’s ne’er do wells with a queeny sass that cuts, but never too deep. It’s all in good fun after all. Recently, Griffin took a few minutes to give up the dish on losing a drinking contest to Dakota Fanning, the secret behind her dogs’ identities and why she’d never accept a dinner invite from Gwyneth Paltrow.

NUVO: Your dogs feature prominently in a lot of your TV appearances, but they never seem to have the same name twice. Are they using aliases?

Kathy Griffin: Yes, they are. My dogs have aliases. I am paranoid. If somebody ever tries to break in to my house, what if the dogs think they are their friends? So, they have showbiz names and real names.

NUVO: In your publicity stills you look like a 50s style crooner. Does that show up in your act? A little singing maybe? Some dancing?

KG: I have no other talents; I can’t even type very fast. It’s kind of like when I was temping, that was one of my day jobs, but I couldn’t answer the phones or anything so they would have me alphabetize things or put things in numerical order. My act is the same way, I can’t tell a joke to save my life. I don’t use props. I can’t sing, but I find that people like when I tell stories and expose the ridiculous side of celebrity so I stick with that.

NUVO: How did this current, celebrity-driven act evolve? This isn’t how you started out is it?

KG: No, but I have always done material about what was happening in my life. It used to be dating, “this guy dumped me” and everything. Then I started getting more work. I got on Suddenly Susan [a now defunct NBC sitcom] and started meeting famous people. I’d go on Hollywood Squares, go to an awards show, host an awards show. It was just what I was doing all the time. When I first started to do celebrity material I thought, “Oh I am going lose so many people because this is so specific,” but it didn’t work out that way.

NUVO: What do you think the appeal is? Why do fans connect with your stories so strongly?

KG: I am not mean spirited. In the same way that Jon Stewart makes fun of political culture but nobody thinks Jon is mean, I am the same way. I make fun of celebrity culture but I am also a fan. I mean, I make fun of the tabloids but I also read them. I am not making fun of the way people look, just the way they act. I think they have it coming.

NUVO: Do you ever get backlash from your act? Any celebs ever take offense?

KG: Constantly, but I don’t care. I don’t have any famous friends. I wouldn’t know what to do if I was going to have dinner with Gwyneth Paltrow. I don’t want to go out with somebody and their bodyguards.

NUVO: Wasn’t Steven Spielberg in a snit after you joked at last year’s Golden Globes that Dakota Fanning had just gotten out of rehab?

KG: Oh, absolutely. The whole time I kept thinking, “Steven Spielberg knows who I am!”

NUVO: If things got ugly, who would win in a fight between you and Dakota Fanning?

KG: She would kick my ass no questions asked. I would be in the corner cowering.

NUVO: What if it was a drinking contest?

KG: I have never had a drink in my life so again she would kill me. Now if it was a donut eating contest she would be mine.

NUVO: What reality show haven’t you done that you want to do?

KG: My favorite real show is Intervention on A&E but I don’t want to do it. I certainly wouldn’t want to do Survivor unless it was at the Four Seasons, you know, ‘How long can you last at the Four Seasons without room service’? I think America’s Next Top Model would be fun because at some point in every season they always have the girls read something [from a teleprompter] and they never can. One year they had them all read a script and none of them knew what stoic meant.

NUVO: Who makes you laugh? What comedians would you pay to see?

KG: I am a real fan of all comedy. I have no snobbery about it. I respect anybody who is out there making a living. I really like the people that I kind of came up with: Margaret Cho and Janeane Garofalo. I love Jon Stewart, but I am usually rooting for the ladies because it is still so sexist in comedy. I also like when somebody does something a little shocking or different. I am looking for somebody who is going to get in trouble every now and then. Howard Stern. I know he’s not officially a comic, but I think he is hilarious.

NUVO: You were born in Illinois. Do your Midwestern roots still show through or have you bleached them out for Hollywood?

KG: I have Midwestern common sense. It’s funny, I have lived in Los Angeles since I was 19 but I still think of myself as a Chicagoan.

NUVO: Been to Indy before?

KG: Never been to Indy before.

NUVO: You know this is bad timing? You missed the Final Four and you are too early for the 500.

KG: Oh, look, the gay guys who are going to come see won’t care about that. You know, my most difficult demographic is always middle-aged heterosexual white men. They don’t care that Gwyneth Paltrow named her daughter Apple, but I do.

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