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Why So Serious, Kathy Griffin?

When does vomiting into an oxygen mask become funny? Just ask Kathy Griffin. Photo by Mike Ruiz.
When does vomiting into an oxygen mask become funny? Just ask Kathy Griffin. Photo by Mike Ruiz.

The last time I spoke with comedian and self-described D-lister Kathy Griffin, she chided me for not knowing the air dates of her avalanche of Bravo specials.

“What are you, a fucking sports writer?” she said during an interview for a 2011 Denver Post article. “It’s called IMDB.com. Look it up.”

And though my permanent scars from that verbal lashing have yet to heal — why, Kathy, whyyyyy???? — the fact is that Griffin is more prolific with her stand-up material and specials than most of her peers combined. Despite Bravo recently declining to renew her talk show “Kathy” for a third season, Griffin is as busy as ever with a host of projects, live shows and guest spots.

We caught up with the outspoken comic and LGBT activist via e-mail in advance of her Friday, May 10 show at Denver’s stately Buell Theatre.

After arguably the busiest release schedule of your career the last couple years, what are your big-picture plans for this year in terms of stand-up specials? How did releasing that many specials so close together go as an experiment? Did it dilute the market, or did your audience respond in kind?

First of all, the term “busiest release schedule” is something I would expect to hear from my prison fans. And let me tell you, they are loyal. More importantly, I love that you’ve even noticed that I’ve done so many stand-up specials because just days ago, I taped my 16th stand up special — more than any comic in history, male or female. It did not dilute the market, because of everything from the Lohans to the election. Unlike many comedians, who turn out a special every few years because they have finely-honed material that they have rehearsed over and over, I get much more joy from hitting the mic as quickly as I can.

Do you have plans to shop “Kathy” (or something like it) around after Bravo declined to renew it for a third season? Or do you see yourself potentially doing more co-hosting gigs now?

I am shopping myself around faster than the Teen Moms can make backdoor sex tapes. I’m a free agent for the first time in 10 years, and let me tell you, I’m LEANING IN as Sheryl Sandberg would say.

Some fans and critics have called for you and Anderson Cooper to have your own show. What are your thoughts on that?

Fans and critics?? How’s your internship going? Okay, I’m being a dick — I’m just teasing. I love working with Anderson, just don’t forget, I made him, I can break him, and he knows it. Why? Because when I have high tea with his mother, Gloria Vanderbilt, she spills. And I’m not talking about the tea.

Time for some standard “Why So Serious?” questions: when was the last time you laughed so hard you cried, and why?

Last time I went to the dentist, I got so much nitrous oxide that I barfed into my own oxygen mask. My boyfriend’s retelling of that story to me, clearly mixed with his own realistic fear that I may die choking on my own puke, just killed me. Wait, I don’t mean my own vomit really killed me, but seriously, you should hear him tell this story… it’s disgusting. At one point, apparently, I’m begging that he preserve my Chanel sweater more than my own life.

The last time we talked you said, “I like being a free agent and a jack of all trades.” What’s the latest thing (entertainment related or otherwise) that you tried for the first time and ended up really liking?

Look, even though Bravo chose not to continue with the “Kathy” talk show, I really enjoyed learning how to host a talk show, especially the format I chose, which was having three celebrities on the couch the whole time. Navigating conversations with combinations such as Eva Longoria, Kristin Chenoweth and Josh Groban was a blast. TIP: Groban is very moody and more than a little slutty. Just ask Celine.

What’s your favorite joke of the moment? (yours or someone else’s)

My late bestie, Judy Toll, had a line that sticks with me today from her act: “I finally went to therapy and found out what my problem is. Turns out, I think I’m a piece of shit… that the world revolves around.”

Do you have any superstitious rituals you engage in while touring or before going on stage? If so, how did they develop?

Oh boy, here we go. I have a Cobb Salad three hours prior to the performance. I have to stop peeing an hour before the performance, as I tend to do rather long shows. I don’t want to feel like I have to pee in
the middle of a show. If I’m doing two shows in one night, I have two tablespoons of peanut butter in between shows to have energy. And here’s the worst part — the music I use to get me psyched up and in the perfect mood to do the best show possible usually comes from a little group you may have heard of called the Backstreet Boys. Suck it, Denver!

What’s the worst thing you’ve ever felt bad laughing about? And yes, I do realize who I’m asking this question to.

I’ll answer the question, but I don’t feel bad about it — that’s between you and your God. I could watch children fall all day long. If I’m having a bad day in New York City, I will go to the skating rink at Rockefeller Center and just watch children fall. Rich children in small fur coats are especially hilarious.

When aliens crash land in the mossy ruins of Manhattan and discover the info-crystals with human history’s pop culture on them, how do you think you’ll be remembered? (i.e. What do you hope your legacy is?)

My legacy will not be unlike my beloved former President, Bill Clinton. At the end of the day, I hope to be known as a girl with a stain on her dress. And I hope I had a great time getting it.

People like to describe comedy with any number of tortured metaphors (killing or dying on stage, crushing and being crushing, etc.) What’s your favorite way to think of it?

Oh geez, you busted me. I admit, I use all of these clichés. I get pissed if I didn’t kill because a “crusher” slayed ‘em with his hackery. I know this sounds super douchy, but I’ve had innocent people ask me multiple times, “Kathy, how’d the big show at the Buell in Denver go tonight??” And I simply answered, “Standing O.”

John Wenzel is an A&E reporter and the comedy critic for The Denver Post. Follow him @johntwenzel and @beardsandgum.