As Kathy Griffin gears up for the April 19 premiere of her first talk show, "Kathy," on Bravo (where she launched reality show "My Life on the D-List" and ongoing comedy specials), she talks about her show and hosts she has loved.
Q. Which talk shows made an impression on you?
A. What I like the best is a show that feels unleashed and the person gets to do what they do. I love Chelsea (Handler) because I feel like she's very much in the same wheel house that I am in. I love David Letterman, and yet he is extremely formal. When I go on that show, I'm extremely nervous. He doesn't just run a tight ship, he is (...) scary. I watch a ton of "Jimmy Kimmel Live"; I think his field pieces, in particular, are brilliant.
Going back, certainly Arsenio Hall - I remember vividly when Madonna decided not to do "The "Tonight Show" anymore and just do Arsenio, even though Johnny Carson is of course a huge idol and influence, but at the time, it felt like Arsenio was doing something really, really different. And Joan Rivers - oh, my God, there was no one like her so when she took over for Carson, it was great. And my whole family thought that. My mom and dad couldn't believe there was this outrageous woman sitting in the Johnny Carson chair saying that stuff.
Q. You're not planning to have big celebrity guests on your show. Is that because it's tough to book them?
A. My idols are Howard Stern, Bill Maher, Joan Rivers - people that get in trouble, people that can be wrong. For me, to have celebrities on, it would just be a different kind of a show. I think it's great that a woman like Ellen DeGeneres can be a comedian and segue into a show in which everyone adores her and she never offends anybody. That is just not my story, not by a mile. The network is pressuring me pretty heavily to have celebrities. Hey, let's face it, they get big names on (Bravo's other talk show) "Watch What Happens Live," like Sarah Jessica Parker and Liam Neeson. ... Of course I'm a fan of Sarah Jessica Parker. But when I think about sitting across from (her), how could I possibly say the (...) that's in my head when I know I'm going to offend them or one of their best friends? This has to be a place where nothing is off the table. I'm so evil, I'm making fun of the guy with a speech impediment from "Bachelor Pad" because I'm fascinated that there's a guy with a speech impediment who just can't stop going on reality shows.
Q. So you'll have a panel of comedians instead?
A. I'll have what I call a panel of civilians. I really love finding people, like my mom, who is a regular person who just happens to be opinionated and super funny. There's a friend of mine who's a screenwriter whose sister is a dog trainer for Cesar Millan and that's how I met him - he's a legit weirdo. And that's what I love about Howard Stern - that the audience got to know Robin (Quivers) and Baba Booey. We're as interested in their office politics as we are when Jerry Seinfeld finally was a guest.