An Ode to When Kathy Griffin Was Actually D-List

kathygriffin225.jpgBrowsing clips from Kathy Griffin's newest Bravo stand-up special Kathy Griffin Does the Bible Belt, I kept having to remind myself the material was new. The anecdotes about an erratically behaved Sharon Stone? The clip about cable-TV indulgence Hoarders? It all felt like gags from five years ago, when Griffin could get away with insider-as-outsider observations without it feeling like an obligatory part of her self-appointed D-List stature. Now, on the eve of her new special and sixth season of My Life on the D-List, it becomes painfully clear what we've lost since Griffin's star -- and original appeal -- exploded into a cycle of dishonest repetition.

Something is flagrantly phony about that Sharon Stone clip. As if Sharon is unaware that Kathy Griffin -- who made an entire act out of Sharon's earnest recitation of "Imagine" at a charity benefit some years ago -- would jot down her talking points for onstage regurgitation. Phoniness isn't a crime, but Kathy's guise of the breathlessly candid informant is a little lame. That role used to be a little sincere, or at least more believable.

The difference between Kathy Griffin "then" (before her Bravo reality series Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List won its first of two Emmys in 2007) and "now" is a matter of what Kathy seems to value about her act. While dishing on the likes of Brooke Shields and Ryan Seacrest was always her MO, the brilliant and funny part remained Kathy's astonishment at the entitlement of celebrity. Her story of Seacrest groping her on stage to spice up an awards show is horrifying, intriguing and hilarious -- and anthropological.

Now, the new preview for D-List's fifth season shows Kathy pretending to be shocked that Liza Minnelli has picked up her call -- and only minutes later we see Kathy swanning about a New York apartment with Liza herself. Instead of watching a Hollywood misfit react to what the average OK! magazine reader feels is glamor, we're bearing witness to a comedy superstar so flush with connections that people like Sharon Stone and Liza Minnelli are using her for Bravo demo appeal. Depressing.

It's not hyperbole to suggest that Griffin enjoyed her act more in the old days too. Her autobiography Official Book Club Selection is glorious when Kathy recalls booking the Laugh Factory on Wednesday nights just to have a gig, or realizing she'd never see her Groundlings castmate Lisa Kudrow again after she booked Friends. Those chapters reflect the backbone of Kathy's act -- her tenaciousness and awareness. It's telling that her autobiography skimps on her post-Emmy life, only delving into an event where she showed off her "bangin' bikini bod" with Paris Hilton (where Kathy feigns surprise at their new camaraderie). I'd approve of such a PR stunt if she'd only own it and voice something like, "I'm aware I've risen to a point where Paris Hilton needs people like me to seem relevant." But she hasn't made that jump yet. She's still sure we don't believe she's not the most famous comedienne alive.

While she can still make up for that slip in sincerity, we simply can't go back to the best days of Kathy Griffin, the times when My Life on the D-List was a candidate for best reality series ever. I remember her excruciating appearance on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno when the host called her photo with Carmen Electra "a before-and-after shot," comparing Kathy to the not-hot friend of the woman you really want to sleep with. Astonishing, and again, not just because of Jay's shallowness: It was because Kathy took to a confessional afterward with tears in her eyes and -- instead of using the moment to make herself seem unpopular or a red carpet-hungry hero -- simply stated, "I barely even know Jay Leno."

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Comments

  • NP says:

    Nitpick: It was Carmen Electra, not Denise Richards.
    Great post. Even as I agree with most of what you've said, I can't help but still love Kathy.

  • Lina says:

    Seriously she is probably still insecure. I mean she looks beautiful, she's a size 0 or a 1, but you're living in Megan Fox country. I doubt she's able to embrace her celebrity yet but I think she will and then she'll make fun of herself!

  • Louis Virtel says:

    Thank you for the nitpick! Corrected.

  • Matthew DH says:

    I never thought that celebs would say outrageous things around Kathy now hoping to get into her act. That's interesting. Call me naive but I wouldn't give celebs that much credit for being that clever. I wish I hadn't read this article because I'm going to be considering this idea the entire time I'm watching it. Ugh.

  • bobbi says:

    she is not funny at all she is trying so hard to be outragous that she wants to knock down all decency or religion she is vulgar and sicking if this is humor we have fallen in the toilet.she just wants to shock people this is humor?

  • Martini Shark says:

    She's kind of in a fame vortex. She initially hurt her career and fell to D-List stature, she embraced that and was able to parlay that into higher Q_ratings, so now she has to use that denigrated image to bolster her current status. And Lou, you really cannot dig on her too much for being less than genuine in Hollywood.

  • morrowland says:

    oh please. with all due respect to Mr. Virtel, i believe he's decided it's time to knock some celeb off their pedastal; and to seem creative, he's picked the uppity one who has climbed too far up the ladder (in his opinion).
    snark attack. big whoop. never met a 'showbiz writer' yet who wasn't jealous and lying in wait for his next prey. fail.

  • Louis Virtel says:

    I guess I should've been clearer that I ADORE Kathy Griffin, and I believe she deserves all her success. I just don't think she owns her pop culture presence enough or integrates it into her act -- her shtick doesn't work as well now.
    Think of the Grammys last year. They televised her category just to film her reaction. She's not on the outside.

  • Curtis says:

    I wont attack the validity of the argument made in this piece as it's completely an opinion piece and is therefore completely valid as the author's opinion, but I'm sad I read it.
    Reviews like this suck the joy out of pop culture. It's a form of spoiler; I am afraid that this will pollute my entire experience of the show this season.

  • LickyDisco says:

    How very Star Bellied Sneetchie of you. I think she's a hoot.

  • I have been searching for this, was not on the similarpage in search as it was last week when I first saw it. Anyway, thank God for search history!

  • Ha. That's isthe most jacked up post I've seen today. But, I'm not positive, myself.

  • Dang. That's just about the most jacked up piece I've read today. But, I'm not sure, myself.

  • Sanchez says:

    I think, as Kathy herself mentions in her book and show, that she is aware she has A-List moments, but there is always something to bring her down. Like having her category on TV just so they can film her reaction. That is not A-List.
    Like when she is in Bette Midler's Vegas show, getting yelled at by Toni Basil. Or shopping with Paris Hilton, and being called the wrong name by the shop assistant. Or what she describes in SHE'LL CUT A BITCH, Sarah Silverman gave her a great quote...for EW who did a special on 40 top women in comedy and she was not even mentioned.
    And another commenter was right, you give celebs way too much credit to think they would even know about Kathy Griffin.

  • Seth Hoelter says:

    There is certainly nothing at all like strolling on a nice bike on a mountain trek - especially in the spring time. I can't imagine anything else that I'd rather be doing - well, perhaps ONE thing .. ;-)

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