Kathy Griffin (Atlanta Symphony Hall, April 15) flatters me, gets easy interview

By RODNEY HO/ rho@ajc.com, originally filed Tuesday, April 5, 2016

As a reporter, I typically do advance research on the subject matter. Read past interviews, check their social feed, watch whatever they are promoting. That makes total sense. That way, I can ask (hopefully) better questions.

But for the first time since I began doing celebrity interviews in 2001, the subject turned the tables. Comic Kathy Griffin last month started our conversation by noting stories I had written that she liked, especially one about Sandra Golden, the lone female sports radio host in Atlanta.

"I respect what she does," said Griffin, who will be at the Atlanta Symphony Hall April 15. (Tickets here.) "As a 55-year-old chick comic, I'm drawn to anything like that being in a male-dominated field myself."

I joked that her flattery guaranteed I would not ask her any "offensive" questions. Then I added, "But what could possibly offend you?"

We gabbed about the acoustics of a symphony hall for a comic. "I speak really rapidly," she said - rapidly. "When I'm in a place with a poor sound system, I have to remind myself to talk slower. At a place like Atlanta Symphony Hall, I barely need a microphone, the acoustics are so perfect."

She had just performed on Carnival cruise ships before we talked in early March. "These cruise ships are like television studios now," she said. "They are so used to doing musical revues. There are Tony Award winners. Carrie Underwood was on before me. The only difference is I can't do the show in heels. The boat rocks."

Credit: Rodney Ho

Credit: Rodney Ho

She then said, "Atlanta is a hotbed for comedy." "You've got 'The Real Housewives of Atlanta!' That's comedy! Oh and 'Love and Hip Hop Atlanta!' If Stevie J and Joseline want to come to my show, I don't want them fighting! They should be seated at least one row from each other."

But she doesn't need major security. "My security team is my 95-year-old mom, halfway drunk from boxes of wine. Probably my boyfriend who's 38."

Griffin is still a hustler, doing 80 comedy shows a year on the road. "Chris Rock asked me if I owe child support. It could be true. I may have had a child with Stevie J!"

She said opportunities in Hollywood are challenging, which is part of the reason why she hits the comedy circuit. "When you're a chick over 50, the sexism is pretty hardcore. You have to work harder and jump higher. I would love to be Kevin James and David Spade juggling film and TV offers. I would have another TV show, or three. I would love to have a breakout film role. I talked to Lee Daniels. Where's my Precious? David Russell: where's my 'American Hustle'? In the meantime, I can't stop adding concert dates. I feel like one of the political candidates. I'm going to real America."

One regular TV gig she does get is co-hosting the New Year's special on CNN. What's her take on Anderson Cooper, her partner in crime every year? "I know this man very well," Griffin said. "I know him inside and out. I know what makes him tick. I love tweeting him something inappropriate while he's doing some serious interview or moderating a debate. It's usually something sexual. Just so he knows I'm there. I made him. I can break him!"

Is he looser since he came out of the closet? "I think so. In the past, it was like he would almost come out. I'm bilingual. I speak English and gay. You can see moments where he would hold back. But in general, he's the same dude."

Credit: Rodney Ho

Credit: Rodney Ho

And since Jeff Zucker took over CNN in 2013, she said he's embraced her. "He's sent me flowers," she said. "I yelled at him once during the New Year's show to come on the platform and run it like when he was at the 'Today' show and getting Katie Couric's coffee. Jeff actually showed up. He ran the show for about an hour and a half. I told him to get me coffee. I'm not afraid of network and studio heads. They love me if I get ratings. They hate me personally."

Credit: Rodney Ho

Credit: Rodney Ho

She had to cut short the conversation after just 15 minutes because she had to meet up with her mom Mary Margaret Corbally. "We'll probably get into another fight," she said. "But it's hard to yell at a 95 year old. I can't hit her. She will try to convince me Fox News is real. I'll try to convince her it's propaganda. She's going to threaten to vote for Trump just to irritate me."

She said she will talk about Trump on the stage, of course. "I know these crazies," she said. "I can't stop writing material. I live among them. I've known this fool Trump for decades. You can see any comic make fun of his hair. Only with me will you hear a story about me, Donald Trump and Liza Minnelli in a golf ." (Will I hear the story? No. You'll have to show up to the concert to hear it.)

She'll have stories about Leo DiCaprio, Jane Fonda and seeing Sean Penn before the El Chapo story broke. "I won't be making jokes about airlines or the differences between cats and dogs," she promised.

Griffin is working on a book packed with Warhol-like stories. "A lot of it are stories that weren't appropriate for my act," she said. "It's gonna be small bites, little insights into these folks, everyone from Woody Allen to [former CIA agent] Valerie Plame. I have all these little stories I've been sitting on."


Kathy Griffin

8 p.m. April 15. $50-$95. Atlanta Symphony Hall, 1280 Peachtree St., Atlanta. www.ticketmaster.com.