Actress and funny lady Kathy Griffin is a two-time Emmy and Grammy winner who's broken the Guinness World record for the number of TV specials on any network by any comedian.
Raised in Oak Park, Illinois, she has become a hometown hero when, after studying with The Groundlings, she snapped up a supporting role on the NBC sitcom Suddenly Susan. Griffin broke into the reality circuit early on Bravo TV with Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List, for which she earned two Emmy Awards for Outstanding Reality Program.
She has written several books, including her latest, Kathy Griffin's Celebrity Run-Ins: My A-Z Index. Her Celebrity Run-In tour will bring her to Skokie on Saturday, Feb. 18.
Griffin also again hosted CNN's New Year's Eve special, which she has co-hosted with Anderson Cooper since 2007.
Windy City Times: Hi, Kathy. I saw you on New Year's. That looked like a blast.
Kathy Griffin: Hi, Jer. It was four-and-a-half hours of emotional Guantanamo Bay-level waterboarding. He's got it coming. I did it in a way for the not occasional, not sometimes, but the hundreds of gay men that have asked for me to get them a date with Anderson Cooper over the years! I tell them that I've never heard that before…
What you saw was me taking out my anger on my beloved Anderson when I wrapped him in foil like a white privileged burrito.
WCT: I just like to hear you make him laugh.
KG: Well, that takes a year of research and development that I start on Jan. 1. I have several clandestine conversations with his mother. She provides a lot of dirt.
WCT: Don Lemon was getting drunk and I know you don't drink, so I am sure that was fun to see.
KG: I very much enjoy watching anyone drunk. Don Lemon, in particular, is a very exciting drunk because sometimes he looks out of itlike when he was getting his ears piercedthen sometimes seems like a young Liza Minelli.
WCT: Is this a book tour or stand-up tour?
KG: It is stand-up. The book tour was last year, when I was doing every talk show known to man, except the ones I am banned from. I did some signings, then it was on to New Years. This is a tour to support the book; however, it is not material from the book.
I am very proud of myself after 23 specials, Emmys and Grammy for Best Comedy Album [that] I have all new material for this tour. The book is new stuff, too. One of the reasons I wrote the book is that it is very different from my act. My act is usually personal stories and sometimes observational. Chicago is the perfect city to talk about everything political. Oak Park is my hometown.
The book allowed me to write about celebrities that I only had a tiny experience with. Some of the experiences are not appropriate for my act. When Woody Allen turns to you and says, "Now I have to watch my friend Bill Cosby get railroaded," that is nothing you open with at the North Shore Center. That is more of a jaw-dropper moment.
I wrote about how I ended up being in the Eminem video. I told the story about being on the Billboard Music Awards, and talked Snoop Dogg into doing a makeout session with me because Garth Brooks and Ricky Martin wouldn't. I blame Ricky to this day because he had a secret. After I made out with Snoop, he told Dr. Dre I was funny. That led to me playing the nurse in "The Real Slim Shady" video, by Marshall Mathers [Eminem's real name]. That's how he introduced himself to me. He's a Midwesterner as well, but I find it fascinating that he still lives in Detroit in his mansion.
WCT: Were there things that didn't make it in the book that you are dying to talk about?
KG: Yes. I called it a heartbreaker when it didn't make it. What didn't make it were stories that the publisher didn't think people would know about. It doesn't matter if people know the celebrity what matters is that I had a crazy encounter with them. Frankly, if they are famous or not, it is still funny.
I got my mother to put on a wig and we did a promotion for the book where I was Bella Thorne and she was Reba McEntire. Now, Jerry, was she a little tipsy doing that? Yes she was. But, are you going to judge her at 96 years old?
KG: That's right, and neither am I.
WCT: I met your mother at the movie theater downtown.
KG: Really? Was she acting like a huge global celebrity?
WCT: I asked to take a picture with her and she was concerned how her hair looked. She was adorable.
KG: So, at 96, she thinks people love her for her hair? I tell her people love her for what comes out of her mouth. [Mimics her] "What did I say?" and I say, "Exactly."
WCT: Your brother was with her, and said that he can't even get a ticket to your show these days.
KG: He's so full of itbut that is totally something he would say. That is how my family shows love. We give each other shit. That is something I have carried onto my career.
I have no filter about giving anyone shit, including you. You are not exempt. I saw that throwback picture you posted on social media with the Hawaiian shirt. Is the guy you were with in the photo a top or a bottom?
KG: Interesting. Wowthat took three seconds.
WCT: Are you doing anything fun while in town?
KG: Since I am from there, I will probably have a Trump argument with one of my drunken relatives. I have a cousin that went on the Glenn Beck Tour. I didn't even know that existed.
Maybe one of my own relatives will storm out of my show. I don't feel like I have done my job until I get a walkout. Skokie is genteel. I have played that venue before, and they have smart audiences. They are theatrical audiences and not from the nightclub. It is worth the drive. Last time, my car spun out trying to get there. You never know what can happen in Illinois in February. Are you going to go?
WCT: Of course.
KG: Good. I have all new stuff. I don't know if you followed my Gram, as the kids call it on the sosh media, totes obvi. I went to Gloria Estefan's penthouse, where her daughter Emily, who is an incredibly talented singer/songwriter, is one of those millennials making a series of Instagrams where famous people knock her off a piano bench.
I told her I would do it. Then Gloria came into the room to sing "All That Jazz." She didn't know I was going to injure her daughter but I violently knocked her beloved daughter off the bar stool. Afterward, I had to send a gift basket to the Estefan mafia, I mean family.
WCT: That is a lawsuit waiting to happen.
KG: Lawsuit? That is not how they work. I sent them all a letter to let me know if I should say goodbye to my mother. Who knows what they could do? I could be holed up somewhere wrapped in leftover duct tape from the NOH8 Campaign!
WCT: I'm looking forward to seeing your show.
KG: We have so much to talk about when I come to the North Shore. I live literally next door to Kim and Kanye. I could wave out my window right now to them. My act is next door. People think they know my shtick but they don't. One time Kris Jenner walked into my boyfriend's closet and I asked her if it rang a bell. It took me telling the joke four times but she eventually laughed.
I am kicking off the tour this weekend. I am stoked about talking about Mariah's World and my personal theories about her after meeting a few times. When you have been around this long you have pretty much met everybody.
I will see you in scenic Skokie. Take note if someone storm's out but if no one does will you do it, Jerry?
WCT: I will, and throw things just to put on a big show.
KG: Just don't sound so gay. No one is going to buy that a smart gay guy stormed out. Just yell, "Make America great again" in a country accent!
Look for Kathy Griffin at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd. on Saturday, Feb. 18, with shows at 6 p.m and 9 p.m. Tickets and information can be found at NorthShoreCenter.org .