Kathy Griffin, pumped up for crazy business5/11/2016
Over the phone, Kathy Griffin comes on like gangbusters.
The call is just one in a long day of interviews — Griffin’s comedy tour is hitting 80 cities — but the machine-gun energy is the same as onstage. She sounds as if she’s waving her arms around, her red hair flying.
Without missing a beat, she changes key, sounding thoughtful.
“A woman in this business has got to go hard. Even these days, if we want to keep working, we’ve got to jump higher and look better,” she points out.
But then, at the mention of her looks, Griffin gets goofy again. She claims she’s got a “bikini-buff body” and announces, unasked, that her boyfriend is 20 years younger than she.
“And don’t you judge me!” she cries. “That’s what I tell all the women who come to my shows — don’t you dare judge me!”
Doing standup still gets Griffin pumped. By now she could cut back on touring, with Emmies for both her cable specials and her reality show, “My Life on the D-List,” as well as her Grammy-winning CDs, not to mention her books, her acting and her voice work for “The Simpsons” and other shows. But the title of the current show says it all: “Like a Boss!”
Every night, she says, “is another challenge, on the fly.”
She counts on those challenges.
“In Des Moines,” she claimed, “I might start with something about old Chuck Grassley.”
To be sure, Griffin hits the stage prepared. She writes her own material and did her first acting as a kid in Chicago, appearing in a White Sox commercial. In Los Angeles in the 1980s, she caught on with the comedy troupe The Groundlings. Such a long career, in so many branches of entertainment (she’s not actually on the D-List) has left Griffin with juicy stories.
The subject of Sean Penn, for instance, often comes up, and she promises to “dish” about Donald Trump. “I’ve known that guy for 20 years,” she points out.
Her favorite target, though, is probably the Kardashians. That includes Caitlyn Jenner, though she comes in for more gentle ribbing, since gay and transgender rights matter to Griffin. Her outspoken progressive views, in fact, are part of what prompts this latest tour.
“The country seems so divided just now,” she explains. “But when I visit the red states, I see different. I pull in every LGBT person for hundreds of miles.”
Still, what gets her motor running remains the thrill of handling things on the spur of the moment. When Griffin heard what happened to Wanda Sykes at Hoyt Sherman — a bat got in, circling the stage — she shrieked, “I love it!”
Laughing, she responded with a story of her own about a time she was attacked by birds while working outdoors.
“That’s what this crazy business of standup improv is all about,” she says. “Any night, you could get something for the bucket list.”
Overheard in the Lobby: Next year’s Playhouse season starts with the classic “West Side Story.” CV
John Domini is a published local author who has lived on both coasts and abroad and enjoyed theater everywhere. See www.johndomini.com.