Q&A: Kathy Griffin, High-School Lifer

For most people high school was hell. The daily humiliation and rejection from the "cool kids" was torture and the awkwardness of adolescence made it all the worse. In fact, most of us just thank God we survived and made it into the adult world where looking good in a short skirt doesn't define our self-worth. Most of us, that is, unless, like Kathy Griffin, we ended up in high school for life, a.k.a Hollywood. Airing on Bravo on Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET, Griffin unleashes her next tactic for becoming one of the cool kids on the third season of her show, "My Life on the D List." But this season Griffin decides to give up on love and go straight for the publicity of being part of an "it couple." In this week's episode she even got former Backstreet Boy Nick Carter out on a date—but unfortunately his publicist tried to stop the paparazzi from photographing them together, which was kind of the point. As this season continues, Griffin will have a whole line of men waiting to make her a star. NEWSWEEK's Alexandra Gekas spoke with her about what it's like to be the only D-lister to be invited to the A-list parties, even if no one will talk to her. Excerpts:

NEWSWEEK: So what can we look forward to this season in your life as a D-lister?
Kathy Griffin:
This season is action packed. [The first episode is] gonna be a really funny one because I decided that since I married for love and it didn't work out, now I want to go out with guys for publicity. Unfortunately I got turned down by everybody I asked. Like Bravo decided it would be great to go out with George Clooney, and I was like, let's not waste our time, there's only so many hours in the day and we don't need to be spending it waiting to be rejected. Originally I asked A.J. from the Backstreet Boys, and he said no, so first I go on a date with Nick Carter. I know I'm the only one who is still in love with him, but I want to say in his defense, that kid has the weight of the world on his shoulders and he is a very sweet kid. But all of my dates were surprising that way.

Who else do you go out with this season?
I went out with Ron Jeremy, and you'd be surprised. When he's not on the air doing those cheesy one-liners and when you can get him to talk, he's very smart. And he was the most recognized person I've ever walked down the street with, and I've walked around with people like Brooke Shields. But everyone knows him, even the homeless guys.

Why did you decide to focus on your love life this season?
Bravo really focused on that, and I like that it's a runner and I have a date on every show, but it's all under the guise of getting off of the D list. So it's me trying to get my picture taken with celebrity men. I think it's important that it's me trying to get off the D list because my theory is that celebrity is like high school, but more people feel they are on the D list in life than on the A list, so that's what I want the show to stay true to, because most of us feel we're outsiders looking in.

You always talk about how the gays love you. What do you have in common with other female entertainers like Bette, Barbra or Liza that make gay men love you?
I have been asked this a lot, and I've thought about it a lot. As I learn more about the gay community I think it's kind of about fighting to be part of something and fighting to be noticed and taken seriously but always with a sense of outrageousness. That's what I love about Bette, because she used to say "F--- 'em if they can't take a joke." And then there's Liza, who overcame drugs and this overbearing man or that overbearing man and an outrageous mother. They love me because I'm outrageous, and I love them as an audience because they're the unshockable gays, which is what comedy should be about. But when I was in high school I went to prom with the gay kid, and I've always been friends with the gay kids. What I admire about the gay community, and what I wish women would learn, is that they are good at organizing and getting stuff done, while women attack each other. I think the gay community is very good about that, they get together they mobilize and they stand up against so much abject adversity.

So have you ever seen yourself done in drag?
I have once. I was very excited. I went to a gig in Chicago. It was super D list. I was sponsoring some evening at a bar and I showed up to host a talent show, and there was a Kathy Griffin drag queen, and it actually made me rethink my wardrobe because she was wearing a suit and I realized I wear suits too much on talk shows. She taught me a valuable lesson.

So what do you think about Paris in Jail?
I think she had her window to look cool but then getting out and the whining was a bad call. Twenty-three days is not that long. I'd love it. It sounds like a vacation. I could catch up on rest, lose weight. I mean she should come on the road with me, she'd be begging for jail. Barbara Walters said she didn't understand why everyone hates Paris, but she represents everything that America hates. She's entitled. She says she's sweet, but I've heard her use the N word on tape, and that's not sweet. But of course, like everybody else in Hollywood, she's found the Bible. But now she's got the Bible, like she can read it. That sheriff's going to have to read it to her.

So are you worried you're going to get too famous and move off the D list, ruining your whole act?
Yesterday I was at the California Pizza Kitchen sitting at the bar, and this woman wouldn't stop bothering me saying: "You look like someone, you sound so familiar." That's how I know I'm still on the D list: when the woman at the CPK asks if we went to high school together.