Kathy Griffin has been taking her clothes off lately. A lot. On Late Night with David Letterman. On the cover of her new video. On New Year’s Eve in Times Square with Anderson Cooper. (Then she texted him naked photos of herself from his summer home while he was hosting the news on CNN.) A “D-lister” no more, the 51-year-old comedian has a prodigious work ethic. She cranked out four cable specials last year, performs her stand-up show approximatley100 times a year, hosts her own daytime television talk show — called Kathy, of course — and now it looks as though she’s got a club hit on her hands as the remixes of the Kathy theme song (which she sings herself, naturally) are moving up the Billboard dance chart — fast. She’s become a role model for aspiring female comedians by almost single-handedly convincing America that, yes, chicks can be funny, too. And when you talk to her, you get the feeling that after all she’s done, this redhead is just getting started.
VCReporter: I see you just released a new comedy video called Pants Off/Tired Hooker.
Kathy Griffin: Yes, as well as my Emmy-nominated show Kathy, you can get that on iTunes or buy the DVD if you’re old-timey. And Tired Hooker [was] in fact nominated for an Emmy this year, so I’ll be bringing up all the behind-the-scenes Emmy dirt and naming names and telling tales out of school in ways that I’m not supposed to.
I don’t think your fans would have it any other way. So who’s pissing you off right now?
Well, you know, I never met a Kardashian that I don’t like as a comedian.
Your current status with The View is difficult to nail down. Are you banned or unbanned at the moment?
Banned. I would say I’ve been banned and unbanned about a half a dozen times.
You really became a household name — in a stroke of delicious irony — when your Bravo comedy special The D-List became a huge hit. So I suppose you really can’t claim to be a D-lister anymore, can you?
No, I have a talk show. I have Emmys. I have Grammy nominations.
You have a lot of Emmys.
I have a dance hit!
I was going to ask you about that next.
This is where it gets fun. So, never to be bored, I thought, “What can I do between season one and season two of the Kathy show?”
Because taking some time off would be unthinkable for you, right?
Because I like to build a bridge and I don’t like to not work for even one second. So, one: I sing the theme to my talk show, which is really corny. And two, I’ve got Emilio Estefan and the Cuban mafia behind it to do a dance mix. And then their daughter Emily did another dance mix. And I now have a dance mix hit called “I Say It.”
And you have all these different versions!
There are seven versions, and apparently the kids like to have their glow sticks and their bath salts. They like to listen to a version of a song after a different version of the same song.
When you were 18, you convinced your parents to move to L.A. so you could be famous. Is that true?
Not to be famous, but I wanted to be an actress. They were thinking about retiring either in San Diego or Los Angeles.
So it wasn’t as though you browbeat your parents into moving to L.A. — even though you were already 18 — just so you had someone to do your laundry and keep the fridge stocked?
No, no, no. Not at all. I merely . . . steered them. There was some plotting. I’ll admit it. But they just honestly lived to play golf. All they wanted was a nice tomato soup and a public golf course. So I said, well, of course, whatever you want to do. You’re my mom and dad. You guys are paying the bills. But I think the golf courses are a little nicer in Los Angeles, and I think I could maybe go on auditions.
You are working, a lot. Didn’t you have four comedy specials on the TV this year?
Last year I did four in one year, which has never been done.
Do you worry about maybe being a little greedy with the four comedy specials in one year? Can’t you leave some for the other comics?
No, I think it’s because I’m a female comic. I have to jump higher and work harder.
You’ve changed a lot of minds about the viability of women in stand-up comedy.
When you have a landscape that is so saturated with everything from social media to a million cable channels, you can get comedy or drama from so many different sources. I find what I do is the one thing you really can’t change [and that’s] who you are. My comedy comes from my own embarrassing life first, and then my own take on celebrities, and I make it very personal. I don’t just talk about random celebrities. I talk about celebrities I have had a personal run-in with. I find that people really like having that mask ripped off.
You’re just telling stories up there, usually about someone from the Kardashian clan. And everybody likes a good celebrity gossipy tale.
But not everyone has actually met the person. Any comedian in Anytown, U.S.A., can say, “Doesn’t Celine Dion have a funny accent?” But when you come see me, I’m going to say, “Here’s what happened last time I ran into Celine Dion.”
I think it’s great. And it’s proved to be very entertaining.
Doing live stand-up is my favorite thing ever. I really love it. I’m on the road pretty much every weekend. There’s nothing like live entertainment. It is completely no-holds-barred. It is the last bastion of a censorship-free comedic environment. In the live shows I really can and do say things that I can’t even do in my specials.
OK, tell me how it works.
My process is, I’m always looking. Always looking for something that is comedically entertaining for the audience. So obviously, I’m watching everything political right now and I have a voracious appetite for that anyway. And maybe I don’t have to make it accessible. Maybe I’m just a big liberal and I can just do rants about it that are so over-the-top that even the conservatives won’t get mad at me because I’m just basically losing my mind on stage.
Good luck with that.
And at the same time we’re all looking at the political landscape, nobody can stop talking about Honey Boo Boo child.
Speaking of politics: Is it just me or is the Republican Party just getting more and more regressive, retarded and plain ol’ batshit crazy?
We are pretty much rolling back the clock. I think that’s been happening . . . a little bit with Reagan but definitely with Dubya, even more than his father. And now people are refighting the separation of church and state and they’re trying to rewrite the Constitution and teach creationism and all this stuff which is completely antithetical to what I grew up with. My mom and dad worked hard to send me to a school where education was paramount. I tease the nuns because they tried to make me a Catholic but it didn’t stick, but certainly not for one minute did those nuns try to teach me about creationism.
What do you do to relax? How do you chill out? What do you do in your spare time — if you ever actually allow yourself some spare time?
I actually work out a lot. I hang out with my friends a lot. Shoot the breeze. I love a dinner party. I love smart conversation. And then, I love really ridiculous television beyond control. I mean, I can watch TV 12 hours a day, no problem.
What are your favorites right now?
Everything from The Newsroom and Political Animals to Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, and everything inbetween. I watch all the news cycles and then I’ll watch everything from 24/7 Mayweather [vs. Cotto] to every single one of the Housewives franchises to Bridezillas to Boardwalk Empire. I like that stuff. I actually don’t watch a ton of comedy because when you do comedy you don’t really make fun of stuff that’s funny. In my act it’s a lot more likely that I’ll make fun of Honey Boo Boo child then make fun of 30 Rock. So I tend to watch more of meltdown reality and drama shows.
How much time do you spend on the show? Is it a full-time job when it’s on?
Well, the whole thing is full-time. It’s either the Kathy show or it’s prepping for one of the specials or it’s going on the road or it’s doing something crazy like a dance mix of the theme song from Kathy.
There’s also all the time you spend working on ideas that never happen, right?
Not with me. I’m not really in movies so I’m not somebody who auditions for movies or TV shows. It’s my own show or nothing!
So you’re not spending a lot of time pitching ideas to studios and stuff like that?
No. They come to me!
That’s what I’d call an “A-List” attitude, Ms. Griffin!
[Laughs] Thanks, Todd!
Kathy Griffin will perform at the Thousand Oaks Civic Arts Plaza on Friday, Feb. 1.Tickets are $69-$95, available through ticketmaster.com.