(*homocinematically inclined)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Reverend's Reviews: For the Love of Kathy

Comedienne Kathy Griffin has moved from the infamous “D-List” of celebrity culture to at least the “B-List” over the last few years, due in no small part to the rabid devotion of her beloved “gays”. The winner of two Emmy Awards for her Bravo reality series Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List, she has been omnipresent recently with a new concert special (Kathy Griffin: Balls of Steel), a best-selling autobiography titled Official Book Club Selection: A Memoir According to Kathy Griffinand a new CD. The latter is appropriately titled for this festive time of year Kathy Griffin: Suckin' It For the Holidays!

After watching, reading and/or listening to them all, I think I have a pretty good handle on which hoped-for gifts top Griffin’s wish list this season: bullet-proof Kevlar panties; a box of Franzia and a bottle of Hennessy for her same-sex-marriage-supporting mother, Maggie; a successful marriage with a “normal” guy who doesn’t pillage from her bank account; and a tell-all weekend getaway with either Oprah Winfrey, Whitney Houston or LaToya Jackson.

Griffin recounts in her book how her reality-based “storytelling” approach to stand-up comedy has marked her as an enemy in the minds of cultural royalty Steven Spielberg, Dakota Fanning and Donald Trump. While she has hosted the Creative Arts Emmy Awards and the Bravo A-List Awards presentations, it is unlikely she will ever be asked to preside over the Oscars (as fabulous as that would be). Griffin simply can’t be trusted to stay faithful to prepared, politically correct text in the interest of Hollywood decorum, God bless her.

An entertainer who follows very closely in the footsteps of insult-tossing predecessors Don Rickles, Joan Rivers and Bette Midler (all of whom have appeared on her TV show), Griffin pulls no punches when it comes to pointing out the hypocrisies and unflattering behavior of the rich and famous. Griffin goes so far on Suckin’ It for the Holidays as to commit what many Americans will perceive as heresy: she condemns national poet laureate Maya Angelou as “insufferable” and “awful”. She also takes the family of the late Michael Jackson to task in her latest Bravo special, asking, “Who knew Michael was the normal one?” when compared with the antics of his parents and siblings.

Official Book Club Selection quickly rose to #1 on the New York Times bestseller list following its release in September. It is a revealing, no-nonsense tome consistent with the first-time author’s personality. Even better than the print edition is the 5-disc audio version, which is read by Griffin in her inimitable style. While it takes a few pages for her to get comfortable reading her book aloud, she eventually settles into it to the point that it sounds like her latest stand-up routine.

Griffin dishes on her late father and celebrity (at the age of 89) mother, her sexually abusive older brother and her deceitful ex-husband as well the better known likes of Brooke Shields, Andy Dick, Conan O’Brien, Steve Martin and Jerry Seinfeld. She opens up about her struggle with weight and body image issues from a young age. In a particularly harrowing passage, Griffin details a botched liposuction procedure a few years back that nearly killed her.

It’s too sad to think about what the world would be like without Kathy Griffin. In addition to her bold approach to comedy, she has emerged as a champion of civil rights for GLBT people. She spoke out last year at anti-Proposition 8 rallies accompanied by her wine-loving mother, who sported a sign that read “Same-sex marriage? I’ll drink to that!”

While Griffin consistently presents herself as a celebrity-abusing opportunist obsessed with the pursuit of her own fame, it is clear after listening to her book on CD and Suckin’ It for the Holidays that there is a taboo-smashing method to her madness. Griffin’s brand of comedy may disturb some and alienate others, but those are most likely people uncomfortable with looking at themselves in the mirror. Even after the twin humiliations of being booed off the stage of New York’s famous Apollo Theater and “being served” by The OC’s Spencer at a Hollywood party, Griffin brushes herself off with ease and maintains her dignity.

Be sure to add her book and/or Suckin’ It for the Holidays to your holiday shopping list for the “Friends of Kathy” in your life. And as Griffin joyfully proclaims on her CD, no doubt from the bottom of her heart: “Happy Kwanzaa, everyone! Let’s make this the best Kwanzaa ever!”

Review by Rev. Chris Carpenter, resident film critic of Movie Dearest and the Orange County and Long Beach Blade.

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