If you are a Kathy Griffin fan, you will love love love Official Book Club Selection: A Memoir According to Kathy Griffin. She is her brash, irreverent self: throwing around the Fbomb at every turn, skewering her favorite love-to-hate celebs (don’t forget to check the hilarious Index at the end for her guffaw-inducing statement about Ryan Seacrest, his only mention in the book by the way); and look out Oprah! And yet, we get to see her surprisingly — dare I say it — softer side. Yes, folks, even razor-tongued Kathy Griffin has one.
Here are just a few of the candid revelations Griffin shares with us: she was banned from Letterman for over 10 years for (gasp!) swearing; she almost died of kidney failure after having liposuction; and her brother Kenny was a drug-addicted pedophile. This memoir is not for the faint at heart.
Griffin starts the book — how else? Talking about her childhood. In her case, her background really gives you a good picture of who she will become as an adult: her diehard work ethic, willingness to be the funny sidekick, and closeness with her family all started here. As a young kid, she would escape her own Chicago home full of siblings and head to the neighbor’s house and do her first “live” show — filling them in on who swore, who got drunk, etc. She discusses what it was like growing up in a large Irish-Catholic family having little to no privacy; finding fascination in after-school TV; seeing what alcohol can do to people and deciding never to drink (which to this day she still has not done) and beginning what would become her lifelong eating disorder. Like many artists, Griffin found solace in the arts and sought refuge in musical theater. It was there that she began to understand and have an affinity for “her gays.” Realizing she didn’t want to go to college, and with older actor brother Kenny already out in Los Angeles, Kathy convinced her parents to pick up and move west to pursue her dream of stardom.
Kenny: This is where Griffin gets really personal. She discusses in detail her unstable brother Kenny, his violent nature, drugs, how all this affected her parents, and specifically the rift between her and the rest of the family for what she believed was his predilection for children. Truly an honestly written chapter and remarkable that she shares these insights with us.
Usually when a comedian makes it, we have little idea of their background — it just kind of shows up. So I personally found it quite interesting to read that Griffin went to the prestigious Strasberg Institute for two years (where Brando, Pacino, and James Dean all learned how to become great). Mostly she thought it “was dumb.” Ha! She also performed with the famous comedy group The Groundlings (Julia Sweeney — ”It’s Pat!”; or Lisa Kudrow — brunette, pre-nose, pre-boobs — ring a bell?) for many years. Great story there about meeting the late Phil Hartman. She learned then that her strongest characters are what she uses now in her shows: herself and her mom.