Bad news for Oprah, good news for the rest of us: Kathy Griffin is just as funny as ever. Tonight Bravo will air her record-breaking 16th stand-up comedy special, Calm Down Gurrl. In the new special, Griffin brings her signature shock-and-dish style to everything from the Justins (Timberlake and Bieber) to Amanda Bynes and Jodi Arias. “[My fans] don’t expect to hear some pensive, thoughtful bit about me raising my kids and what I’ve learned as a mother having teenagers,” Griffin said with a laugh. “They know I don’t like children! I want to figure out where Amanda [Bynes] gets her wigs.”
Griffin may not be able to crack the wig mystery, but even without that intel her new special is sure to delight fans wondering what exactly goes down at Jane Fonda’s birthday party. Griffin spoke with EW last week about women in stand up and drawing the line about who makes the act. She even looked back on some of her biggest moments and backlashes (Paging the Tea Party!). Read on for an edited Q&A.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Congratulations, first of all, on your record 16 stand-up specials.
KATHY GRIFFIN: I was so excited to learn from somebody that I had broken a record because I was doing [another interview] and we were talking about females in stand up and [they were] wondering ‘Is there sexism?’ and I was like, ‘F*** yes. What are you f***ing thinking?’ If I hear one more female stand-up comedian say, ‘Oh no, everything is equal now, we’re all good!’ usually the people who say that have 20 million dollar development deals or something.
So I am very sort of proud of this [accomplishment], not any diss to the late great George Carlin [who previously held the record] of course, but I just feel like when I say to people that I truly feel as a woman in stand up you just have to be more prolific, you have to work harder and jump higher — I definitely don’t make the same money the boys make, and there’s a lot of [imitating a guy’s voice] ‘Oh, hey, that’s speculation.’ And I feel like this is kind of a concrete way to say, ‘Oh no. I had to do 16 stand-up comedy specials while everyone else was talking about some guy who does one every five years like he’s the second coming.’ The good news is I love doing them. I just can’t hit the mic enough….I’m proud of it, but also I think that it frankly illustrates in a very black-and-white form that I am living proof a woman just has to work harder and do more.
Do you recall a specific moment where you realized your humor was particularly well-suited to these types of specials?
Yes, because number one, I remember the first time I did a special for Bravo. Because first my specials were for HBO and then Comedy Central, although Comedy Central doesn’t even do female comedy any more, except Amy Schumer. Comedy Central is an entire network that doesn’t have any women on it except Amy! And before Amy it was only Sarah Silverman and then they canceled her show! So I’m very frustrated by that because as a comedy fan, I want to turn on the channel Comedy Central and see 50/50, and mostly I just want to see stuff that’s funny. …I’m very proud I was able to honestly convince Bravo that they could do stand-up comedy specials. But the first time I did one for Bravo [in 2004], they had no concept of timing. So the first one I think I recorded and then they didn’t put it on for something like six months!
And the moment’s gone!
Yeah! The whole nature of my act is I very much enjoy talking about something that happened on the way to the f***ing show. So I want to talk about things that happened that day, that week. So yeah I might throw in kind of an evergreen story. In this [special] I have a few stories about my family, but I also really like talking about the very latest Amanda Bynes photo, not just the one [from] a month ago.
I want to ask about Amanda [whom you talk about in the new special]. Where do you draw the line about making fun of someone who is in the public eye but also legitimately may not be OK?
Well, my first rule is their behavior….What’s funny is Amanda Bynes’ tweets are all, ‘You’re ugly!’ I actually don’t do that. If I’m going to make fun of someone, I don’t walk on stage and say, ‘So and so, you’re ugly.’ However, I will comment on their behavior…I will say when it comes to Amanda Bynes that really is a unique situation. So what I’m commenting on about her right now is her tweets back to people are so vicious, they kind of define a bullying tweet. I’m not going to make fun of the fact that she seems to be legitimately troubled. I’m making fun of her tweets about Rihanna. The reason they are comical to me is Rihanna has so many millions of fans and she loves her thug love; She’s got those thug life tattoos on her hand. So personally, I would not want to tussle with Team Rihanna. I think it’s amusing that Amanda Bynes, with her shaved head, would want to. By the way, why is it when b****es go crazy they shave their head? They don’t like hair. Have you noticed that?
It’s always the moment when I know things aren’t OK.
Britney: BOOM. I’m going through a phase. Amanda Bynes: Crazy phase; I don’t want my hair. Miley: shave it. It’s just so funny. I’m not a physician, but I’m just going to say that might be one of the symptoms that it’s time for an intervention. That’s my new thing that I find amusing: Crazy people that don’t like hair. They like extensions, or wigs. But they do not like their own hair.
So what does this mean for Justin Bieber? Is he going to shave his head soon?
Justin Bieber probably has a electric shaver buzzing right now on his bathroom sink. He’s very close to shaving his head while on a segway smoking pot flipping off [everyone]. So I’m not going to go out [onstage] and say Justin Bieber is a horrible singer. Because he’s not, I think he’s a great singer. I’m not going to go out there and say he’s a joke. Because he’s not. He’s going to play Staples Center. But I do think it’s hilarious that with all of his money he can’t seem to buy a pair of pants that fit. His pants are not appropriate for anywhere. I think he thought they would take off like a trend, like the weird drop crotch. …It’s very much MC Hammer except skinny around the calf. I know a modified MC Hammer pant when I see one.
NEXT: Griffin talks biggest backlash, Jerry Seinfeld and Ryan Seacrest
Looking back over your specials, what story has gotten the most flack?
Oh, ‘Suck it Jesus, this award is my God now!’ [at the 2007 Emmys]…Doesn’t it crack you up about how much people flip out about the most obvious, ridiculous joke ever?…I, to this day, somebody will send me an essay or a tweet about that. It happened in 2007! It’s funny, I just got flooded with some tweets last night from the conservatives, and they are still upset about that. Number one, they don’t get that it’s really a parody of every bad acceptance speech but also, whatever. It’s funny to me that as recently as last night I get the Tea Party right wing uber, uber religious – they aren’t like, ‘Hey, that offended me. Were you kidding?’ They’re like, ‘you dirty whore ugly disgusting.’ It’s kind of like Amanda Bynes is tweeting me, quite frankly. So my experience with the Tea Party extreme right wing is they are kind of all from the Amanda Bynes School of Revenge Tweeting.
Who has been your best celebrity friend that you’ve made after making fun of them?
Cher or Jerry Seinfeld. And by the way, Seinfeld is still in a class of his own. Not only was he the first one to get the joke, but he actually enjoyed being in the act. I think no one had really talked s— about him at the time because he’s a national treasure. He doesn’t ever get involved in anything controversial, he just kind of does his thing, and he not only enjoyed it, but he actually thought it was funny. At the tapings for Seinfeld they would actually play the clip from my HBO special when I was talking smack about Jerry; It would warm up the audience. And then they would play a clip of when I went on Conan, and Jerry sent me a letter and I read the letter on Conan and it was really funny and really scathing. So I heard back, ‘That part of your special, Jerry is now playing it to warm up the audiences every week.’ Now unfortunately, I was then lulled into thinking all celebrities will find me delightful, and it’ll be like the Don Rickles syndrome where celebrities are going to want to be in the act. That has not really turned out to be the case [laughs]. 90% of celebrities don’t necessarily find it amusing but that doesn’t stop me.
Speaking of celebrities who aren’t amused, how is your relationship with Ryan Seacrest these days?
My relationship with Ryan is embarrassingly good. I actually haven’t talked to him in a few months. It started out very rocky but I think the thing about Ryan Seacrest is, and this is what Oprah doesn’t get, because Ryan is now almost Oprah-rich, I think Ryan realized, ‘This girl can make fun of me all she wants, it’s just not going to touch me.’ In a way he’s my favorite sort of subject because when you poke fun at someone like Ryan Seacrest or Taylor Swift or Oprah they’re kind of untouchable. Someone can make fun of Taylor Swift all day long; she’s still winning, still selling more records and winning more Billboard Awards than anybody. So I will say I’m more likely to go after somebody like that, because I’m not in the business of ruining careers; I never have [been].
What’s next for you?
Continuing to tour [and] I have one more special on Bravo this year. After that, I really don’t know. I may consider doing more specials on Bravo. I am touring, like I said, that’s always number one….When I did My Life On The D List and the Kathy show, I was still able to go out and do dates and specials, and that’s really what I enjoy. …Now, I kind of only want to do stuff where I can be as funny as I can possibly be, or, as my agents would say, 100% Kathy. That’s what I’m being told by people who come to my live shows, people that watch me on TV, social networks, etc. People aren’t interested in me being middle of the road, or frankly, holding back.
Kathy Griffin’s stand-up special Calm Down Gurrl airs on Bravo tonight at 10:30 p.m. ET.