Comedian Kathy Griffin has had a big month. Two weeks ago, after an episode of her show My Life on the D-List aired with a joke about the daughters of Massachusetts senator Scott Brown being prostitutes (a joke that was aired with a disclaimer), she received blowback from Brown himself, and from View co-host Elisabeth Hasselbeck, who called her “scum” during the chatfest. Then, reacting to the same episode (in which Griffin went to Washington, D.C., to lobby for the repeal of don’t ask, don’t tell), Congressman Barney Frank insinuated to the New York Times that when Griffin and her camera crew visited his offices, she may have been popping pills. And that, of course, was before she had to bear the news that her reality-TV ex-boyfriend Levi Johnston was engaged to his baby mama, Bristol Palin. Naturally, we got Kathy on the phone to hash all this out.
Kathy is in New York to appear on Jimmy Fallon’s Late Night tonight, and to do a reading of her book Official Book Club Selection at the Borders in Columbus Circle at 7 p.m. (She tells us that in the new paperback edition she “talks shit about the people” she was “too nice to in the hardcover version.”)
It was amazing to me on The View when they showed that clip from your show where you joked that Scott Brown’s daughters were prostitutes, they didn’t reference his victory speech where he joked that they were available, and people criticized him for pimping them out.
Not only that, they cut the disclaimer, which I did in my own voice! First of all, duh, obviously his daughters aren’t prostitutes. But it’s funny to me that they attacked my Washington episode, where I really am trying to do my little part — and I only know how to do it one way, which is through humor, and usually offensive humor. And sure enough — no one’s referencing the genesis of the joke! Also, by the way, they’re not Sasha and Malia, they’re like 18 and 22!
Let’s talk about Elisabeth Hasselbeck, shall we? Last time you were on the show it was pretty awkward. I mean, awkward in a way you seemed to enjoy.
The first time I was on and I told her to bring it, I thought it was shocking that she had nothing. I thought: “Oh, I think I get this game.” My show is called My Life on the D-List. I would say she’s one click away from being the D-List Ann Coulter. My guess is that that’s who she aspires to be. I mean, I take her criticism very seriously when she calls me scum. I take it as seriously as I do with any other Survivor contestant.
What was interesting to me is that one time I was co-hosting The View and there was this couple on, and I don’t know if you remember this documentary Mad Love, it’s the true story of this New York couple.
Crazy Love! Thank you. I’m referencing a very lighthearted Drew Barrymore movie with Chris O’Donnell. Anyway, did you see it? The dude throws battery acid at his wife’s face, he goes to prison for it. Later on he gets out of prison. This poor woman is so convinced no one else will love her. He takes her back. It’s the saddest thing you’ve ever seen. As a human being we all relate to that moment of, “Maybe no one else will love me.” [Backstage in the green room] the husband was joking about it. And I turned to Joy, and said, “I don’t think I can do this. I don’t think I know how to talk to somebody like this.” Joy Behar said, and this is true, “Hey, that’s the gig.”
But what I find is the interesting part is that Elizabeth had no problem with them! She didn’t call him scum! But I’m scum because I went to Washington, D.C., I got an award from HRC, and unlike Portia di Rossi who showed up in a pretty dress, I actually got on a plane and took my TV crew there. I held a rally at Freedom Plaza that I tried to organize in my little low-grade fashion with the HRC. Then a series of events happened with Lieutenant Dan Choi, etc., and I got some press. I had meetings on the Hill, many of them off-camera, and had run-ins with Saxby Chambliss and Michelle Bachman [Ed: Watch Kathy talk about this hilarious run-in here] and Lindsey Graham. And tried to learn as much as I could about how things work.
My experiences on the Hill were many and varied. So it was interesting and humorous and kind of delightful to me that Hasselbeck would pick this to go after — and by the way, you noticed she didn’t have the balls to ask the president why he isn’t moving faster on don’t ask, don’t tell, and yet she asked me if I was happy with the White House’s response to don’t ask, don’t tell, like I fucking work there. Did she watch an episode of the West Wing and think I was Allison Janney? Look, I get it’s a show called The View, it’s about different viewpoints — I don’t mind hearing from conservatives. But is she really the best they have to offer?
I think about that all the time.
I mean, give me George Will any day. He actually knows what he’s talking about and he has better legs. But what’s so great about someone like Hasselbeck, is with these quasi-celebrities or whatever you want to call them, they don’t understand they’re just writing my next special for me. It’s heaven! And then when Scott Brown issued a statement against me — you can’t buy that!
What I didn’t understand was, and you could even see it on the episode: Barney Frank didn’t seem to be charmed by you. As a gay man! What happened there?
My D.C. insider friends warned me: He’s really just a cantankerous old dude. When I went in there, I lost respect for two people. Scott Brown I had no respect for anyway because I had dinner with him and he was a dumbass. But I had respect for John McCain because of his military history. I never agreed with him politically, but after going to the Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, I lost respect for him. I thought he was so disrespectful to the brave men and women who had been kicked out not for outing themselves, but because of rumors. That he blew his nose and hemmed and hawed and left early and rolled his eyes. That actually blew my mind, because, you know, at least sit there and listen.
The other one was Barney Frank. I think he’s one of those guys who thinks he has a dry sense of humor. He made a point, which all insecure people do, of telling me over and over that he didn’t know who I was. We shot with him for twenty minutes, and cut it down to probably two minutes. It was a lot of him saying, “I don’t want to do this,” “My boyfriend loves you,” “He talked me into it,” “You should come to PTown.” I was like, “I get it, you don’t know who I am, I don’t expect you to know who I am. I make a joke of people like you not knowing who I am. However, I actually have a few questions. I am actually here to learn. Help me out.”
He gave me some good information. I learned some things. I certainly learned about his boyfriend and his job in PTown. That’s all de rigueur for me, that’s fine. But then when he supported Scott Brown’s statement against me, my heart kind of sank. Because I thought — if he thinks Scott Brown is going to support the repeal of don’t ask, don’t tell, you are high.
Then he got catty in interviews with legit places like the New York Times. This was so funny to me because I just live for rumors like this: They asked him some kind of a pun like her popping pills, and he said: “Perhaps she was.” You know my dream is to get a mug shot like Lindsay Lohan, or to have some sort of Paula Abdul–esque rumors about me being on drugs, or to have a Britney Spears 5150 where I’m on the gurney moment. So to have a congressman suggest that I’m popping pills — I mean, is he kidding me? That is a dream come true. But I’m afraid that the only things being popped in that office were Barney Frank’s dentures.
Okay, talk to me about Levi Johnston and Bristol Palin’s engagement.
Well of course I take full responsibility. Here’s the thing: Once you have a fly girl like me, you’re desperate and you’ll do anything to get over me. The lengths that my poor Levi had to go to try to get over me are quite staggering. Bristol and I may have to have some sort of Waiting to Exhale moment, where we’re both Angela Bassett. Or, frankly I’d prefer that she was Angela Bassett and I of course got to be Whitney Houston. Maybe we can set his clothing on fire in Wasilla. We are now forever connected. I guess if Levi comes back to me I will take him back, because who knows, I could still be, through Sarah Palin — also an endless source of material for me — one click away from living in the White House. So get ready, Barney Frank and Scott Brown. I just might be in the Oval Office if I play my cards right!
Did you read about the girl who might have been pregnant with his baby? Her name was Lanesia — that was my favorite part about the whole story.
First of all, that’s going to be my new stage name. So you can call me Lanesia Griffin. I am so bitter and angry that it didn’t accidentally get out there that I’m the girl that’s pregnant. Believe me, if I only have one career regret it’s that — what is it, Letizia?
Lanesia got there before I did. And by the way, just so you know, I think I feel a little bit of kicking myself. So don’t discount the notion that I could have a couple of eggs left. And I could do an episode of I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant.
And finally: Lindsay Lohan.
Listen to me: We have got to start maybe one of those Facebook pages that got Betty White to host SNL. She needs to be under house arrest at my home. Because my mother, who is probably not the best sponsor, as she drinks a box of wine a day (read her book, Tip It! about life viewed through the prism of a box of wine!) … However, my mom will whip her into shape in a way that Dina never could. I will keep an eye on her, and by “keep an eye on her,” I mean, “I will take her out to parties as much as possible.” I will share her SCRAM bracelet, because nothing could make me happier than being photographed in front of Scott Brown’s office in a bikini and a SCRAM bracelet, but you know what, a girl can only dream.
I watched the Joan Rivers documentary and I was amazed by her filing cabinet with jokes. Do you have anything like that?
Mine’s more ghetto. When I saw her filing cabinets, I thought, “Ooh, that’s a good system.” Mine is — this is so pathetic. Mine is these little notebooks that you would get at CVS. Sometimes I keep them and sometimes I lose them. Because I’m like an anti-hoarder. You know that show Hoarders? I’ve actually thrown out my birth certificate because I’m so determined to not be a hoarder.
Joan writes jokes. I write what’s called bullet points. Like, I’ll literally just write down “Lindsay Lohan” and then I’ll do fifteen minutes. I don’t do jokes. I just want to also say in my own defense, regarding the Barney Frank and the “scum” and the calling kids prostitutes. As my pal Howard Stern very wisely said, when you’re in the volume business — when you do the amount of material that I do, you think I can keep track of the shit I’ve said about people? When these celebrities confront me and say, “Did you say this about me?” You know what my answer is? “Probably. I don’t remember. It sounds like something I would say.” Do I apologize? Never.