Kathy Does The Garden

Executive Producer Danny Salles marvels at Kathy's process before performing at MSG.

While shooting this episode, I had the chance to watch Kathy prepare for and perform a big stand-up show at Madison Square Garden. All I can tell you is that Kathy’s process is unbelievable. I don’t mean unbelievable as in great, I mean unbelievable as in I can’t believe that someone, anyone can do what she does. It’s remarkable.

Imagine for a moment that you were going to perform for 4,000 people with nothing but a microphone and a bottle of water to back you up. No orchestra, no musical numbers, no lead-in act, no sketches. Just you. Terrifying, right? I know that Kathy has been at this for a while, but I still thought that the day of a big concert was going to filled with anxiety. I envisioned her furiously writing out her set, practicing her stories in the mirror or using Tom and Tiffany as a practice audience. Nope. Here’s what I saw…

On the day of the concert, we followed Kathy around with cameras for a day of hijinks on the D-List. Two hours before concert time, she asked for a bit of downtime to go back to the hotel to change. Then, at 7 p.m., she was driven to the theater where she met with her booking agent in her dressing room to review her upcoming tour as she was having her make-up touched up. At some point, she scanned a list of story bits — which I swear was shorter than a grocery list — as the audience started to fill the house.

Then Kathy walked upstairs to the wings of the stage – our cameras trailing her – but giving her breathing room. I was still expecting a “holy s---” moment out of her when she would realize that she was about to play the Garden – but it never came. Instead, she started joking around with tour manager Tom and just glanced at her list, as a video of classic Kathy moments played for the sold out crowd on a movie screen. Then a Lady Gaga tune blasted the crowd and she started dancing around backstage like Muhammad Ali in a fight. She was playfully joking around as a voice announced, “Ladies and Gentlemen, here she is, the hilarious Kathy Griffin!” Then Kathy inflated with excitement like a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day balloon (a balloon in size 0 black Chanel) and danced onto the stage, giving the applauding crowd the finger with glee. She then proceeded to talk and entertain seamlessly for over two hours. 

I snuck around to watch from the front of house. Kathy wasn’t just telling stories from her repertoire. It was new material. So new, in fact, that she was telling stories about what happened earlier that day. All day she was collecting stories, working them out in her head, and now she was telling them for the first time in front of 4,000 people. That takes balls. Crazy talent and balls. She’s weaving new material in with the old – going off on tangents, then coming back to finish another story – all without a hitch. I realize at this point that I’m gushing, but I’ve never seen anything like it.

When the concert ended, Kathy high-tailed it out of the theater and headed for some comfort food with Team Griffin, where she relaxed like an athlete after an event – reviewing the highlights of the show and blowing off steam. I was tired just watching her, knowing that she was going on again tomorrow night, with more new material that was probably brewing right now as she was joking over pie.

Demolition Day

Executive Producer Danny Salles explains how he and his fellow producers reacted to Kathy's unplanned renovation.

Since the second episode aired, many of my friends have asked me, “Was that real when Kathy tore her house apart without having a plan? It’s just so hard to believe. Did you make it up for the show?” I know. It’s hard to imagine someone tearing out her floors and kitchen cabinets without having a rock solid plan – but that’s exactly what happened. 

One of my most vivid memories from producing the show was arriving at Kathy’s house the morning after she told us that she had decided to move on from working with designer, Kenny.  It was 9 a.m., and I was finishing up my coffee as I walked up Kathy’s long driveway. I started hearing noise coming from the house as I approached. The booming sound grew louder and louder. I entered the front door to find eight workers with sledgehammers and crowbars cracking the floors and counters. Dust was everywhere. The producer in me panicked – We’ve got to start shooting this now! And the homeowner inside me was screaming, "WTF!" There’s no plan. Needless to say I got cameras up and rolling in minutes. 

My next call was to Lisa, my fellow executive producer. My voice was faltering.  “Eh, Lisa….It seems that Kathy has started demolition.” “When will they get started?” she asked. “Oh, no.  It’s already started. The fireplace in the kitchen is gone.” “Are you…?” “Yes, we’re rolling cameras.” In reality TV, you’ve got to be ready to move on a dime, because, well, that’s the reality part.

I found Kathy in her bedroom happily planning out her day, blithely ignoring the boom, boom, boom of destruction in the kitchen. She was acting like nothing was happening. But she must have seen the shocked expression on my face because she added, “Oh yeah, that.” “Yes, that.” She started laughing. “I told you I move fast.” She explained that since she only had enough money to rent another house for a certain timeframe, she figured she would just get rid of what she wanted gone and plan it out as she went. In the meantime, her friend and decorating enthusiast, Lara Spencer (also known to many as the host of The Insider) would help her out with the creative ideas and with finding workers. Between Lara and Team Griffin, Kathy was confident it would go well. 

Having had work done to my own house, I was privately predicting disaster. Who's ever heard of a renovation going well under the best of circumstances? As a reality producer, I know that disasters often make for great episodes, so figured this could lead to some good comedy. You might think I had a moral dilemma. Nah. The comedy comes first. 

Leave it to Kathy to be the first person in history to have a successful remodel. Lara came though and Kathy’s crazy “improv-a-renovation” actually worked. Her house is gorgeous!  I may not have gotten the home disaster episode I dreamed of, but Kathy got gay man’s Palm Springs bachelor pad she dreamed of. And that’s what counts.