The acerbic, razor-tongued, take-no-prisoners comedian Kathy Griffin has built a career for herself -- as an actress and a standup performer -- around the schtick of being permanently under-respected by everyone (as the title of her TV series, My Life on the D List, suggests), and fighting back with her claws extended. Griffin is notorious for mercilessly skewering and taking potshots at worthy targets (particularly fellow celebrities and comedians) through her comedy, and has built a considerable career out of doing so. With an electronics store manager father and a hospital administrator mother, Griffin was born in Oak Park, Illinois, and raised in the Chicago area. She reportedly wanted to become an actress from the age of five, and frequently improvised elaborate stage and comedy acts for her family. Griffin attended Oak Park High School, and -- after graduation -- studied acting at the Lee Strasberg Institute in Southern California. In 1988, the then-28-year-old joined the now-infamous sketch comedy troupe the Groundlings, alongside such stars-to-be as Lisa Kudrow, Will Ferrell, and Julia Sweeney, where she evinced an extraordinary gift for improvisational work.
After the Groundlings, Griffin developed and honed a solo standup act that -- as she later recalled -- opened numerous doors for her as an actress, including a turn as Lucy in the Bobcat Goldthwait vehicle Shakes the Clown (1992), a brief cameo in Pulp Fiction, and a small multi-episode role on Seinfeld. Griffin was particularly memorable in the latter as Sally Weaver, the standup comedian whose act consisted of trashing Jerry Seinfeld by revealing embarrassing details from his personal life. A cameo as herself in the SNL big-screen vehicle It's Pat (1994) reunited Griffin with fellow Groundling Sweeney. Beginning in 1996, Griffin parlayed her comic flair and small-screen experience into a standing role in the hit NBC sitcom Suddenly Susan, starring Brooke Shields; that program cast Griffin as Vicki Groener, magazine columnist Shields' not-so-subtly envious, über-saucy colleague. The program scored with viewers and ran for three seasons.
Meanwhile, Griffin continued her big-screen roles, with turns in the 1995 omnibus picture Four Rooms (as Betty), the 1996 Ben Stiller-directed The Cable Guy (as Jim Carrey's mother), and Muppets from Space (1999), as an armed guard. Additional guest contributions on a myriad of sitcoms during the '90s and 2000s gave an added charge to the respective series casts. Griffin also starred in the aforementioned cable series Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D List, which began airing on the Bravo network in 2004. The comically charged reality show cast Griffin as herself, battling through the experiences of everyday life -- such as training a new puppy and teaching a class at the Learning Annex. The program allegedly began with a prime-time slot on NBC, but was ankled by the network following production of the pilot, and then picked up by Bravo. Off camera, Griffin reportedly harbors a jet-black sense of humor and an ongoing fascination with true crime, particularly serial killers. In 2008, Griffin released the comedy album For Your Consideration. A year later, Griffin returned with the not-so-holiday-themed standup concert album Suckin' It for the Holidays, earning a Grammy nomination for Best Comedy Album, a feat she would accomplish on her next three albums, 2010's Kathy Griffin Does the Bible Belt, 2011's 50 and Not Pregnant, and 2012's Seaman 1st Class. ~ Nathan Southern