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Kathy Griffin Biography

Home > Actresses > G > Griffin, Kathy > Biography

Birth Name: Kathy Griffin
Born: 11/04/1960
Birth Place: Oak Park, Illinois, USA

Born Kathleen Griffin on Nov. 4, 1960, Griffin was raised in the Chicago suburb of Oak Park. She was the youngest of five children of John, who managed an electronics store, and Maggie, a hospital administrator. Growing up, Griffin was taunted by schoolmates for her freckles and wiry red hair, but the sharp wit she developed as a defense proved to be the starting point of her career in comedy. Following her graduation from high school, Griffin spent a short period of time attending a local junior college before opting to move to California, where her parents wanted to retire and Griffin wanted to try to break into show business. One of her first jobs was as an extra in a 1984 Pepsi commercial starring The Jacksons. In fact it was during this shoot that Griffin, along with hundreds of others in L.A.'s Shrine Auditorium, witnessed Michael Jackson's head infamously catching fire. Griffin would go on to study acting at the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute but fell in love with comedy performing through her training and eventual slot on the company roster of the famed Groundlings theater group. While performing regularly with the troupe over seven years and developing her stand-up at other venues around town, Griffin working her way onto the screen with guest roles on sitcoms like "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" (NBC, 1990-96), "Dream On" (HBO, 1990-96) and "Mad About You" (NBC, 1992-99). She also made brief character appearances in B-grade feature comedies like "It's Pat" (1994), "Shakes the Clown" (1992) - as well as Quentin Tarantino's biggest hit and the 1990s definitive film, "Pulp Fiction" (1994).

Griffin's reputation on L.A.'s alternative comedy scene and the buzz generated by her one-woman show "A Hot Cup of Chat" led to her first breakthrough. In 1995, she headlined her own HBO "Half Hour Comedy Special," and the following year, was cast as a regular on the short-lived FOX variety show, "Saturday Night Special" (Fox, 1996). Following that show's cancellation, Griffin landed a plum "sidekick" role alongside Brooke Shields as a fellow columnist at a hip San Francisco magazine on the NBC sitcom, "Suddenly Susan" (1996-2000). While not a critic's favorite, the series' Thursday night time-slot brought in hefty ratings, and Griffin's sardonic, one-liner sass majorly boosted her career. Also in 1996, she made a memorable guest appearance on "Seinfeld" (NBC, 1989-1998) as an overbearing, aspiring comedian who befriends Jerry only to score laughs by making him the butt of her stand-up jokes. Griffin unwittingly launched her lucrative future as a cable TV host in 1997, when she was tapped to host the first season of the Comedy Central stand-up showcase, "Premium Blend" (1997-2005). She served as co-host of the "Billboard Music Awards" (FOX, 1990- ) for three consecutive years beginning in 1998, the same year she headlined her first hour-long stand-up special, "A Hot Cup of Talk" (HBO, 1998).

Diversifying into voice-overs, Griffin landed a regular role on the animated adaptation of the comic strip "Dilbert" (UPN, 1999-2000), but around that same time, her main gig on "Suddenly Susan" was winding down. Several changes in the show's scheduling had weakened its ratings, and following the shocking suicide of fellow cast member David Strickland in 1999, the cast and producers seemingly lost their spirit for the project. "Suddenly Susan" was cancelled in 2000, but by that time Griffin had become a prominent TV personality, well-established as a catty, campy, and unpredictable Hollywood basher who was popping up everywhere. She guest-starred in an episode of Fox's sci-fi anchor, "The X-Files" (Fox, 1993-2002), had a cameo in rapper Eminem's video for "The Real Slim Shady," and made for a sassy contestant on the primetime game show, "Weakest Link" (NBC, 2001-02). Amidst a dizzying schedule that included dozens of wisecracking appearances on "Hollywood Squares" (NBC, Syndicated, 1966-2004), "Whose Line is it Anyway?" (ABC, 1998-2003; ABC Family, 2004-06), and every conceivable daytime and nighttime talk show, Griffin whisked away to Hawaii where she embraced a long series of ridiculous stunts and emerged victorious on the reality series, "Celebrity Mole: Hawaii" (ABC, 2001-04), earning over $200,000 in prize money.

The stand-up comedy DVD "Kathy Griffin: Allegedly" was released in 2004, while her stand-up special "The D-List" (Bravo, 2004) - a reference to Hollywood's A-list and her significantly lower status - aired on Bravo the same year. Griffin's brand of humor proved an excellent match for the cable network's significant gay audience, and she evolved into one of their major draws following the comedy special, "Kathy Griffin Is... Not Nicole Kidman" (Bravo, 2005) and the launch of her own reality series, "Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List" (2005- ). Based on her popular stand-up routine, the unscripted series followed Griffin as she dealt with the drama of being a D-list celebrity - including behind the scenes interactions with her "main gays," her remarkably entertaining elderly parents, and her devoted husband, Matt Moline. Following the departure of fellow celeb-basher Joan Rivers from her post covering awards season for E!, Griffin was brought in to host E!'s "Live from the Red Carpet: The 2005 Golden Globe Awards." However, an unleashed Griffin went too far during her maiden red carpet outing, and her improvised running joke that child actress and "War of the Worlds" (2005) star Dakota Fanning had gone into rehab upset the film's executives and director Steven Spielberg. Though E! issued a formal apology, Griffin did not, and was replaced at the subsequent event by warm and fuzzy "American Idol" (Fox, 2002- ) host, Ryan Seacrest.

Taking the controversy in stride, Griffin appeared as a judge on the reality competition "Last Comic Standing" (NBC, 2003-08) and recorded another special, "Kathy Griffin: Strong Black Woman" (Bravo, 2006). That same year, she made the very public announcement that she had filed for divorce from Moline, alleging that her husband had been stealing money from her bank accounts. Fans were scratching their heads when, not long after, she launched into an unlikely pairing with Apple computer co-founder and well-known billionaire, Steve Wozniak. In early 2007, Griffin announced the death of her father, a fan favorite and supporting real life player on "The D-List." Viewers would later watch as Griffin learned of his declining health and subsequent death on camera - a heartbreaking moment for fans who had grown to love the no-nonsense, wine-drinking John Griffin each week and were, at the same time, touched by the comedian's vulnerability in the wake of her father's death. That year, she returned to the red carpet on Steve Wozniak's arm, but this time as an Emmy Award winner for Outstanding Reality Program for "My Life on the D-List." The sharp-tongued redhead still managed to incite controversy with an acceptance speech that singled out Jesus as someone she was not thankful to for the honor. The expected backlash from religious groups and conservative pundits was forthcoming, and she addressed all of it in her subsequent stand-up specials, "Kathy Griffin: Straight to Hell" (Bravo, 2007) and "Kathy Griffin: Everybody Can Suck It" (Bravo, 2007).

Griffin went on to serve as a guest co-host on the morning talk show "The View" (ABC, 1997-) for four months, though when she was not chosen as a permanent host, her experiences there became fodder for her act and subsequently upset some people involved in the show - including executive producer Bill Geddie and Barbara Walters. Much to her amusement and that of her "D-list" viewers, she was eventually banned from the program, along with numerous other talk shows too numerous to list. The very personality that made some productions wary of Griffin's involvement continued to deliver record ratings for Bravo, where she hosted the 2008 and 2009 A-List Awards. She was selected to serve as the roast master of Comedy Central's "Roast of Joan Rivers" (2009), and her first comedy album For Your Consideration, which she claimed was made only as an attempt to win a Grammy, was indeed nominated for a Grammy for Best Comedy Album in 2009. Following the airing of her latest Bravo offering, "Kathy Griffin: She'll Cut a Bitch" (2009), the 49-year-old made the highly suspect announcement that her new boyfriend was Levi Johnston, the 19-year-old who spent a brief moment in the spotlight as the onetime fiancée of presidential nominee Sara Palin's teen daughter. The gossip-column announcement was conveniently timed to coincide with the release of her first book, Official Book Club Selection: A Memoir According to Kathy Griffin - a tome she shamelessly named in the hopes that readers would believe it was Oprah Winfrey-approved.