Kathy Griffin is officially on the A List-period. An army of fans around the world rejoice seeing Kathy overcome and conquer the onslaught of over-reaction, aggression and bullying by Donald Trump, his administration and the Federal Government. We love her as a comedian, a courageous public figure, a bad-ass who tells it like it is at the pinnacle of her career. We first tuned in to Suddenly Susan to watch Kathy’s character, Vicki Groener, because she was the most interesting person to watch and because we knew she was headed up Hollywood’s alphabetical pecking-order. Two Emmy Awards for her hit show on Bravo network’s My Life on the D-List, a Golden Globe Award, and in 2013 Kathy attained the Guinness World Records title for most televised stand-up specials with the premiere of her 20th show on HBO. We live vicariously through her victory as she leaves the small d behind and steps into the big A, while laughing our heads off.
Modesty aside, how would you describe yourself?
I’m a goddamn legend! Alright, I may not be one until I’m dead, but oh what a legend I’ll be! I describe myself as someone who lives to make people laugh. Yes, I like to stir things up and push boundaries, but hey, if you want to see some nice, homespun clean humor, watch the 700 Club.
How does it feel to receive the Comedian of the Year Award from the Palm Springs International Comedy Festival?
What a difference a year makes! This award is so meaningful to me because I have spent decades truly trying to hone my craft and being the very best comedian, actress and improviser I can be. After my Trump mask scandal, I learned very quickly that I simply had to up my game with my material and be truly fearless about it.
You went through a tough, tumultuous and controversial year and came out victorious. Your world tour, Laugh Your Head Off, is a smashing success, selling-out quicker than you can add dates. How is the sweet smell of victory?
Like a brand new lavender scented candle. Honestly, it has been a slow and laborious claw back, but completely worth every up and down. I have enjoyed doing the Kathy Griffin “Laugh Your Head Off” World Tour even though it has been the most difficult tour of my life. If nothing else, it is vital to me that anyone who is interested and watching sees that this President or any other should not have the power to try and decimate a single American citizen. I have actually enjoyed fighting back one joke at a time.
What have you learned in the last year, having gone through what you did? Would you do anything differently?
I would do many things differently! I think it is hilarious when celebrities jump to the “I wouldn’t change a thing” B.S. This experience, which started with a photo amplified on TMZ, to Federal agencies investigating me, and being put on the “No Fly List” as if I am a terrorist, is so over the top I had to make many missteps to try to figure my own way out of this unique and historic situation. Looking back, I am probably most grateful that I ultimately listened to my inner comedy gut and decided to basically put my middle finger in the air and get back on the road.
You volunteer your time and open the drag pageant, Best in Drag Show, which is an annual fundraiser for Aid for AIDS. Why is this cause important to you?
Best in Drag Show benefits a great organization called Alliance for Housing and Healing, formerly known as Aids for AIDS. The event started out very organically in the living room of Alexis Pittman’s apartment. We lost Alexis to HIV, and in his honor, the show gets bigger and better every year. It is an over the top drag show like you have never seen. The evening is also wildly inappropriate when it comes to the characters, costumes and humor. And who doesn’t love that?
Do you feel pressure to be funny all the time during your daily life? Is there an expectation?
I’m pretty “on,” as they say. I would say I am a little atypical compared to most comedians I have known, in that I am similar off stage to my incredibly delightful persona on stage. Many comedians are very shy and often pensive, bruiting types off stage. I like my quiet time but I really do try to make the people around me laugh every day.
What does your average day look like?
When I’m on tour, I’m on a nighttime schedule. Sleep in, have a healthy meal three hours prior to show time, and it usually takes me about three hours to come down after the show. I watch a light of late night cable. When I’m off the road, I do a lot of writing, producing fun little videos for my social media, and I’m just now starting to be asked to do guest appearances on television again. I was very honored to play Kellyanne Conway twice this season on Comedy Central’s The President Show.
What’s new on your play list?
I like to let my friends contribute to my playlist. It is quite varied. If it were up to me, it would pretty much be Céline, Backstreet Boys, Britney…you get the idea. But my more musically sophisticated friends keep me in my place. Although I wish I could get Josh Groban to stop taking off all my Michael Bolton songs.
You have a massive army of fans around the world, tell me about them.
Well, they sure showed up this year, didn’t they? One thing that gave me a sliver of hope days after the Trump photo was a video on Twitter of a group of gay guys dressed as I was in the photo (blue dress and all), carrying Donald Trump masks and parading around Fire Island. The LGBT community is ahead of the curve, once again. And yes, I know that is a pun. I will admit the photo that has caused me so much angst, is the photo that this year has single-handedly turned me into a global touring artist. Before North America, I started this show in Auckland, New Zealand and ended up in Reykjavik, Iceland and everywhere in between.
Tell me a secret-a good one!
After the infamous Trump photo, Cher sent me the following text that made me laugh out loud: “You wanted to be famous bitch!”
For information on Kathy Griffin’s World Tour, including tickets, please visit www.kathygriffin.net
Illeana Douglas is a renaissance woman. Her distinguished career includes theater, standup comedy, movies, including several Martin Scorsese films, TV, writing, music and producing. She exemplifies an artist who never stops creating and generating her own projects. Illeana will receive the Pioneer in Comedy Award, at the first annual Palm Springs International Comedy Festival Awards coming November 16th – 18th, in Downtown Palm Springs. She can currently be seen in the show Funny Ladies, on Turner Classic Movies, where she’s joined by comedy legend Carol Burnett, to present a roundup of great comedic actresses.
Modesty aside, how would you describe yourself?
I’ve always said art is where you make it. I see the world as an artist. I try to live my life as an artist would. Finding beauty in nature. Compositions excite me. I love to people watch. It’s important to engage in the world otherwise your outlook becomes static. I want to express the human condition with laughter and with pathos. Please don’t call me quirky.
You are a Renaissance Woman, you act, write, direct, produce, host a podcast and much more. How do you juggle all of it?
I’m happiest when I am working. I’m here to learn, so I work hard at getting better at my craft. Being a better interviewer, preserving film histories, telling women’s stories as a writer/director. In my down time I love to cook, and as most people know I am pretty dedicated to my dance classes.
Entertainment Weekly named your memoir, I Blame Dennis Hopper: Stories from A Life Lived In and Out of the Movies “one of the best books of 2016.” How does it feel to be praised for your writing after having won numerous acting awards?
My grandfather Melvyn Douglas always wanted me to be a writer. After reading some stories I had written, he gave me a few books for inspiration. One of my favorites was Dorothy Parker. That led me down the path of really wanting to be a writer. What I tried to do was not so much “write” but just tell good stories. That’s what a writer/director does anyway. I love acting, and I want to continue acting! My grandfather won his first Oscar at age 63, his second Oscar at 80! I’m a character actress, so there will always be time for me to pursue great acting roles, but my role as a writer is obviously more personal.
Your follow up memoir, This Never Happened: Outrageous Stories from a Life Lived In and Out of the Movies will be out in November 2019. Can you share some details, preview or teaser?
There were a couple stories that did not make the first book. They were slightly creepy, or verging on black humor, and I didn’t feel they fitted in the narrative, so we pulled them out. This lead me to thinking-because I always liked stories about the dark nature of suburbia like Cheever, or the dark humor of Evelyn Waugh or Dorothy Parker that maybe the second book could be all outrageous things that ever happened to me with a decidedly wicked comic edge. The phrase comes from something Peter Bogdanovich used to say to me before every take, “Remember Illeana…this never happened”. I started to think about all the things that I wished had never happened to me. I thought that might be a great premise for the next book. Do the darker things that have happened to us make us appreciate the good things?
Tell me about your new show on TCM.
Funny Ladies is cohosted by comic legend Carol Burnett. We discuss some of the great film comedians going back to the silent era and their influence on American cinema. We show about 20 different films featuring talent from Mae West, Carole Lombard, Rosalind Russel, Goldie Hawn, etc. It’s a great way to showcase Carol Burnett not only talking about her career, but about some of the woman who influenced and mentored her like Lucille Ball.
What directors and/or actors would you like to work with that you haven’t done so yet?
My favorite American director is Alexander Payne. Paolo Sorrentino is sublime. Actors and actresses-impossible! Off the top of my head Bette Midler, Ellen Barkin, Anne Hathaway, Al Pacino, Bill Murray, Bruce Willis, Chris Pratt, Amy Adams, Hugh Jackman, Frances McDormand, Whoopie Goldberg, Albert Brooks.
A lot has been written about your illustrious career, famous grandfather and personal life. What would you like your fans to know about you that isn’t well-known?
My great grandparents on my father’s side were songwriters. There is a long line of entertainers in our family. My great uncle-George Douglas- brother to Melvyn was also an actor, but mainly did B films.
What is your favorite charity or cause?
There are a few. Chimp Haven, Paws. Also Paul Newman’s Hole in the Wall Gang Camp.
What other project(s) that I did not mention are you working on?
I am directing a film that I wrote called Love is Funny. It’s a romantic comedy with some serious social issues.
Tell me a secret-a good one!
I once interviewed an actor who was a suspect in an unsolved murder.
For latest news and information about Illeana Douglas, please visit www.illeanadouglas.com
First Annual Palm Springs International Comedy Festival’s Awards Gala took place on Saturday, November 10th at Hotel Zoso’s Filmore Ballroom.
The star studded, black tie awards gala honored the best comedic celebrity talents in stand-up, film and television. Comedian Kathy Griffin was presented with the “Comedian of the Year” Award, while Illeana Douglas received the “Pioneer in Comedy Award” for the first ever branded Web series “Easy To Assemble.” The award-winning cast and production team of Paramount’s summer blockbuster “Book Club” were presented with the “Stanley Kramer Mad World Comedy Award.”
Celebrities in attendance included Kathy Griffin, Illeana Douglas, Ed Begley Jr., Karen Sharpe Kramer, Kat Kramer, Geoffrey Mark, ‘Book Club’ Director/Producer Bill Holderman, Writer/Producer Erin Simms, Wayne Federman (Curb Your Enthusiasm) and Festival Director/Founder Paul Cruz. Veteran performer Tommi Rose hosted the gala.
The festival continues on November 17-18th. For more information, please visit www.palmspringscomedyfest.com