When an opportunity presents itself, you always go for the joke. That’s a certainty in Kathy Griffin’s world. Everything else is always in flux.
Case in point: Days after she moved into her new home, a visitor dropped by. “It turns out to be Kris Jenner, and she came with a bouquet of flowers,” Griffin said, referring to the Kardashian matriarch. It was a surprise visit but not really that unexpected - Griffin, after all, lives next door to Jenner’s daughter Kim Kardashian and her husband, Kanye West.
“I gave her a house tour, and we were in my boyfriend’s closet,” Griffin recounted. “I happen to temporarily store a lot of my long gowns in there, like gowns I’ve worn to the Emmys and stuff. We walk into a man’s closet and half of it are suits and half it are ballgowns. So naturally, I turned to Kris and said: ‘Does this look familiar?’
“I have to say, she took it on the chin. She was trapped in my home, but I’m sure she was looking for an exit. I couldn’t resist. Just couldn’t.”
Kathy Griffin: Like a Boss Tour
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 10
Where:California Center for the Arts, Escondido, 340 N. Escondido Blvd., Escondido
Phone: (800) 988-4253
Griffin isn’t someone who resists much, especially when it comes to her comedy. She tends to go with the flow - letting punch lines spill out of her mouth without much thought.
“If the moment is right,” she said, “I will go for it, and think about it later.”
It’s a cavalier approach that has served her well in her 36 years in the business.
“At every show, I do this thing where I call it ‘taking the audience’s temperature,’” she said. “So I go out there, and I usually can tell in the first few minutes what they’re into. Some audiences are into political humor, some audiences want to hear about my mom. Some audiences want to hear about any kind of work stuff I’ve been doing. ...
“I’m very malleable by my audiences. If they want a campaign of shock and awe, they’ll let me know they want a campaign of shock and awe - and they’ll get it,” she said. “Like when I did Minneapolis’ Orchestra Hall and kicked off Pride Fest. We’re in Orchestra Hall, a beautiful venue, and I’ve got 3,000 gay people in the audience. I’m certainly not going to hold back. So every venue is different, every audience is different. Yet I tend to openly try to push the envelope. I’m not politically correct in any way, so I often have words flying out of my mouth that maybe aren’t even appropriate anymore.”
D-lister no more
For someone who considers herself a D-lister, Griffin is hardly that anymore. She’s come a long way from her years as an improv comedian with The Groundlings and her supporting role on the NBC show “Suddenly Susan,” starring Brooke Shields. It’s been six years since the end of her Bravo reality show, “Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List,” which was on the air for five years and earned her two Emmy trophies for Outstanding Reality Program.
These days, she hobnobs with A-listers and lives in a $10.5-million, eight-bedroom mansion in Bel-Air. She’s got Anderson Cooper on speed dial and co-hosts a New Year’s Eve special with him every year (they’re set to do it again this year). She’s in the middle of an 80-city tour, and she just wrapped up a new book, “Kathy Griffin’s Celebrity Run-Ins,” out Nov. 22.
“I think I may have lost my mind - 80 cities in one year,” she said of the Like a Boss Tour she’s bringing to the California Center for the Arts, Escondido, on Saturday. “I didn’t think I could do it, but here we are. You’d think I’d run out of material by now, but there’s always Donald Trump stories. Oh, boy, do I have a lot of stories about The Donald.”
“There’s so much craziness going on in the world. I think I’m getting more fearless with my stand-up, although I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
Not a good idea because?
“Let’s just say I’m looking forward to forward-thinking Southern California. I am not at all making a judgment about when I did my show in Potawatomi, Wis. - the throbbing metropolis of Potawatomi. But I tell you, when you’re doing an 80-city tour, my friend, you are in fact seeing the real America. On this tour, I’ve played everywhere from Carnegie Hall to the Kennedy Center to Knoxville-adjacent. And that is what I love about touring - and there’s nothing like the live experience.
“But I’m gonna be honest, I go to some markets, and there’s a guy in the balcony and his wife brought him because his wife loves me and yet he can’t stop yelling, ‘Make America Great Again!’ And you know we’re gonna have to ask him to leave. And unlike Donald Trump, I’m not paying for anyone’s legal bills. Any legal bills I’m gonna pass on to my wealthy neighbors.”
Speaking of those wealthy neighbors, just how close does she live to Kim and Kanye?
“When I say ‘next door,’ I mean 15 feet next door,” Griffin said. “I haven’t been invited to a barbecue, but I very much like the idea of Kim Kardashian making homemade fried chicken - she was tweeting and Snapchatting photos of it. So maybe I can stand in my yard and smell some of the fumes as they waft over, but I probably won’t get invited anytime soon, although I’m just happy to go over there, roll around naked in a bed and be in the ‘Famous: Part 2' video.”
Kathleen Mary Griffin has been telling stories since she was a little girl in Oak Park, Ill. The daughter of first-generation Irish Americans, Griffin is the youngest of five children. She loved to talk - so much so that she would often visit their next-door neighbors, the Bowens, and regale them with stories about her family.
“I’ve been talking ever since,” Griffin, 55, said.
Does the urge to be funny ever go away?
“No. I have a stand-up comedy disorder. I cannot stop thinking about funny s---. Although I do wake up sometimes and go, ‘Oh God, do I have to be so offensive?’ That passes after about 40 seconds. And then I just say whatever makes people laugh. And so it’s pretty simple that way - if it makes people laugh, I keep going down that road. If it doesn’t make people laugh, I veer left or right.”
Whichever direction she takes, you can count on it offending someone. And therein lies the spark that ignites Griffin.
“I don’t feel like I’ve done my job unless I have one good healthy walkout,” she said, laughing. “I like it when someone storms out. Usually they leave in a huff. And sometimes the audience notices, sometimes they don’t. But I believe you should exercise your right to enjoy the show or storm out of the show or somewhere in between.”
Griffin offers no apologies.
“Let’s face it: I like to shake things up. I’m actually looking to cause what the kids call a ruckus. And that’s what makes me special.”