Kathy Griffin made headlines in March for quitting Fashion Police in a viral tweet, citing the show’s intolerance toward difference and its obsession with perfectionism. Now, the comedian—and LGBT rights activist—is getting ready for a June 20 show at the Kennedy Center, where she’s presenting a brand new act. Washingtonian chatted with Griffin about Caitlyn Jenner, aging in Hollywood, and her battle against DC summer frizz.
You’ve tweeted a lot about Caitlyn Jenner in the last few days. What does her transition—and the overwhelming support she’s received—say about acceptance in Hollywood?
What she’s doing is such a great statement against ageism. I loved when she tweeted last night, “And at 65? Who’da thought!” I love that. I love this new movement. Look, I’m 54 years old. I’ve got Hollywood telling me I’m too old for this and that. Fuck them. I’ve debunked every stereotype there’s ever been.
That’s why I feel in tune with the LGBTQIA2 community. It’s all about debunking stereotypes. And I think what’s equally important is that Caitlyn is Caitlyn, but Caitlyn is doing this at 65. Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs. I’m still on my feet doing 80 shows a year at 54, even though my boyfriend is 36. And I do not want to hear any judgement from you. That is what it is all about.
You’re known for supporting marginalized groups. Is it difficult to balance activism and comedy?
You have to find the comedy in everything. I’m going to tell you something really corny, but it’s true, and I swear I can back it up with a photo. I got to meet the Prince of Wales with my dear departed friend, Joan Rivers. She let me go to London with her, and we had two dinners with Charles and Camilla. And I was, of course, very nervous, and Joan was actually quite close with them, and so they were very comfortable around her. And Prince Charles freaking said to me—because Joan said, “This is my friend Kathy Griffin. She’s an American comedian. She’s very outrageous but she’s very funny.”—and freaking Charles said to me, Chuck as I call him, he said, “Well, who would keep us honest if it wasn’t for newspapers and comics?”
I really believe in that. I really believe that standup comedy is a legitimate art form, and I believe that it has a purpose, and the purpose is to get us through things. The purpose is to make us laugh. Sometimes it’s a silly, shallow observation about a celebrity that I’ve had a run-in with, and sometimes it’s a fun take on difficult situations.
I had a dear, dear friend in the end stages of cancer say to me from her hospital bed, “Make fun of me.” And I said, “What?” and she said, “You know what I mean.” And I knew exactly what she meant. She meant, “Make a joke. Make fun of me. Make me feel like this isn’t happening.” And that’s what I do. Whether it’s the Duggars, or Caitlyn, or my 95-year-old alcoholic mom and her box of wine. I’ve got to find the funny in everything.
And by the way, my mother is probably the one that tests me the most, because she thinks that Fox News is real, and she also thinks Judge Judy is on the Supreme Court.
DC sometimes gets a bad rep for being a stodgy town. What’s your take on Washington?
I can’t get enough of it. I’ll say, and this is a little shallow. I’ll admit it. I’ve testified for LGBT rights and equality and veteran’s rights… and all that stuff is important. I only have one criticism of our nation’s capital, and I’m not proud. I’m not saying it’s the greatest statement in my body of work, but it does make my hair frizz. Put that on your damn front page of the Washingtonian.
Twitter is flooded with food pictures from your tour. Are you looking forward to eating anything in particular in DC?
I’m a creature of habit, so I’ll be going to Old Ebbitt Grill, and I’ll be getting the crab cake sandwich. And then I’ll have to eat, after that, a very large salad because if you’re going to Old Ebbitt and getting a crab cake sandwich, you don’t want to go to the Kennedy Center an hour later. That’s a commitment to bread and fried food.
What can audience members expect at your show?
I don’t know if you can put this in your paper without fact-checking it, but I’m actually giving myself the Kennedy Center Honors that night, even though they don’t really know about it. I believe I’ve been wrongly overlooked for the Kennedy Center Honors. And ironically, even though I have two Emmys, my specials have classically and infamously always lost at the Kennedy Center Honors.
It’s very important to me that people know, after 23 standup comedy specials, after touring all these years—and this is what I share with Caitlyn [Jenner]—if you think you know me, you don’t. I have all new material. I’ve actually named the tour, because I didn’t want anyone in DC to think “Oh, I saw her three years ago,” or even “I saw her ten years ago. Oh, I know that shtick.” No, no, no—it’s all new.
There’s so much to talk about. We can talk about the possibility of president Lindsey Graham. This stuff… I don’t want to say it writes itself. I’m just saying, as a woman who writes all her own material—and I say that because a lot of comics don’t even write their own fucking act—I live for all of it. I live for the insanely overcrowded Republican side of the presidential race. I’m ready for Hillary, and I’m ready for Elizabeth Warren, a girl can dream. My dream is the Hillary-Elizabeth ticket. I know I’m not going to get that dream, but after seeing Caitlyn on the cover of Vanity Fair, a girl can dream.
It’s such an exciting time to being doing stand up. All audiences are different, but the Kennedy Center audiences, they’re special and they know it, because they’re notoriously bright. They’re up on everything. The DC audiences: They’re smart. They’re political. My mother might use the term high-and-mighty. Yet everyone loves a guilty pleasure. They’re all going to want to hear me take down Josh Duggar, and by the way I’m going to take them all down, 19 of them. I’ve got a lot of Duggars to take down, because I’m sick of their crap, with their holier than thou, holy roller bullshit, when it turns out the whole time—maybe not so holy.
I’m sorry did I yell? Sometimes I do that. I’m given to fits of yelling and rage, but hopefully I’ll make it all funny.
Kathy Griffin performs at the Kennedy Center on June 20 at 8 PM. Tickets cost $49 to $99.