Now Playing

Burning Down the House

Comedian Kathy Griffin, who performs at Carnegie Hall (881 Seventh Ave., carnegiehall.org) on Nov. 8, shares her penchant for not being home for the holidays.

Kathy Griffin

I believe the holidays are a time to avoid your family.

Now, I know that’s not the conventional wisdom, but you know, I’ve made a career of going off the grid, and I say: Lie about it. Come up with an excuse; really avoid your family. They’re a wreck at this time. I come from an Irish-Catholic family, and you know what that means. It means “glug, glug, glug.” My beloved Irish-Catholic relatives—and “Catholic” has big quotes around it—will imbibe in any way possible just to get through, frankly, even my own dinners.

Family issues get very heightened during the holidays, so I have some tips. First: Adopt a family. I actually did this one time with New York’s own Lara Spencer, one of the co-hosts of Good Morning America, which has shot to No. 1 this year. (Not that I wouldn’t be happy to do it over at Savannah Guthrie’s. I’m sure she throws quite a spread, too.) But one year, I just turned right to my mom and lied to her face—which is easy because she’s usually drunk—and I said, “Lara Spencer is going through a lot of crises—the plural of crisis—in her life, and she needs me.” And I got out of all of Thanksgiving.

And Lara Spencer and I went over to a friend of hers that neither of us knew very well. What’s great about being a guest when you’re with an adopted group of friends or family is that they get to do all the fighting, while you get all the sweet potatoes.

The point is, I think it’s great to find some excuse—and it doesn’t have to contain the truth at all—to just go and stay in someone else’s world.

Another great thing is when you can get away with ignoring the traditional rules of cooking and of what to bring to a holiday party. I can’t boil water, but I can lie my way into getting a to-go dish from Rachael Ray.
You wouldn’t believe the sob stories I’ve given Rachael Ray when the truth is that I’m going to someone’s party and I didn’t make anything. I’ll just say something like, “Rachael, um, I’ve got sickle-cell anemia. It’s very rare in Caucasians, but could you make some mac and cheese for a party?”

You can often guilt a friend who can actually cook into giving you something by telling them you’re going to use it to nurse yourself back to health, and then you take the food to Howard Stern’s house.

I went to Joan Rivers’ house one time and convinced her that I was Jewish. I said, “Joan, I gotta come over for Yom Kippur,” and she was like, “You mean Hanukkah?” And I said, “You said it, lady!” Next thing you know, I’m sitting there with somebody named Blaine Trump. I don’t know, I can’t keep up with Joan Rivers and her highfalutin high-society life. All I know is that the meal was delicious, and the next thing, they talked about yachting.

The greatest thing about being a “guest” in Manhattan is that you don’t know what kind of crowd you’re going to get in with. I had someone actually say to me—and this someone is not a famous person—“Oh, Christmas morning? I’m going to the Jackmans’.” And he said it like that, with an attitude. I’m like, “The Hugh Jackmans’?” He’s like, “Yeah, I do it every Christmas.” How the f**k do you get into the Hugh Jackman Christmas Morning Mafia? That’s deeper than Oprah and Gayle. I wanted to slap him. I was mad that he couldn’t get me into the Jackmans’. He’s like, “No, there are nine of us!” Then I thought, wait a minute, he probably lied and said he had sickle-cell anemia.

Performing at Carnegie Hall is like performing for the military. There’s nothing New Yorkers haven’t seen or can’t take. Nothing can shock them. There’s nothing I can say that’s so profane they haven’t heard it from their own super.

So, I have two goals in the holiday season for New York. One is, of course, to get Anderson Cooper fired once and for all on New Year’s Eve on CNN. I’ve almost done it year after year, yet somehow he’s managed to keep that job.

But the other one is to emotionally burn Carnegie to the ground. It’s going to be a string of profanity, vulgarity... I know I’m going to have walkouts. Somebody is going to think they’re there to see Kristin Chenoweth and Josh Groban sing the hits of South Pacific, and they’re going to get stuck with me and my dick jokes. I might even do a headcount and see which one of those f**kers is going to the Jackmans’.