PW talked to comedian and self-proclaimed D-lister Kathy Griffin, whose new book, Official Book Club Selection: A Memoir According to Kathy Griffin (Ballantine) is about botched plastic surgery, the brilliance of Kitty Kelley tell-alls and outselling "that hack” Dan Brown.
PW: You’re a comedian, so why do a memoir instead of, say, a humor book?
KG: You know, I think those books are great, but I just didn’t really have a desire to take my act and put it in print form. I do so many [comedy] specials—I probably do more standup specials than any comedian—so I thought, well, god, with two Bravo specials a year and me being on the road all the time, nobody’s gonna buy a book if it’s just my standup printed. When [Random House] said they wanted a memoir, I thought, well, what if I did a sort of hybrid—part memoir, part humor book. Then I found out that in your world it’s all about the categories, which I didn’t even know. So they told me, “Well, technically this is a memoir,” and I said, “Well, you have to call it a memoir according to Kathy Griffin” because god forbid I get somebody’s fucking birthday wrong and then the next thing you know I’m James Frey.
PW: How did your family feel when you told them you were going to do the book?
KG: They were nervous wrecks. And it’s so funny because I think they vacillated between being afraid of what I was going to put in the book and wanting me to write about them more.
PW: Although you’ve already opened your life up as the star of your own reality show, My Life on the D-List, this book is a lot more personal than your show. Were you hesitant about sharing more?
KG: My philosophy from the beginning was, if I’m gonna do it, I’m gonna do it. You kind of have to go there.
PW: Any authors who inspired you?
KG: There were some books I read that really, really moved me, and one of them was Paula Deen’s first book, [It Ain’t All About the Cooking]. She was so honest and so forthright and also funny. I loved Joan Rivers’s book, Enter Talking. Also, I grew up on the Kitty Kelley books—my mom reared us on those—and they were completely unauthorized. I remember loving to hear the salacious parts of those books.
PW: Getting back to the book, is there anything that got left on the cutting-room floor, so to speak, that you wish had made it in?
KG: Well, I can tell you there are some things that did make it in that probably shouldn’t have, like my heinous plastic surgery photos. I mean, those are shockers, am I right? I had this liposuction gone bad, and I don’t even know why I saved the pictures—I think I kept them to document the horror—and I wound up putting them in the book because they’re so heinous that, after a while, they just became funny to me.
PW: You open the book with a quote from your dad telling you to “not take crap from those people” even if “you never work again.” You’re known for being outspoken and, to an extent, unpredictable and uncensored, which is to say, you’ve adhered to your dad’s advice pretty well. The flip side of that, though, is you wind up pissing a lot of people off. Does it ever bother you? Or do you love the ability to say whatever you want?
KG: I love the ability to [say whatever I want] because that’s what I respond to in other people. When I’m going to see a comedian, I don’t want to see them hold back, and when I’m reading a book, I don’t want to hear an abridged version. That’s what we really worked toward in the book; I just didn’t feel like there was a point to doing this book unless I talked about everything. I tried to be funny, too.
PW: Are you worried the book’s going to piss off even more people?
KG: I’m hoping. I’m hoping it pisses off as many people as possible. The more people it pisses off, the more publicity for me and the more books we sell.
PW: Speaking of publicity, September is a pretty crowded month, publishing-wise. There are a lot of big books coming out from big name authors. Jon Krakauer’s new book drops this month and, of course, Dan Brown’s new novel, The Lost Symbol. Nervous about the competition?
KG: Not at all. My goal is to outsell the Bible. The Random House people tell me that the Bible is the #1 seller every year, so this year, I’m gonna outsell the Bible.
PW: That’s a good goal, considering Dan Brown is the only author who’s comes close to biblical numbers—The Da Vinci Code is the bestselling book of all time... behind only the Bible.
KG: Well, I’m gonna outsell that guy, too. What’s that guy Dan Brown write? Sounds like mush to me. That hack—I’m taking him down.
PW: Getting back to your career, how many more seasons of My Life on the D-List do you think you have in you?
KG: I don’t know what’s going to happen with The D-List. Every year it’s kind of a nice thing where we get together with Bravo and I tell them if I feel like the show has more life in it. What we did this year is add this celebrity angle [with various celebs appearing as guests]; it was almost like a talk show element. I would like to continue either The D-List or another show with the premise that I spend a day in the life of different celebrities—I really enjoy that.
PW: Would you ever consider doing a talk show?
KG: Maybe. I have to tell you, though, the sexism in late night talk is so profound. When you think that Joan Rivers is the first and last woman to do a network late night talk show—I mean, that’s appalling to me. I don’t know if I can win that battle—it’s such a boys’ club.... I’d like to do it in some way, but I gotta tell you, I like the freedom of a show like The D-List, where I can take my time with these celebrities and spend more than six minutes with them on the couch.
PW: Speaking of your D-list status, you have an Emmy—
KG: Two Emmys. I have two Emmys, Rachel.
PW: Sorry, you have two Emmys. You got a reported $2 million for your memoir. You almost won a Grammy. Do you really still consider yourself a D-lister? It all sounds pretty A-list to me.
KG: I have what I call A-list moments, but believe me, I’m still on the D-list. Proof of this is something that happened to me last week. I was taping something—I can’t remember what, it was some dog and pony show—and the cameraman kept talking to me about when we had worked together. I didn’t mean to be that person who can’t remember anybody, but I kept saying, “You know, remind me again.” And then I started putting the pieces of the puzzle together and said, “I think you’re mistaking me for Joely Fisher.” And he said, “You’re not Joely Fisher?” I said, “No, no, I’m Kathy Griffin.” So I’m still firmly planted on the D-list, where I belong.