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Interview: Kathy Griffin

Lauren LaBorde talks to the comic and star of My Life on the D-List

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Anyone who watches Bravo likely has caught one of comedian Kathy Griffin's many stand-up specials in between seemingly endless re-runs of The Real Housewives. Her most recent special — called Tired Hooker, in keeping with the absurd names of previous stand-up specials, such as Strong Black Woman — is a series of profanity-laced rants, during which she refers to Kim Kardashian's ex-husband as her "special needs boyfriend" and describes the heterosexual Hugh Jackman's one-man Broadway show as "gayer than a glory hole in (figure skater) Johnny Weir's bathhouse."

  But even if you've seen her perform on TV or live, the show Griffin brings to New Orleans Thursday will probably be rife with new material. That's partially because much of Griffin's acerbic act pulls from the constantly updating Hollywood gossip world, of which Griffin is both an observer and an enthusiastic participant.

  "Everything from the Lindsay Lohan Playboy cover, which was leaked — the irony of the word 'leaked' is not lost on me," Griffin says, discussing some of the topics she's been hitting on her current stand-up tour, "... the Kardashian fairy-tale 72-day marriage, as well as all the stuff going on with the Housewives, and just my various celebrity run-ins, which seem to happen a lot."

  While the type of comedy she specializes in necessitates attention to new material, it seems Griffin is always working. Bravo's Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List, the reality show starring Griffin and her constellation of family, publicists and celebrity friends, debuted in 2005 and recharged her career, which had been relatively quiet after her breakout role alongside Brooke Shields in the 1990s NBC sitcom Suddenly Susan. My Life on the D-List lead to numerous hosting gigs and TV appearances, a book and Broadway special (titled Official Book Club Selection and Kathy Griffin Wants a Tony, respectively), multiple Grammy nominations for her comedy albums and Emmy awards (she famously accepted by one by exclaiming "Suck it, Jesus!"). The fame from the Bravo series, which ended in 2010, is ironic, considering much of the show depicted Griffin and her team scrambling for publicity and suffering through comically low-end gigs in order for her to ascend in Hollywood entertainment circles.

  My Life on the D-List, which still airs in reruns on Bravo, stands in stark contrast to the type of histrionics-centric programming populating the network today.

  "It was a little bit of a different era over there — (Bravo) had just finished showing gritty, black-and-white independent movies. So they kind of let me do my show, which was a comedic-driven reality show as opposed to the Housewives franchise, which is more of a meltdown moments reality show. My mother never threw a table at somebody," Griffin says. "My show was me going to a million gigs, and going to Iraq (to entertain troops), me marching in a pro-gay marriage rally, me getting a Pap smear (in public, to raise awareness for women's health issues). It was a different type of thing — It wasn't like 'my life is falling apart.' It was really more of a sitcom masked as a reality show."

  While the show propelled her to the kind of recognition associated with the celebrities she skewers, Griffin hasn't abandoned her no-holds-barred style of comedy just because she might end up sitting next to Kim Kardashian at an awards banquet (as happened at the Hollywood Reporter's Women in Entertainment breakfast in December. She described Kardashian to Jimmy Kimmel as "super stupid"). Her change in status has instead given her some firsthand celebrity anecdotes to include in her act, even if that gets her in trouble from time to time.

  "As far as getting in trouble with celebrities, of course I do. But ... I just don't give a shit anymore," she says. "If it's something that's funny it's going to go in the act. That's the barometer — if it's true and it's funny it's going in. Celebrities try to avoid me as much as they can, and they should."

  She may be known for barbs lobbed at famous people, but first and foremost Griffin is a tireless pop culture savant, providing her signature perspective on the latest endeavors of celebrities from Oprah Winfrey to Ryan Seacrest — two of her favorite targets — and the tabloid fodder du jour. The ardently liberal Griffin, who is an advocate for LGBT causes, also tends to include some politics in her acts.

  "My (writing) process is I am constantly on the clock. I'm constantly living life and attending anything that will put me in the mix, or something that could be comedic," she says. "I'm a 24-hour news cycle junkie. I'm constantly reading the other newspapers — as in, US Weekly and In Touch Weekly. The Kathy Griffin research and development department never sleeps."

  And even though she appears on the red carpet and posts pictures with celebrities like the Foo Fighters' Dave Grohl and Gossip Girl heartthrob Chace Crawford on her Twitter, Griffin hasn't lost the ability to relate to her fans. My Life on the D-List may have made her more famous, but Griffin doesn't think of herself as an A-lister.

  "I'll always feel like an outsider looking in, but the nice thing is it gives me a unique perspective in that I'm kind of halfway in. I will always relate more to the audience than the subjects of my act. I always liken it to I'm allowed in the party, but I'm not in the super-secret celebrity VIP room — which, by the way, always seems to have a glass wall that I can see through," she says. "I do have a unique access to that world — I can go to the Grammys and the Emmys and everyone knows I'm going to be naming names and telling tales out of school. I'm kind of part of that world, but no, I'm never going to relate to Gwyneth Paltrow."

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