Monday, June 30, 2008

My Life on the D-List: I’m Totally Into It

I was late to jump on the Kathy Griffin bandwagon.
To be honest, I think I had some residual resentment of her because, back in her Suddenly Susan days, people were constantly telling me how much I sound like her.
Once a month or so, someone would call my radio show and say, “You know who you sound EXACTLY like?”
And I would yawn and say, "Who?"
After a triumphant pause: “Kathy Griffin!”
It irked.
(Funny aside: I actually mentioned this to my sis Felicia at the time. In a show of solidarity, she said she didn’t hear the similarity. Later that night we were getting ready for a party—Felicia was in the bathroom, I was in the bedroom next door— and Kathy Griffin happened to be on TV. “Damn!” Kathy Griffin said, although I’m not sure why. “What happened?” Felicia said to me. “Did you find a run in your pantyhose?” So much for not sounding like her.)
The other reason why I didn’t like Kathy Griffin? I didn’t get her, to be honest. I thought she was just your run-of-the-mill fame-whorey, shameless D-Lister. What I didn’t realize was that she was the ultimate fame-whorey, shameless D-Lister. She had elevated wannabe status to an art form.
What’s amazing is that, even though her show is a huge hit and she is actually inching closer to A-List status every day, Kathy hasn’t changed. She hasn’t had that scary Stepford Celeb transformation that seems to occur when a star makes it big. She hasn’t signed that A-List Code of Omerta. She’s still totally willing to dish on everyone (including herself).
If you’re like me, your dream best friend would be somebody funny, quick, with a built-in bullshit detector who also knew the gossip on everyone. That’s Kathy. Except her gossip comes from inside the velvet ropes. And while the very fact that she dishes copious dirt on her fellow celebs should keep her outside the inner sanctum, she’s pretty much bulldozed her way in. Some celebs may like her (a few must have senses of humor about themselves, right? . . . right?) and certainly some hate her (Star Jones, I’m talking to YOU!), but at this point Kathy Griffin can not be denied.
There are other things to like about Kathy: She works her ass off. No job is too big or too small, as the saying goes. And when she comes, she brings the funny. The scenes of her performing for troops in Iraq two seasons ago were remarkable not just because she showed genuine bravery, but because she was determined to make these soldiers laugh, no matter what it took. Her desire to please them was genuine and kind of touching.
Some of the shtick on her show falls flat: I love her completely deadpan, doesn’t-give-a-damn assistant Jessica, but the presence of the two new assistants seem contrived, an attempt to give her wacky sidekicks. And of course, the whole D-List concept is becoming less plausible. It’s like, hellllooooo, we SEE the limos and the staff and the overflow capacity concert halls—you’re not fooling anyone.
Still, Griffin cracks my shit up. I’m not even a fan of standup comedy—I find the whole “okay, bitch, make me laugh” proposition a bit awkward—but I love Kathy’s standup.
And last week, a scene involving a party, a chicken, and some flying cocktail napkins (you had to be there) had me doubled over laughing with snot bubbles coming out of my nose.
Oddly enough, in the past few years, no one has mentioned that I sound like Kathy. And now I kinda wish they would.

Personal aside to JS: Actually, I don’t give a whole lot of thought to Tiny Tim. But I love that you do.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Top Chef finale recap! (Hey, better late than never)

I’ve actually been meaning to recap this show for weeks, but have been too darn busy to get around to it. It’s hard out there for a blogger, ya know.

That being said, let me catch up a bit by sharing my thoughts on some of the dearly departed contestants who already had to pack up their Ginsus and take a hike.

Dale: Dale kind of reminds me of that guy who ruins the company picnic by getting all foaming-at-the-mouth competitive over the accounts vs. sales softball game. Dude, chillax. Senor Rage should’ve dialed down the locker kicking episodes. That being said, I do think that Dale should have gone farther in the competition. He had serious skillz. (And he looked so fetching last night in his little vest and new glasses.)

Antonia: She really grew on me as the competition went on. I loved that she had this “heroine in a chick flick” moment mid-way through the season where she decided to stop trying to please anyone else and cook her own way. (Cue empowering Carly Simon song.) From that moment, she pretty much sailed through the competition. Was very, very, very sad that she went home instead of Lisa.
In fact, I will now share with you a little email I sent my mother when she told me the horrible news (I had missed the episode, although I’ve since seen it on re-run):

Nooooooooo! Lisa over Antonia?
Wait. . . . Let me compose myself.

Spike: Never has one contestant gone so far with so little (although Nikki definitely gave him a run for his money in that department). Spike never won a solo challenge, was routinely in the bottom 3 and yet seemed to coast through on charm and moxie alone. I know some people found his faux-boho hipster routine and outsized cockiness irritating—not to mention those hats (he and Ricky from Project Runway should open a little hat-themed haberdashery in the East Village)—but I appreciated his witty commentary. Plus, he’s hot.

Andrew: Amusing at times, certainly a terrific chef, but I thought the guy was a little nuts. He had crazy eyes. I didn’t actually blame Lisa for thinking he might hit her after she “threw him under the bus” (rapidly becoming the second most over-used phrase on reality TV after “personal journey”) by pointing out that he hadn’t used all the required ingredients in his final challenge. When a guy proclaims after an all-nighter that “I’m filled with energy. So I’ve either gotta to kill somebody or. . . make some great food” I think there is a cause for genuine alarm.

Mark: He always looked sweaty to me.

There were a bunch of other contestants, but they aren’t really noteworthy at this point.

Okay, onto the Final Three . . .

Richard: It was hard to get over the faux-hawk (dude, please note that the lesbian to your left has the exact same haircut) and the gastro-biology crap. But like Antonia, Richard really grew on me as the season progressed. He was just a sweet guy and a talented, innovative chef. Still, he had a habit of being overly cutesy with his food and, in the end, it bit him on the butt.

Stephanie: I loved her from word go, she really was the girl-next-door-as-Top-Chef, but she never inspired great confidence. Maybe it was the fact that she only won one quickfire. Maybe it was the fact that her hand visibly shook when she was drizzling her sauce that one time. Maybe it was the fact that she combined peanut butter, chicken, and tomatoes—ugh!—for that kids’ challenge. Maybe it’s the fact that her official Top Chef portrait (see above) featured her holding a bunch of uncooked peppers in a strainer (she can strain!). I worried every week that she would stumble. But the truth is, she didn’t. She actually kicked ass for much of the competition, especially in her preparation of meat. If she'd only had a bit more self-confidence, she would’ve made life so much easier on herself (and her fans). But then again, that might have made her less loveable.

Lisa: Oh, where to begin? I have a strange habit of relating to the designated villian on any reality TV show, believing that they are the victim of a bad edit or nasty group-think (nothing brings people together quite like a shared enemy.) But between her folded arms and perma-bitchface at every elimination, her rudeness to the judges, and her tendency to blame her problems on everyone but herself, Lisa was really hard to like. Certainly one of the highlights of the season for me was that awkward moment in part one of the finale after Antonia was sent home and Lisa said, “At least you guys could congratulate me.” Stephanie, always a peach, looked at her shoes and muttered a half-hearted congratulations. But later Richard rattled off the line of the series: “You won the f**king bronze medal. Congratulations.”

The finale had many “what were they thinking?” moments. Here are a few:

1. When Richard made those damn banana
scallops again.

2. When Stephanie attempted an unrefined dessert like a pound cake for some of the greatest chefs in the world.

3. When Lisa sat in the elimination room and calculated (in front of Richard) that it was too close to call between herself and Stephanie. Richard so should have stood up and said, “Hello. I’m in the room. I can hear you.”

4. When Richard threw himself under the bus—heh—by saying that he choked. Dude, never, ever, ever let them see you sweat.

5. Three words: Bacon ice cream.

In the end, they made me very nervous by liking Lisa’s food so much. Especially since they all seemed a bit resigned to their final choice. Could they have been—insert Jon Lovitz voice here—acting?
I had gone into the finale with an “Anyone But Lisa” mentality (shared, apparently, by 94 percent of the Top Chef viewing audience. Ouch.) I didn’t care if a girl or a guy won the competition. This, “we must get a girl winner” thing bit my beloved Danny Tidwell in the butt on So You Think You Can Dance. Pick the best contestant and call it a day, people.
But I found myself really rooting for Stephanie to win. I liked her. I wanted to eat her food. I wanted to get a beer with her and giggle and and talk about boys (and foie gras).
And to be honest, Richard did kinda choke. Still, I wish he had come in second and Lisa had, again, won the f**king bronze medal. Especially after seeing her gracious reaction to losing out to Stephanie: “F**k!” Classy in the beginning, classy in the middle, classy to the bitter end. That’s our Lisa.