Kathy Griffin loves to talk. On her terms, anyway. Unlike many celebs (and despite her protestations to the contrary, she is indeed a celebrity), Griffin doesn’t wait around for questions. She enters a scheduled phone interview running, dictating the flow, and getting in her plugs, before abruptly saying a cheery toodle-oo 14 minutes later, leaving the interviewer speechless.
But that’s part of her endless charm. Her fans eat up her breezy, catty, glib monologues on pop culture. They’ve been tuning in for six seasons to her Bravo series, Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List, where they get a taste of her studied bitchiness, but she’ll tell you it’s her live shows where she really can let down her hair. A quick question about her reality-TV series and she’ll deflect to the most pressing promotion, her third visit to the River Rock Show Theatre, on Saturday (October 16) at 8 and 10:30 p.m.
“The show is going fine,” she says, ending that topic and moving on to the next. “The touring is better because, you know, that’s really where the fur flies. I have to give the disclaimer, though: even though it’s a casino, I do want to say leave the kids at home. Leave the kids in daycare or just leave them at a slot machine. There will be far too much swearing and negativity for anyone with a weak stomach to come to my shows.”
When she played here last year, Griffin brought her TV crew with her to film a segment with Lily Tomlin, who played the Rock the night before. And on her first trip to Richmond she was thrilled to meet Hollywood royalty Liza Minnelli. So she has a soft spot for the casino theatre.
“What’s great about the River Rock is it’s a combination of me, Canadian superstars, and legends,” she says. “And while I will never be a Canadian superstar, someday I can hope to be a legend. That’s, of course, my goal: to be the new Kris Kristofferson, but with dick jokes.”
Of course, her idea of Canadian and superstar don’t exactly jibe with reality. Griffin is always eager to throw in local references to ingratiate herself with the crowd, but was confused when it was pointed out that Air Supply and Helen Reddy were in fact Australian, not Canadian. “Oh,” she says. “Who’s a Canadian person I can make fun of?” Then she gets paranoid that all her references might be over our heads. Do we get Jersey Shore here? How about Fox News? Chuck E. Cheese’s?
But that’s Griffin the vapid performer, not Griffin the humanitarian. In real life, the 49-year-old comedian is an active and outspoken champion for gay rights. Following a rash of gay teen suicides, Griffin, in a serious turn, appeared on Larry King Live last week, saying: “Let’s cut the crap. The way we had trickle-down economics in the ’80s, this is trickle-down homophobia. I really want people to connect the dots, and that’s why I think there’s a connection between Prop 8, ”˜don’t ask, don’t tell,’ and now this string of teen suicides. It’s almost sanctioned to bully gay people and to treat them as second-class citizens.”
But on the phone, Griffin isn’t eager to draw attention away from her immediate concern, which is putting bums in seats.
“Don’t worry, the shows at River Rock will be offensive and inappropriate, as always,” she says. “It’s not like I’m doing shows about teen suicide. I’m just doing my side work about that.”
Does she prefer discussing weighty matters more than gossiping about show biz?
“I feel compelled to. It’s not like I like having to,” she says. “It’s just that when I’m doing interviews like this one I just have to be very, very clear. And my standup agents are always on me to say, ”˜Make sure people know that you might go on TV and help these various causes, but they shouldn’t think they’re going to a show where they’re going to hear about these serious topics. Make sure they know you’re just going to be offending people and telling dick jokes, as always.’ I believe that’s my best way to help the community. And by that I mean the Canadian community.”
Even before her work tackling the topic of homophobic bullying, Griffin has long appreciated her large gay following. It’s not as if she kowtows to the group, though. She derisively calls Ryan Seacrest a “she”, for example. So why do they love her?
“You’d have to ask them,” she says. “I don’t know. But I’ve certainly got many, many positive twats on my Twitter from members of the gay community regarding the Larry King appearance.”¦You know, I kind of feel like we’re there for each other. I don’t hold back whether it’s gay, straight, LGBT, or otherwise. I don’t hold back on calling Elizabeth Hasselbeck a moron, either.”
But contrary to many a rumour, Griffin herself isn’t a lesbian. “I’m not gay, although people think I’m gay. So I like to call myself gay-adjacent or gay-friendly,” she says. “But I do enjoy vaginal sex with a penis. I don’t know how much clearer I can be about that.”
And with that one last dick reference, she signs off.