Kathy Griffin, the Emmy Award®-winning comedienne with more celebrity enemies than any other female celebrity, rocked the house at the Durham Performing Arts Center on Friday, August 10th, and created a fitting opening to the North Carolina Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, currently running at The Carolina Theater.
Razor-sharp, both mentally and physically, Kathy Griffin brought her own brand of what she calls “D-List” humor to the Bull City. From the moment she bounded onto the stage in an animal-print dress and low heels, dashing from one end to the other while a sold-out crowd roared their approval, to the end of her performance (almost 45 minutes over her scheduled stage time), Griffin’s energy and raucous humor reached past the stage lights and into the streets of Durham.
Throughout the night, the comedienne, whose beginnings in show business reach back to such television sitcoms as “Suddenly Susan” and “Seinfeld,” wove commentary about news events from the Triangle region into her routine. The freshness of a routine rooted in local events delighted the crowd, especially when references to the recent Chick-fil-A squabble and the restaurant chain CEO’s opposition to gay marriage wove their way into her diatribe. Describing the lines of people outside the food chain’s local stores protesting against gay marriage, then the next line of people protesting against Chick-fil-A, and finishing with some stabs at the wealthy family that owns the chicken chain, Griffin made it abundantly clear that such events are where she harvests her best material.
Even this year’s Southern heat wave couldn’t hide from Kathy’s acerbic tongue. “Someone told me the weather was getting cooler in Durham during the past week. Cooler? I’ll tell ya, when I walked out of my dressing room, my hair was perfectly coiffed” — tosses her shoulder-length red hair — “Now look at it! Flat! Some cool weather!” Looking at some handwritten notes on the table beside her, she continued to lace the Raleigh-Durham area, occasionally even bringing in some outlying areas which she humorously mispronounced (“RougeMOUNT”).
Audience members who expected to hear Griffin trash those in high places or those with a certain modicum of fame did not go away disappointed. Through the years, the redheaded comedienne has been banned from shows such as “The View” after skewering hostess Barbara Walters. (She also famously shut up Elizabeth Hasselbeck after “The View’s” conservative host questioned Griffin about whether she felt guilty about her habit of roasting celebrities, stating that Griffin often said things that were “untrue” and “not funny,” to which Griffin replied: “Actually, this moment is what I live for, so bring it. This is actually how I write my act.”).
Never shy or retiring, Griffin referred to those moments in a manner that suggests she is not only proud of them; but — as she stated to Hasselbeck — “lives for them.” She comments several times throughout her show that she’d love to see Sarah Palin nominated for vice president again, “if for nothing other than the wealth of comedic material it would give me!”
Pissing off people and groups of people is fun, according to Griffin. She often attacks those whom she knows and admittedly admires (i.e., Barbara Walters, Celine Dion, etc.); but she also writes acts based on large groups she says are fun to slight, such as Scientologists. Some of her biggest laughs of the night came when she described the secret handshake of Scientologists to the tune of the spaceship sounds from Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Describing the religion as “whooohoooo,” Griffin rambles on about the group, their strange recruiting procedures, and the mass of Scientology’s celebrity members who act questionably. The recent breakup of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes provides fresh material for the caustic Griffin, who appears to revel in the marital split, offering her own version (sprinkled with what some would consider vulgar language) of the Cruise fascination with Scientology, muttering throughout that she would probably be killed by the cult members for what she’s saying.
No Griffin standup act would be complete without a mention of her beloved mother, Mary Margaret “Maggie” Griffin. Now 91 years old, the elder Griffin is a regular member of Kathy’s show on Bravo, “My Life on the D List”; and is often mentioned in Kathy’s touring show. In perfect pitch, Griffin mimics her mother, lampooning her voice and the familiar motherly tendency to use both of Kathy’s names (“Kathleen Mary”), and mentioning her penchant for “boxed wine.” Maggie’s appearances on Kathy’s shows, and at various award ceremonies, have brought the nonagenarian a certain modicum of fame in this latter stage of her life.
Ironically, Griffin’s own life is scrutinized by the public as much as she tends to needle the Kardashians, Walters, and Dions of the world. Though Griffin casually refers to “the boyfriend” with whom she has had a relationship for the past couple of years, she never refers to him by name; and the tabloids have a running line pointing out the 18-year age difference between them. And the audience accepts that tendency to be let into Kathy’s life and respects the imaginary line she draws that they should not cross.
Though Kathy Griffin could obviously have entertained the crowd for several more hours, she ended the show approximately 45 minutes later than the scheduled time, urging the audience to enjoy the upcoming week of festivities surrounding the North Carolina Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, advertised to mimic her show: “bigger, longer and more satisfying.”
SECOND OPINION: Aug. 10th Raleigh, NC News & Observer preview by Glenn McDonald: http://www.newsobserver.com/2012/08/09/2255273/kathy-griffins-got-something-on.htm; and Aug. 8th Durham, NC Independent Weekly preview by Craig D. Lindsey: http://www.indyweek.com/indyweek/d-lister-kathy-griffin-talks-about-the-wealth-of-topical-material-shell-bring-to-dpac/Content?oid=3121125. (Note: To read Triangle Arts & Entertainment’s online version of Triangle Theater Review’s Aug. 9th preview by Robert W. McDowell, see Part 1B above or click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/2012/08/2012-n-c-gay-and-lesbian-film-festival-headliner-kathy-griffin-will-perform-live-at-dpac-aug-10th/.)
VIDEO PREVIEW: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eNgT2h060CM.
THE KATHY GRIFFIN CHANNEL: http://www.youtube.com/user/MegaKathyGriffin.
Durham Performing Arts Center: http://www.dpacnc.com/.
The Carolina Theatre: http://www.carolinatheatre.org/. VENUE: http://www.dpacnc.com/.
Kathy Griffin: http://www.kathygriffin.net/ (official website) and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kathy_Griffin (Wikipedia).
North Carolina Gay & Lesbian Film Festival: http://www.carolinatheatre.org/ncglff/ (official web page).
Dawn Reno Langley is a Durham, NC-based author who writes novels, poetry, children’s books, and nonfiction books on many subjects, as well as theater reviews. She is also Dean of General Education and Developmental Studies at Piedmont Community College in Roxboro, where she oversees the theater program at the Kirby Cultural Arts Complex, and a member of the Person County Arts Council.
This review is reprinted with permission from Triangle Theater Review. To start your FREE subscription to this newsletter, e-mail RobertM748@aol.com and type SUBSCRIBE TTR in the Subject: line. To read all of Dawn Langley’s Triangle Theater Review reviews online at Triangle Arts & Entertainment, click http://triangleartsandentertainment.org/author/dawn-reno-langle/.