Everyone has a Kathy Griffin. That friend, you know the type, who’s effortlessly hilarious, quick with the comebacks, perfect for parties (if you, like me, prefer to bring guests who amuse but also mildly offend the hosts); also the kind of friend who after a few days together starts to grate on you. It’s no fault of theirs, just some people work better in smaller doses. Non-consecutive-day-doses.
Kathy Griffin’s memoir is a lot like her, and like that friend. It’s hilarious, fast-paced and often insightful, but by the end I was ready for a break.
I went into this book not knowing what to expect. Comedians can go both ways when it comes to the written word–sometimes, as is the case with Michael Ian Black, their books are perfection, just slightly more bizarre extensions of their routines (I don’t care what people say about Russell Brand, I find his memoir(s) far more amusing than he is in person). Other times, it doesn’t quite work. You find yourself missing their inflections, or well-placed pauses for laughter. Reading is an isolated activity, and stand-up is a group one. The two don’t always mix.
Griffin’s Official Book Club Selection (which, by the by, awesome title) benefits from Griffin’s stand-up style, which is more long-form storytelling than a series of witty one-liners. Those familiar with her stand-up (or Bravo show) will hear her voice in the writing, but the stories don’t suffer for not being performed on a stage. In fact, the book lets her go further than she probably would to a crowded room—a chapter about her brother, who she suspected of pedophilia (no joke), miiight not have made the best material for a night at Radio City Music Hall. On the page it comes across as insightful and acerbic; one gets the impression humor isn’t so much Griffin’s defense mechanism as it is a lens through which she (and any self-respecting cynic) views the world. In other words, the book isn’t all celebrity gossip and plastic surgery stories; just mostly.
Similarly, it’s worth noting that those looking for some dirt on Brooke Shields, Andy Dick, Oprah, etc., will be rewarded here. Griffin chronicles not just her recent fame, which puts her in close quarters with plenty of A-listers, but also her humble beginnings, nearly two decades of failed acting attempts, stand-up comedy and run-ins with at-the-time nobodies who would go on to fame and fortune (I’m looking at you, Jack “I use my bathmat as a towel” Black). She’s also had…relations, with a pretty interesting cast of characters (again, Jack Black). Some of the stories are old hat for those who watch Griffin’s stand-up specials, but plenty of them are new. If you’re looking for a slightly more highbrow (and slightly post-dated) TMZ, this is your book.
Official Book Club Selection also does a lovely job, as Griffin does on her show, My Life on the D-List, of showcasing her predictably adorable parents. Generally I’m indifferent when it comes to the parental impression sect of stand-up comedy—I get it Margaret Cho, your mom has an accent—but Griffin’s parents’ brand of hilarity is more subtle, even though she tends to remind us of it…often. I can’t say I would have wanted boxed-wine-loving Maggie Griffin as my own mother, but picturing her on the set of ER, making small talk with a young George Clooney, is certainly worth a few laughs.
I picked up Official Book Club Selection because Home Safe, last week’s read, was decidedly emotional. I figured this book wouldn’t be, and I was partway right. Griffin does touch on some emotional stuff—her flirtation with an eating disorder, her botched plastic surgery, the aforementioned pedophilia—but a self-deprecating celebrity story is never far behind.
I personally don’t watch My Life on the D-List; as I’ve said before, I can only take Griffin in small doses. But I do watch, and love, her stand-up specials. So it should come as little surprise that Official Book Club selection—a mixture of the two—was a mixed bag for me. On the one hand, I found Griffin’s early career fairly fascinating, even though the majority of it predates my life. On the other hand, the second half of the book felt like a bit of a rehash of stories I’ve seen on her comedy special (in fairness, I’m reading this book two years after it was released).
Official Book Club Selection is a fun read (oh! and there are photos!), just like Kathy Griffin is a fun person. If you’re a fan, pick it up and if you’re not…well, who knows, maybe you will be.
TITLE: Official Book Club Selection: A Memoir According to Kathy Griffin
AUTHOR: Kathy Griffin
PAGES: 358 (in paperback, w/ hilarious epilogue and book club questions)
ALSO WROTE: n/a
SORTA LIKE: Are You There Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea meets The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption, and Pee
FIRST LINE: “Have you ever looked at the online photos of Britney’s peesh?” ———————————————————–
PS: …That may be the best first line ever.