Kathy Griffin is not afraid of saying exactly what’s on her mind and letting it come out unfiltered. On Friday night at the Riverside Theater, Griffin performed to an adoring crowd with a rapid stream of material.
Skipping an opening act, the night began with a video montage of Griffin’s career, including snippets of sitcom appearances, standup specials and talk show visits that resulted in her getting banned from the program. The video concluded with a message from Griffin’s mother, Maggie, that drew a huge ovation from the Riverside crowd.
When Griffin emerged, the Riverside crowd immediately stood and camera phones started flashing. "Yes, take my picture dammit! Do it, it’s your night!" With a "Beyonce fan" in front of her microphone stand the whole night, Griffin embraced her role as a diva in total control of the crowd. Asking "Where my gays at?" a huge cheer erupted and the LGBT-friendly comedian joked that there were maybe seven heterosexual guys in the audience … all of which had been dragged by their girlfriend or spouse.
Early on, she talked about the Catholic church and made a joke about sexual assaults by priests.
"This is the part of the show that I call ‘taking your temperature,’ where I say very offensive things and see who storms out. I don’t feel like I’ve really done my job until there’s a walkout."
She then explained that she is currently ramping up material for her 20th televised standup special and that the crowd’s reaction would help her gauge what would help make the cut for the final special.
Griffin’s best known for offering her takes on celebrities and she covered a wide range, tackling the Kardashians, Lohans, Honey Boo Boo, Miley Cyrus, Ashton Kutcher, Justin Bieber, Sarah Palin, Kirstie Alley, Oprah Winfrey, Rihanna and various "Real Housewives," among others.
Part of what makes Griffin's act unique is that the tabloid news surrounding these celebrities is never-ending, so she often has fresh news to decipher nightly. Griffin informed the audience that she always double checks the news moments before coming out on stage to make sure that none of her targets has passed away. If they are still breathing, they are fair game for the act.
Griffin offered her unique takes on Milwaukee, including her fascination with the Safe House, shots at Scott Walker, her love of Miller Brewery and commenting that Milwaukee is the home of Harley-Davidson. When her mention of Harley-Davidson was followed with cheers, Griffin coyly remarked "Oh, as if there’s a lot of bikers here!"
Later on, she killed by saying "I want to make sure no one accidentally walked into my show thinking it was Betty Brinn Children’s Museum!"
The best Milwaukee-centric material that Griffin had was her perspective on The Pfister Hotel. She lamented that it is so specific to Milwaukee, if she told other audiences about the hotel’s name, they would think she was making it up. "It’s so fun to book a room at The Pfister. ‘I’d like a Pfister Suite. I need room, I’m feeling stretched out.'"
Griffin closed the night with a story about performing in Orlando, Florida the night of the George Zimmerman verdict. After upsetting the crowd with her raw reaction to the news, Griffin saved the night with the dirtiest joke she could think of, related to Amanda Bynes. Griffin shared the joke with the Riverside crowd, but it is by no means suitable for print. However, I can’t imagine that this extremely solid closer wouldn’t be included in the upcoming special she’s recording.
While Griffin was adored throughout the night by the crowd, she jumped around a lot during the first half of her act, which was a bit disjointing. For example, she started to talk about a TLC special about a a man with a 132-pound scrotum several times only to get sidetracked and tangentially discuss a celebrity. If this was an intentional choice, it wasn’t beneficial to the material. However, Griffin’s fearlessness makes her one of the most compelling comedians to see and that was definitely true Friday night.