The TV Specials
The double-DVD set Kathy Griffin: Red, Hot + Raw presents seven of the outrageous redheaded comedienne's made-for-cable standup specials in one snarkilicious package. Each special comes with Kathy's swear words uncensored - and without Bravo's jarring commercial interruptions. An attractive price ($24.97 MSRP) and bonus footage cut from each special sweeten the deal.
The live standup routines in Red, Hot + Raw, filmed in 2009-11, cover a transitional time in Kathy's career. The earliest sets were performed at around the same time that production wrapped on the final, sucky season of her reality show Kathy Griffin: My Life On The D-List. At this point, her public persona has been molded to match the glitzy, bitchy tone of the network she stars on - she's still a hoot and a half, granted, but it's a long way from the lady who slept in her makeup and schlepped to thankless corporate parties seen in the first few D-List seasons. Though I kinda miss that old Kathy, her gossipy, trash-talking everygirl appeal is still out in full force here.
Even within the two years that these specials cover, one can see a subtle change in Kathy's humor. The first one, Balls Of Steel, contains the kind of savage barbs against celebrities (including a spot-on accounting of Whitney Houston's weird appearance on Oprah) that she's notorious for. There's still plenty of hilarious celeb-bashing here, although it seems like these days her biggest swipes are saved for easy targets (the Palins, the Kardashians) or reality TV participants. As good as she is at talking smack about pseudo-celebs or hypocritical politicos, she is at her most gut-busting when describing whatever trashy TV fare strikes her fancy. Okay, her pontifications on the Real Housewives are pretty dull (and they come up with such frequency that one has to wonder if Bravo contracted her to mention them every time), but her incredulous takes on Hoarders and I Didn't Know I Was Pregnant alone are worth the price of this set. Before Kathy, I had no idea that stuff like Little Chocolatiers and The OCD Project even existed. Listening to her gab about that stuff is better than watching it in the first place.
The last four specials on this set (50 & Not Pregnant, Gurrl Down, Pants Off and Tired Hooker) came about as part of Bravo's deal to have her do four specials throughout 2011. Considering that it usually takes a comedian months, if not years, to find the right jokes and fine-tune a monologue, Kathy does surprisingly well with this heavy workload. She's especially fresh and feisty on the Gurrl Down special, taped with a receptive audience in Boston. The only times that she seems to be straining for the funny is when she talks (often) about her tippling ma, Maggie, or relays (boring) stories about her wacky doings with famous pals like Anderson Cooper and Cher. The strain especially starts to show in Tired Hooker (what an apt title), a listless set where she veers toward the vulgar (including, shudder, her own sex life) and behaves like a chatty, wound-up spaz - at least it gives a little insight into how she reacts when the material isn't working as well.
It needs to be mentioned that some of the topics covered here are dated (hey, remember when Kate Gosselin was hot?), and those who never really liked Kathy's comedy in the first place will not find anything enlightening here. Everybody else will find a lot to enjoy on Red, Hot + Raw.
Shout! Factory's Kathy Griffin: Red, Hot + Raw contains the following seven specials, spread over two DVDs:
||Kathy's Look; Set Decor
|Balls Of Steel
||San Diego, CA; September 26, 2009
||Black casual wear; purple and teal talk show lighting
||Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Miley Cyrus, Jon and Kate Gosselin
|Does The Bible Belt
||Knoxville, TN; May 10, 2010
||Glitter eye shadow and Country Star hair; Gothic cathedral/Camelot production
||Censorship, dinner party with Sharon Stone and Suzanne Somers, Dancing with the Stars, Hoarders
|Whores On Crutches
||Temecula, CA; September 24, 2010
||TEAM GRIFFIN t-shirt; giant monogram with glowing purple panels
||Casinos, Elisabeth Hasselback, Maggie, Tiger Woods
|50 & Not Pregnant
||Milwaukee, WI; February 19, 2011
||KATH-ETER t-shirt, butt-hugging pants; Disneyesque beer garden
||Justin Bieber's concert film, Steven Seagal: Lawman, Maggie, hate mail
||Kathy's Look; Set Decor
||Boston, MA; May 14, 2011
||GURRL DOWN t-shirt; blue backdrop with glowing, hot pink columns
||Bin Laden's porn stash, Michelle Bachmann, Anderson Cooper, My Strange Addiction, Real Housewives
||Costa Mesa, CA; August 27, 2011
||Simple black blouse, huge belt; gigantic three-panel dressing screen with gold filagree
||Kim Kardashian's wedding, Casey Anthony/Nancy Grace, Marcus Bachmann, lunch with Gloria Steinem
||Atlantic City, NJ; November 19, 2011
||TIRED HOOKER t-shirt, ironed-out hair; Jersey shore photo with floating green orbs
||Kim Kardashian's split, Hugh Jackman, Nancy Grace on DWTS, Grindr, crappy infomercials, Cher
While there's a little bit of softness creeping in (Kathy seems to have recently gravitated toward the Vaseline-lensed photography), the picture quality is generally pleasant, and filled with vivid color that never overwhelms. Given the amount of footage on each disc, there aren't a lot of issues with the mastering. The image comes formatted to 4:3 Full Frame on Balls Of Steel and Does The Bible Belt; 16:9 anamorphic widescreen on the rest.
All seven specials sport a basic stereo soundtrack that is clearly mixed, serving its straightforward purpose well. No subtitle options are supplied.
A good deal of Bonus Unaired Footage abounds on both discs, presented in submenus with listed topics and "Play All" feature organized within each special. Totaling over an hour, the excised bits actually come off much funnier and wonderfully mean-spirited than expected. In many cases, the producers deleted the footage from the Bravo broadcasts simply because there wasn't enough space.
No longer on the D-list and prone to babbling about her alcoholic ma and her wonderful famous friends, Kathy Griffin: Red, Hot + Raw nevertheless packs a lot of trashy fun into its two discs. Shout! Factory has assembled the comedian's 2009-11 stand-up specials in an attractive and affordable package. If you ever felt like spending several hours with a chatty gal pal who digs crappy reality shows, train-wreck celebs and hypocritical conservatives, this is the way to go. Recommended.
Matt Hinrichs is a designer, artist, film critic and dilettante-of-all-trades in Phoenix, Arizona. 4 Color Cowboy is his repository of Western-kitsch imagery, while other films he's seen are logged at Letterboxd. He also welcomes friends on Twitter @4colorcowboy.