'Kathy Griffin: Like A Boss': Theater Review

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Kathy Griffin
Irreverent and ribald digressions mark a head-spinning night of riotous celeb-centric improv.

The raucous stand-up comedian takes on millennials, Donald Trump and Demi Lovato fans at L.A.'s Mark Taper Forum in her new 80-city tour.

As a kid, Kathy Griffin honed the craft that would come to define her in the living room of her neighbors, the Bowens, of Oak Park, Ill., tantalizing them with gossip about her family and friends. There’s a bit of that in her new Like A Boss show as she digresses from her digressions about, well, her family (mom, Margaret) and friends (celebrities) — always at a mile a minute lest we turn away for even a second.

No one turned away Nov. 4 when she took the stage at the Mark Taper Forum, wearing a multi-hued print skirt and black halter top, armed with jokes about celebrities like Liza Minnelli (“I love people with issues”), Caitlyn Jenner (mistaken for Jessica Lange), Madonna’s current tour (“she actually sings-ish,” as opposed to Britney Spears, who doesn’t) and even her New Year’s Eve co-host Anderson Cooper, who alternates between smart (glasses) and model (no glasses).

Griffin holds the Guinness record for most TV comedy specials (20), and is a Grammy winner in addition to being a two-time Emmy winner for Bravo’s Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List. A longtime red-carpet fixture, she works it even when she’s in the studio, shredding famous figures from entertainment, sports and politics (which is easy), but gracefully treading the fine line between cruelty and good fun (which is not).

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A wickedly sharp improviser, Griffin breezed through the first hour of the show at a delirious pace, but a prolonged bit about homicidal Demi Lovato fans seemed to be more cathartic for her than for the audience. Likewise her account of meeting her idol Eddie Murphy at the recent Mark Twain Award ceremony. In his acceptance speech, Murphy noted, “Bill (Cosby) has one of these. Did you all make Bill give his back?” According to Griffin, he then went on to detail every claim against the disgraced comedian, riffing on each charge, a monologue Griffin guarantees won’t be broadcast on PBS when the ceremony airs, though the station states otherwise.

Wild red hair, coherent and often incoherent digressions, insults spewing forth as if from a drunken fight fan — that could describe Donald Trump or it could describe Griffin, whose digression-heavy act is structured a little like a Trump stump speech. The difference is that Griffin isn’t running for leader of the free world. “I know that f—in’ nut job. You think I’m wearing fake hair tonight?” she says of the Donald, whom she met when she appeared on The Apprentice. Seated next to her at an event honoring Larry King, he not only asked Griffin how much she makes, he followed with, “You’re kind of attractive for a comedian.” To which she responded, “I wish I could say the same for you!”

Griffin claims to occupy that bridge between celebrities and the rest of us. According to the press notes, her mission statement is, “based on the belief that the art of talking dirty truth to power is a cultural force with the capacity to reach and transform the lives of everyday people.” She reports on celebrity life with the excitement of that little Oak Park, Ill., girl airing family secrets in the Bowens' living room. No telling if they were transformed by the experience, but Griffin sure was. And judging by the audience reaction at the Taper, we're all better off for it.

Writer-performer: Kathy Griffin
Presented by Center Theatre Group