This Sunday, iconic comedian and host of E!’s “Fashion Police” Kathy Griffin will appear on the cover of the Chicago Sun-Times’ Splash magazine. The magazine interviewed the fiery redhead several weeks ago for the story. But, in the fast-paced world of viral news stories, some things have changed since we spoke to her.
To recap: During the “Fashion Police” Oscar special, co-host Giuliana Rancic caused an Internet uproar when she joked that 18-year-old actress Zendaya’s dreadlocks probably smelled like “patchouli oil” and “weed.” Rancic gave an on-air apology and, soon after, co-host Kelly Osbourne announced her departure from the show.
Throughout the controversy, Griffin has remained uncharacteristically tight-lipped. Splash reached back out to get her thoughts; here, for the first time, Griffin shares her unedited views.
Below is the email transcript.
Splash: The Zendaya issue is the first major controversy to hit “Fashion Police” since you’ve taken over as host. What are your thoughts?
Kathy Griffin: That the Vegas odds were about 6,000-to-1 that I would NOT be the one responsible!
S: Even though it wasn’t your joke, is the backlash from this issue going to affect the way you approach the show at all?
KG: My approach to “Fashion Police” is consistent with my approach to my decades of being a professional comic with two Emmys, a New York Times No. 1 Best Seller, a Grammy and 23 — count ‘em! — 23 stand-up specials. My approach is ALWAYS to go for the laugh, be as inappropriate as possible, but also change with the times. Comedy requires evolution as much as any business. My goal would be to bring the comedic sensibility of any show I enter or take over into a more modern way of thinking … and laughing. The show wanted to do a running segment called “Whore Score.” Um, no thanks. I think we can do better. Look, God knows my — how shall I say — repertoire over all these years on TV and live touring has used some language I wouldn’t use today, but people just aren’t into that stuff anymore and I get it. Name-calling and alliteration with no comedic context is simply the lowest hanging fruit. If I’m making fun of Oprah, I don’t just scream, “She’s fat. G’night everybody.” I do an impression of her hilarious voice, I quote episodes of “Favorite Things,” I even tell a story of my personal experience about being on her show. I do NOT say she’s a terrible talk show host or actress. I do not say she isn’t beautiful. She BEHAVES in a way that my audiences have found amusing for years. And, God willing, Stedman and Gayle will come around.
S: Do you think this would have been an issue if you had said the joke, rather than Giuliana?
KG: Probably not. But I wouldn’t have said the joke in the first place. Some dude wrote it for her.
S: You’re no stranger to the occasional controversy; did you have any guidance for Giuliana?
KG: Yes: Don’t have anyone write you jokes or even suggest jokes for you on “Fashion Police.” You have enough great insider gossip from actually being ON the red carpet. That’s what fans want to hear the next day. Just talk and be yourself.
S: Do you think that this whole thing got blown out of proportion?
KG: Yes and no. I think it’s emblematic of several new developments. And I say that as one of the actual “new developments.” Since the announcement was made that the show was going to continue — very soon after Joan’s passing, I might add — the speculation over who would take over Joan’s seat became a very hot topic in the Hollywood journalism world. Little did I know, after a lot of soul searching and the network begging me to take the position, the overwhelming response to me personally was quite simply, “You’re no Joan Rivers,” “I’ll always miss Joan Rivers,” “You’ll never be able to fill her shoes,” “Who do you think you are trying to be? Joan Rivers?” Well, no shit. Joan Rivers is no longer with us. I miss her far more than any angry tweeter! I’ve been dealing with the unique challenges that come with taking over a very specific role when someone has passed away. I have done/will do my best to fill my own shoes. I’m no spring chicken, kids — I have a body of work myself that I stand by. To my knowledge, the current “Fashion Police” team is, for the most part, the team that worked for Joan all those years. You cannot put a square peg in a round hole. My approach to comedy may seem too nuanced, and this may be too inside baseball for the viewers to give a crap about. But as it is my living, passion, and vocation, here’s the best I can give you: I will make my Miley Cyrus jokes as long as people want to laugh at them. But there is a chasm of difference between making a joke about Miley Cyrus wearing duct tape over her nipples out in public (which I think is totally fair game) and simply looking at a photo of her on a red carpet and saying she is ugly or a bad singer or pathetic or something like that.
S: So Kelly Osbourne is leaving. Can you comment on the reason? Is it really over the Zendaya issue?
KG: Jesus, I don’t know! Sometimes she seemed very upset at the merely seven tapings of “Fashion Police” we did together. I can tell you this: I adore that family. I’ve spent the most time with Sharon. She is the real deal. Love her! Kelly came to my house a couple of times when Joan was in the hospital and we were consoling each other. I can tell you there was genuine love there. Oh, and of course, Ozzy is amazing.