The Playbill program for Kathy Griffin’s new Broadway show says it all. Kathy Griffin is played by … Kathy Griffin. And that’s it for the cast list.
What you get is Griffin, that raven-haired torturer of celebrities big and small, that “annoying funny lady” (which someone recently called her on the subway), on a bare stage. Her props: a glass of water and a drugstore travel alarm clock, to loosely keep track of time.
And though Griffin herself marvels at how she ended up on Broadway — “What the (omnipresent expletive) are we doing here?” she asks — pure, unadulterated Griffin is all the audience wants. Two straight hours of dish on Charlie, Lindsay, Paris, Elisabeth Hasselbeck (ouch! The poor co-host on “The View” gets extra harsh treatment) and the Housewives? It’s enough to send a Griffin fan straight to heaven.
And maybe the forthrightly named “Kathy Griffin Wants a Tony,” which ends a 10-show run at the Belasco Theatre this weekend, does deserve a Tony — for sheer endurance. Griffin is a generous performer, barely pausing for a beat, not even taking an intermission.
“Youcan go and pee whenever you want,” she tells her audience. “You really should.” Not to worry — she’ll still be there.
Griffin adjusts her comic riffs according to the news, and at a recent performance, she was nearly apoplectic with delight: Lindsay Lohan, she informed the crowd, had been seen in New York. “I know, girls, hide your necklaces! Hide your bracelets!” she yelled out. The audience whooped at the reference to Lohan’s recent run-in with the law.
They were clearly there to have fun. Beer and wine flowed easily, purchased at insane prices in those secure plastic cups you can take to your seat. (Another good reason for Griffin’s offer of unlimited bathroom breaks.)
Dressed in tight black leggings (even these led to a few unprintable jokes) and a black T-shirt emblazoned with “Kath-eter,” Griffin was merciless toward her chosen targets. Paris Hilton, for example: “I think she’s autistic.” Hasselbeck, with whom she seems to have a running hate-fest: “A moron.” (That’s the sanitized version.) Miley Cyrus: “My favorite …” Hmm. Perhaps better not to go there.
But she also showed another side to her particular brand of humor. With her audience, she is warm and unjudging. “I hate kids,” she said at one point, then caught herself. “Except yours!” she told the crowd. “And they’re gifted!”
Griffin knows who her fans are. And so she wanted to make sure nobody had strayed in by mistake. “First of all,” she said, “does everyone know this is NOT ‘The Lion King’?”
She gave a shout-out to her gay devotees, of which there are many. Then: “And where are my lesbians?” A big cheer. And an afterthought: “Any straights here? There must be seven or eight.”
The audience also got an assignment of sorts, perhaps to complete at home. “In your minds,” she instructed, “I want you to start drawing parallels between Charlie Sheen and Sarah Palin.” It wasn’t as far off as it sounded, she opined. (Oddly, though, this particular performance was virtually Palin-free.)
Another interesting parallel: Justin Bieber and Rosa Parks, though it’s too complicated to tell you how she got there. But what other show, she asked, was going to give you Bieber and Parks in the same sentence? True enough.
Audience participation was encouraged, as when Griffin mentioned the Bachelor, Brad Womack, who may or may not be marrying his Emily. “No, SHE’S backing out!” came a call from the crowd. “Really?” Griffin asked, grateful for the update.
There were moments in the show when those not overly familiar with Griffin might have felt left out. Such as her references to a particular nightclub or certain TV shows we don’t ALL watch. “My Strange Addiction,” for example: “What about that sofa-eating lady?”
But anyone could relate to Griffin’s humorous affection for her 90-year-old mom, Maggie Griffin, even if unfamiliar with the real-life character. Griffin ended her show with a riff on Maggie’s self-designed funeral plans, including the music — “My mom’s Death Mix,” she called it.
So will Griffin get that Tony, to go with her two Emmys? Not all that likely, especially since, she noted, they’ve done away with the category for which she’d be aiming (special theatrical event).
But not to worry — Griffin has found another category that suits her.
“I’m going for a lifetime achievement award,” she told her audience. They clearly thought she deserved it.
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