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Kathy Griffin: 'Official Book Club Selection'

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Book Review

Kathy Griffin: 'Official Book Club Selection'

Comedian and icon Griffin is only half-kidding

Kathy Griffin carries a pistol in her mouth—a weapon she brandishes in her new memoir, “Official Book Club Selection.”

Aside from using my favorite color scheme, ruby on baby blue, on its cover and the adorable crassness of the Oprah-shout-out title, Griffin’s memoir constructs a powerful narrative about making comedy and making a life in the guise of a simple celebrity tell-all memoir.

Throughout the book, she escapes the dryness of what I imagine Barbara Walters’ “Audition” to be by doing her memoir as differently from everyone else as she does her standup.

Griffin and her collaborator Robert Abele write her stories much like Kathy performs her stand-up—leaping from story to story or topic to topic on the quickest and strangest whims. You might get back to point A, and you might not. You might even jump from A to C to F, but Kathy’s quick mind and inner cruise-director anchor the audience. 

Griffin knows what emotional handle to turn and when, though only most of the time, as she herself admits, to turn it off. She begins with what we expect from her—a forward addressed to Oprah, and funny, often touching stories of her first gay loves and her mother Maggie and late father John. Fans of her hit Bravo show “My Life on the D List” know of the love affair between Kathy’s fans and her parents.

Yes, "Official Book Club" provides a love story other than the no-other-word-but-weird e-mail correspondences between Griffin and Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak—the real love is between her parents, and between Kathy and her parents.

But Kathy leaves the familiar early on, and by the fourth chapter is delivering something as serious as the troubling story of her oldest brother, Kenny, who originally pointed Kathy’s compass to performing, achieving minor-celebrity status in Chicago. He apparently also owned some addictions and practices that Kathy, defying her beloved parents, refused to ignore. 

Then, without a beat and in heels, she’s onto hilariously detailing how she, Janeane Garofalo and Margaret Cho, among other, mostly female — I’m not sure where Andy Dick counts— comedians carved out a new space for a new kind of comedy that championed the story and its delivery over the simple one-liner.

Fake hair optional

Kathy Griffin gets to wear her real hair in Phoenix — at least that’s what she said at the Dodge Theatre in downtown Phoenix on Jan. 16. I know, I was there, and let me tell you, if you think you love her,  go see the woman live. I’m still randomly laughing to myself about that performance. 

If Aretha Franklin takes an audience to church, Kathy Griffin takes us to the filthiest corner of a harlot’s dream. If we get lucky, she’ll probably even swing us by Aretha’s church to sing Hallelujah and drop the F-bomb before we go home. And, no, she doesn’t care if that bothers you.

She’s not scared. Griffin stands up to everything hateful about Hollywood on a daily basis while unabashedly luxuriating in its spoils of fame and award show gift bags. She’s made it her business to make fun of the industry and its cast of characters without apology.

And at the heart of all this is the fact that I simply trust Kathy, and yes, I call her Kathy —we’re close. And I believe a lot of other people do too. That is, I believe Kathy Griffin is serious about the Hollywood-insider stories she tells, even as hilarity ensues.

Kathy presents herself honestly as a working artist and talent in the big business of show. Perhaps most importantly, Kathy allows us to see first-hand how an artist takes the worlds and the wounds she experiences and transforms them into art—that is, the art of laughter, of entertainment. And if that sounds like a crock I’m selling, I just mean to say that "Official Book Club Selection" proves that comedy comes from a serious place, from a rare mind.

My fancy hat is off to you, Ms. Griffin, for performing and writing for those of us who always dreamed of being the quick-witted sidekick instead of the beautiful star—in your case, Rhoda Morgenstern, in my case, Ethel Mertz.

About the book

  • 'Official Book Club Selection: A Memoir According to Kathy Griffin'
  • Written by Kathy Griffin
  • Hardcover, 368 pages
  • Random House, $25

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