Pundits be dammed — Kathy Griffin has gone ahead and anointed herself the new “grande dame of comedy,” carrying on the torch for the late Joan Rivers as the new host of E!’s Fashion Police. Here, she tells WWD what she really thinks of Gwyneth, Miley and Julianne.
WWD: You’ve said the red carpet is too boring these days.
Kathy Griffin: Yeah, I don’t like it. I like the imperfection. I like these stars that are larger than life but human, and obviously I’m referring to Cher in a Bob Mackie headdress holding an Academy Award. I also like to see Gwyneth Paltrow in the most gorgeous, simple, classic can’t-miss Lanvin gown and I like to see her in a little naughty [number] that’s too short for her and she knows it. I think that actresses know they’re now mixing it up with what would have been the Edie Sedgwicks or the Warhol girls, who, in their time, were kind of like the Kardashians because no one knew what they did but they were photographed all the time. We’re not that different now.
WWD: Is anything fair game as long as it’s funny?
K.G.: It’s more than fair game. It’s my job. I’m from a normal, lower-middle-class family in Illinois, so I’m looking out for those women. I’m not trying to appease the millionaire women or the small group of people who are in fashion. I’m thinking of the actual viewers who are watching with questions like, “What was she thinking? Is it me, or does she look like she’s wearing a trash bag with a belt?” Ninety percent of these celebrities and designers are very sycophantic and everyone is telling them how magical they look. You kind of need someone in the Greek chorus to step in and go, “Excuse me, they look ridiculous and here’s why and what’s funny.” No harm, no foul.…You know what you are getting yourself into when you do a red carpet. My favorite is when the celebrities get upset after they’ve won. They’re holding a Golden Globe, but they’re going to obsess the next day about being on the worst-dressed list on a comedy show. You’ll be OK.
WWD: Do you feel pressure to measure up to Joan Rivers, who was both a friend and a mentor?
K.G.: Of course I feel pressure, but on the other hand I feel that Joan is getting more respect posthumously than she got when she was alive — and deservedly so. Joan talked about how [the question] “Who are you wearing?” was so offensive to people until it started putting designers on the map. And I think that’s what great comedic artists do. They change the landscape a little bit.
WWD: Do you think the fashion world is more fickle than Hollywood?
K.G.: I’ve noticed that a lot of times people take hits because of what they’re going through in their life. Like, if Britney Spears is off the rails, she’s on the worst-dressed list. If Miley has done something “Miley” then all of a sudden she’s on the worst-dressed list. And all of a sudden she’ll give a great performance and show up in a nice dress and then it’s, fashion icon Miley Cyrus! I’ve seen it all come and go and come and go and that’s what inspires me to not give a f–k. Truly, Miley can show up to the Met Ball in the most beautiful Zac Posen and the next night be wearing duct tape on her nipples. So what’s the point of saying she’s a perfect fashion girl who gets it right every time?
WWD: How has Fashion Police changed since you officially took over after the Golden Globes?
K.G.: More celebs are actually getting the joke. When I started really ripping into celebs in the mid-Nineties, I was not getting a great reception and I just kept doing it because I couldn’t stop myself. Now a celebrity will come up to me and say, “Just tell me now: Best or worst?” and I say, “You have to watch like everyone else.” I really don’t know until I see the images myself. My job isn’t to decide who’s going to go forward in the world of fashion. My job is to make the audience at home have a little laugh.
WWD: What do you find most fascinating about the business of the red carpet?
K.G.: I’m very fascinated by those “ambassadors,” i.e., paid to wear the dresses. I remember when Renée Zellweger was the ambassador for Carolina Herrera. They’d go, “Who are you wearing?” and I’d be at home going, “Herrera. They pay her.” It used to be actresses begging to have a dress and now designers are going, “Please, can you wear mine?”
WWD: Whom do you most enjoy watching on the red carpet?
K.G.: In particular I watch the women who made a conscious effort to go, “I’m not just an actress. I’m going to be a fashion girl.” I was watching a documentary 10 years ago and Scarlett Johansson had just done Ghost World and was meeting a bunch of designers and throwing herself at their mercy. She openly talked about wanting to be in the front row and wanting to befriend all these designers.
WWD: Do you think that fashion overshadows the performance at awards shows?
K.G.: When it comes to the Oscars you’ve got these actresses who are like, “Whoa, I have this character to address in the interview, but I might talk about my dress more than my character.” Julianne Moore is a great example. [Still Alice] is a very serious movie and she’s talking about Givenchy. To me there’s a lot of comedy in that. I guarantee you when she was doing that movie she wasn’t thinking about fashion for one f–king second because she turned out an amazing performance and then the movie wraps and it’s like, “F–k the movie! Fashion!”
WWD: People sometimes forget that you’ve been in the business for decades and you know what goes on behind the scenes.
K.G.: I know that process from point A to the red carpet. From my experience on My Life on the D List, it was me in sweats all the time, but when it came time to win two Emmys, it was like, “Hi, Oscar de la Renta, it’s me, Kathy Griffin. Turns out I’m not on the D-list today, so I need an A-list dress, and then I’ll go back to the D-list.” So that whole journey is like a little insider trading that I love to bring to Fashion Police.