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Kathy Griffin is ready to talk; will America listen?
Posted 4/18/2012 7:31 PM ET
LOS ANGELES — It's pouring out, and Kathy Griffin is sitting in the front seat of an SUV with a plastic shopping bag and scarf layered over her just-curled red locks, trying to figure out what to buy for newly married Backstreet Boy AJ McLean — and how much time she has to do it.

"Celebrities are weird," she says. "They don't register."

It's a short ride from her production office to the set of her talk show, Kathy, which launches tonight on Bravo (10 ET/PT), and in a sense, this celeb-dusted wedding chatter is exactly what Griffin wants the hour-long show to be: pure water-cooler material.

MORE: My stars! What would Griffin ask celebs?

And if she has it her way, Kathy won't actually feature any celebrities at all.

"If the celebrities watch the show and they like it and they come to play, of course they're welcome," says Griffin, who is set to begin her weekly show with a blend of stand-up, friends willing to shoot the buzzy breeze and a piece introducing her staff. "But it's the same exact standard that I have for my (non-famous) guests: … They have to come and let it rip."

Like her idols Don Rickles and Joan Rivers, being outrageous now — and not that sorry later — is Griffin's calling card. Six seasons of her bare-all Emmy-winning reality show, My Life on the D-List, proved it, as have 13 celeb-skewering Bravo TV specials, countless stand-up tours and five years of making Anderson Cooper blush on CNN as the New Year's ball drops.

Griffin says the time is ripe to try out her version of a talk format. "I think the reason it couldn't happen 10 years ago is because it really did take people a while to go 'Oh, she's kidding,' " she says. "One thing I'm really enjoying is that at 51, finally, a lot of these A-listers are actually getting that it's a joke."

Kathy's set is downtown New York: exposed brick, midcentury furniture, plasma TVs and bright pops of cherry throw pillows and Gerbera daisies. Each week, atop a glossy white overstuffed armchair, Griffin plans to ponder everything from VH1's Couples Therapy to politics.

"Really, the people who I like are the people who are supposedly doing everything wrong," she says. "I love Bill Maher, I love Joan Rivers, I love Howard Stern." The talk ship she's running will be looser than Letterman's ("He's notoriously formal") and more personal than Johnny Carson's. "Nothing's off the table," she says.

Her "perfect guest"? Mom Maggie, of course. "Is my 91-year-old mom going to be drunk? You betcha," she says. But there probably will be a face in the crowd that viewers will never see: Griffin's new boyfriend, who is 18 years her junior and whom she won't identify for now. Protecting him is a luxury of leaving reality television behind. "The great thing about this show is, I could do a perfectly good talk show and my boyfriend could be sitting right where you're sitting and be laughing at my jokes and we'll go get a pizza afterward."

While Griffin works out Kathy's kinks, there's one hosting formality she's itching to do away with. "They keep trying to get me to use cards on this show that are orange and say Kathy on the back. I can't do it."

On tour, "I have bullet points in my head. I bring out this ridiculous ghetto notebook, I put it on a stool next to me, and then I never look at it. That's how this show is and it's going to be."

Posted 4/18/2012 7:31 PM ET
Kathy Griffin has a new TV chat show Kathy, coming on Bravo. She poses for a portrait in her office at the Sunset Bronson Studios in Los Angeles.
Dan MacMedan, USA TODAY
Kathy Griffin has a new TV chat show Kathy, coming on Bravo. She poses for a portrait in her office at the Sunset Bronson Studios in Los Angeles.

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