Comedy boss-lady Kathy Griffin: On gay flaggers, Jenner pronouns and who she’d go trans for

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Any time you talk with Kathy Griffin, you know she’s going to be “on.” Her wit on the telephone is as quick and well-honed as in her standup routines. But during our most recent chat, it’s what Griffin was not being that stood out: Self-deprecating.

With the passing of comedy legend and mentor Joan Rivers and the retirements of David Letterman and Jon Stewart, the comedian — once best-known for her Emmy-winning reality TV show My Life on the D-List — has come to realize that she’s a A-lister now.  You might even say she’s behaving finally like the queen of comedy … or as she titled her new comedy tour (which hits Dallas Thursday), Like a Boss.

We chatted with Griffin before her concert about the things she likes to talk about most: Her gay fans, reality TV (and especially the Kardashian clan’s biggest star, Caitlyn — though she was still known by Bruce during our talk) and the divas she (and we) love.


QUEEN OF THE GAYS | Kathy Griffin returns to the Majestic on her brand-new comedy tour.

Last time we talked, you told me you were in the middle of filming for My Life on the D-List, and a few months later, when I was watching the episode you were filming, you said onscreen that you had to step away because you “have to do an interview for Dallas.” And I realized that was our call.  I put you on the map, Arnold! Me! I made you, and I can break you, dammit!

As of yesterday, your new tour was called In Trouble Again; suddenly this morning, you renamed it Like a Boss. Why the sudden change of heart?  I decided to change the title because, dammit, I earned it. I was like, you know what? I stand there alone on a stage, I have a New York Times No. 1 best seller, two Emmys, a Grammy — I’m half way to an EGOT, for fuck’s sake! — a wax museum figure and am still hitting the pavement 80 shows a year, doing Carnegie Hall … I’m not in trouble again — I’m the boss. If I could call it “Like a Boss, Motherfuckers,” I would.

You can call it that in our publication.  I know I can! That’s why I love your publication. I was looking [at] recently and saw the photo you ran from Grace & Frankie, and I sent an email to [Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin] last week to congratulate them on their success. I love the legends — they always give me materials — but are Fonda and Tomlin still delivering the hits?!?

David Letterman recently retired, and it occurred to me: He used to be the hip new guy and now he’s the stalwart senior fellow. Is that part of why you renamed your tour? Are you now not on the D-List, but rather the reigning queen of comedy?  Exactly! Not to toot my own horn — because of course, Arnold, you know I won’t do that — but nobody out there is doing what I do, and I don’t have Lorne Michael building me up or a network promoting me; I never had that relative that got me in the business or that big-time producer who discovered me. It’s just me, baby, alone with a microphone and no opening act going town to town. I am really proud of all that stuff.

We’re thrilled for you, which is why we’re excited you’re returning to town.  I’m so thrilled to be going back to the Majestic, a legendary theater I love performing at. Everything is going to be magical there. I’m even looking forward to when — not “if,” but “when” — someone storms out in a huff. Let me tell you, I know you folks in Dallas think you’re soooo progressive, but I have played every city in Texas and I guarantee you some elderly couple will have stumbled in expecting Blue Man Group or The Lion King and will grab their bibles and storm out. I had a great walk-out before my post-show Waffle House dining experience in Kentucky recently. The gentleman actually said out loud, “I can’t take one more minute of this!” Like my mother would say, “Last time I checked, this was still America,” though I always actually say, “Who’s checking with you, Mom?”

Speaking of your mother, how is she? She’s everybody’s favorite other mother.  That’s another reason why I named the tour Like a Boss — I get to boss her around. She’s just drinking and wreaking havoc in her retirement village. I think she’s banging some new guy — could be John Mayer, who knows. She has to have new tennis balls on her walker — that’s very important to a 95-year-old. She doesn’t know she’s 95, though — she’s still walking around and drinking and saying, “It’s 5 o’clock somewhere.” Every so often, I’ll catch her with the hard stuff, like whiskey, which I know comes as a shock to a Southerner like you.

Yeah, not so much.  But it’s hard — I have to drag her away from FoxNews and give her the speech that mom, it’s not news — it’s propaganda. They she’ll switch to Judge Judy … How can I put it in context? What Grindr is to a gay man, Judge Judy is to the elderly.

You’ve always had such a gay sensibility and embraced your gay fans …  I love talking with you because I have such a genuine connection to the [gay] audience. It’s like being a country music star: They never forget you because it’s a true two-way relationship. All I want to do is make you guys laugh. Bring on the gays!

Screen shot 2015-06-18 at 2.19.47 PMI guess by now you’ve seen it all, then, even in the gay community.  I continue [to learn from the gay community]. Recently I did not one, but two gay cruises. I thought I had seen everything, but as you add letters and numbers — LGBTQIA245 — I saw my first “flag-off:” I went to the pool area, and there are thongs and some straight-up nudity, then I see some competitive flagging — one who had a camo flag, cuz that would hide him, and there was a rainbow … And I started thinking: Now that Bruce Jenner is transitioning [we spoke before Bruce came out as Caitlyn], you think we can add flagging to the Olympics?

Oh, boy, we’re talking about Jenner now …   We are. I wish I had a nannycam so I could watch him 24/7. It really made me realize, we have been wasting our time with all those worthless Kardashians — Bruce is the one. Watching Bruce get her nails done … and yes I used the word “her.” But the sad part was watching Kim [on that show]. Kim, as if she is the embodiment of class, was going through [Caitlyn’s] clothing rack and saying “yes” and “no” to various leopard prints and such. The idea that they passed that on to Caitlyn— their fashion sense — pains me. At least she could look at their crappy clothes and say, “I’m better than that.” I’m hoping Bruce calls Rachel Zoe — I wouldn’t have any Kardashian deciding my wardrobe. Physician, heal thyself!

What if Bruce instilled them with his fashion sense?  First of all, it’s her, you gay bashing sonuvabitch! Second, that would be a tragedy if Bruce accidentally got her style from any one of those girls. I don’t know if Kylie is rebelling by making her lips one-third of her body. I mean, she is still 17 years old, but those lips are about 40.

Let me ask you a question: How do the Dallas gays feel about Tom Brady? Now that he’s a cheater, do you not care because he’s so hot?

I think Dallas gays are divided on that, but in general, I think the concensus is, being a cheater trumps his hotness.  Can I say, that’s very edgy of you, that there’s an actual division, but Texas is more of a sports state [than California]. The L.A. gays don’t give a shit [about DeflateGate] — they just want him to maintain that six-pack, though the second he gains 10 pounds, he’s out. He has to maintain a level of hotness or they’ll move on.

What about Tony Romo? How do you feel about him after he dumped Jessica Simpson?

We’re up and down on Romo, I think. When we do the Readers Voice Awards, Jason Witten usually wins as hottest local athlete.  That makes sense —he’s a tight end, and that gives Jason the edge. But Romo hurt your beloved Jessica Simpson. Whether she knows chicken from fish or not, I’m a fan. I don’t like the straight men who hurt our girls. I’m not talking to Nick Cannon and don’t even get me started on Justin Timberlake — I still blame him for Britney’s … let’s say … “issues.” But when [Romo] dumped Jessica, everyone was like, “Oh gosh, she lost her rich boyfriend.” But she’s a billionaire. I’m gonna break some news to you: I’m thinking of transitioning just so I could marry Jessica Simpson. If I do, I’m only going to be attracted to Jessica. Maybe Bruce can’t decide whether he’s attracted to men or women, but I will only be gay for Jessica.

Whether she’s attracted to men or women.  Touché.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition June 19, 2015.