Last summer, when the AV Club editors sent out an email listing what shows were on the summer schedule, they mentioned Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List, along with a note that read "ignore," which means "not worth anyone's time."
"Um, I kind of really enjoy that show," I responded, and I have to give props to Amelie Gillette for chiming in that she, too, loves some D-List. This year, again, Kathy Griffin's program came up on the memo, along with a note to ignore it, and I again threw my hat in to write about it (and Amelie once again backed me up). This time I got my chance to defend Kathy on the AV Club.
Kathy Griffin seems to be a polarizing figure in entertainment, which is understandable. A large part of her career is based on being obnoxious: cursing, mugging and telling tales out of school on other celebrities during her standup act. I actually enjoy the stories because Kathy says what I really want to hear about the stars (IE that they're mostly deluded assholes or frighteningly insane). And since I'm just writing about her show this one time, I won't go too far into breaking down what makes Kathy endearing, but I think it's that she has very little pretense. As her theme song goes, she works twice as hard to get half as far as some of her contemporaries, and she chooses to be transparent about this for laughs. She never pretends that her work comes easy or that celebrity grace comes naturally to her. She'll spend hundreds of thousands of dollars renovating her house but she's going to save a few bucks and stay in the Holiday Inn Express (or the "H.I…E") while it's going on.
The fifth season of Kathy's show seems like it will follow a similar formula to previous seasons: Kathy's a D-Lister, even if she occasionally finds herself in A-list trappings, and she's struggling to get to a better list by engaging in blatant acts of desperation like hanging out with other famous people just for the paparazzi shots or angling for a Grammy for her comedy album by courting potential voters. "Courting" might be the wrong word—unselfconsciously begging might be more appropriate.
As usual, Kathy experiences one or two larger events in the episode (in this case, meeting Bette Midler) interspersed with various talking head segments. I don't know how spontaneous these bits are but often they're the funniest part of the show. When being barked instructions by unusually-dressed choreographer Toni Basil on what to do while appearing in Bette Midler's Vegas show, Kathy confided "She's in a kooky outfit and that made me nervous."
The episodes aren't always strong all the way through. Kathy pretending to go incognito at the Holiday Inn was a funny bit at first but got stretched thin after a little bit, as did as her visit to the National Academy of Recording Arts & Sciences offices to inquire about Grammy eligibility.
It seems that as Kathy's star rises, the level of celebrities she interacts with similarly ascends, hence the presence of Bette Midler, who didn't strike me as being the most fun person in the world to hang out with. I can't blame Bette for not enjoying Kathy blurting out "I don't come to your work and knock the dicks out of your mouth!" during her show but I had to laugh when Kathy (on behalf of her straight male friends) asked Bette whether "The Wind Beneath My Wings" was about farts. Bette, however, did not find this amusing, which, I admit, made me like her less, and I'm not even a big fart joke person. But the show is fun when Kathy has awkward interactions. If it were a big gay-icon love-in all the time with Cyndi Lauper and Margaret Cho and Joan Rivers and Rosie O'Donnell then the show would be insufferable. But, yeah, Bette was kind of a bitch. "If anyone's cable, you are."
And that's pretty much what your average episode of what Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List consists of, although I would be remiss if I didn't mention the crazy-looking lady who stood directly in front of the camera while Kathy and Bette schmoozed with some fans in Vegas. Kathy seemed to find the woman a kindred spirit, however. "She was, as we say, finding her light. She broke the fourth wall, like on Moonlighting. She just talked right to America."
Finally, Kathy admitted that maybe Bette didn't find her as delightful as she would have liked, even though she had on her best princess manners, IE not talking about assholes full of shit, and so on.
So I enjoy Kathy's show and hope some of you out there do as well. I personally can't wait to see what happens this season when she hangs out with Paris Hilton, because if Kathy can similarly get Paris to break down the fourth wall as well, then that'll be some good summer TV.
—For D-List fans, it appears that Kathy's assistant Jessica has indeed moved on from Team Griffin, although there is much speculation in the gossip world about whether this was an amicable split or not.
—I'm going to look for a chance in the near future to use the phrase "the tile community."
—I like that Kathy was wearing a Bad Girls Club sweatshirt when she was at the Holiday Inn Express.
—One of the cute jokes I never get sick of on this show are the subtitles thrown up on the screen, IE Bette Midler's cook was dubbed "Surprisingly nice French chef".