(Kathy Griffin pretending to fall drunkenly out of her limo)
If you asked me who the funniest male comedian I ever heard was, I'd have a hard time choosing between Howard Stern, (the young) Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor, Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock, and maybe two or three others.
By contrast, there are very few truly funny female comedians. I saw Paula Poundstone perform on TV once, and she didn't make me laugh once. (Not even close.) Whoopi Goldberg manages to make her stew of bitterness and leftist politics completely humor-free. Rosie O'Donnell, in her stand up act, is about as funny as her spiritual sister Roseanne Barr. We're supposed to laugh when we hear them curse at men; I don't mind cursing, but by itself it is not humorous. And it should be said of all of the women mentioned in this paragraph that if you can't laugh at yourself, you shouldn't be in comedy.
Some comediennes, like Gilda Radner and Lily Tomlin, had one basic joke which they repeated endlessly and which we we were supposed to feel an affectionate nostalgia for. (No thanks.) Lisa Lampanelli at least has variations on her oh-what-a-whore-I-am theme. Ellen Degeneres is mildly amusing in a gentle way. Sandra Bernhard can be mildly amusing in a perverse way, though she cloys awfully quickly. Sarah Silverman is quite daring, though she may be slightly more daring than funny. (The pc crowd excuses her ethnic humor by saying she is making fun of the stereotypes; in fact there is absolutely no difference between her jokes and classic ethnic humor. "Paying homage to the stereotypes" would be a better description.) And Joan Rivers is actually excellent, though her attempt to promote her daughter as the heir to her comedic throne is ill-conceived.
By far the funniest comedienne I've ever seen is Kathy Griffin.
Griffin is utterly fearless. She openly embraces all of the sins which we are supposed to avoid, or at least disguise. She makes no effort to hide her unbridled schadenfreude ("For me, every pound that Oprah gains is a hug from Jesus"). She is playfully honest about own ambition, having her small staff (including her mother) phone members of the Emmy Awards committee to ask for their votes.
When she won her Emmy, Griffin started her acceptance speech with, "Now, a lot of people come up here and thank Jesus for this award. I want you to know that no one had less to do with this award than Jesus. He didn't help me a bit. If it was up to him, Cesar Millan [another nominee] would be up here with that damn dog. So all I can say is suck it, Jesus, this award is my god now." E! deleted her comments from the televised broadcast of the event, and the Catholic League immediately condemned her "obscene and blasphemous comment." Griffin's reaction: "Am I the only Catholic left with a sense of humor?"
Griffin is constantly getting into trouble. A couple years ago, when she joked that 10 year old Dakota Fanning was entering rehab, the E! channel felt obliged to apologize for her. Even Steven Spielberg, who had just directed Fanning, publicly rebuked her.
Griffin's TV production company is called Inappropriate Laughter. Three of her television specials have been titled: Kathy Griffin: Straight to Hell; Kathy Griffin: Strong Black Woman; and Kathy Griffin: She'll Cut a Bitch.
She will, too. While she openly basks in the aura of older celebrities, she tends to make fun of younger celebrities, especially the ones who are in rehab (or should be). She can also be scathing about gays still in the closet. She used to call Clay Aiken Clay Gayken, and habitually refers to Ryan Seacrest as "she."
Griffin is most ruthless with herself. She complains about how her plastic surgery hasn't made her look any better. She discusses what an easy lay she is. She talks about how desperate she is for money, and how she wants to get free things the way other celebrities do. She has announced that she is available to hawk any product, any time. And she makes fun of her own marginal status in Hollywood (her TV show is called "My Life on the D-List").
She has the camera follow her everywhere; she once had a book signing where virtually no one showed up. (Most celebrities would be too mortified to let that footage air; she was not.) When she made an appearance with Paris Hilton, who was besieged by the paparazzi, Griffin pretended that they were following her, too, and plaintively asked them to leave her alone (though they were clearly focused exclusively on Hilton).
Griffin is affectionately brutal with her own mother, an alcoholic. She arranged for her mother to meet her heroes, has her mother live with her, and supports her financially. But Griffin also deadpans that she is going to fire her mother if she doesn't do her job better, and quiets her with "Here, have another drink Mom".
A lot of comedians simply stopped being funny when they became famous. Eddie Murphy is a case in point. Watch Raw, his show from the early 1980's, to see what a supremely talented young comedian he was. His stand up act is now ancient history, and these days he makes movies like Daddy Day Care and Dr. Doolittle, both guaranteed not to draw the faintest of chuckles. It's an old story: comedian becomes rich and famous, his head gets big, he loses touch with normal people, he loses his sense of humor. It has already happened to Chris Rock as well (although he also lost his edge partly because he became more pc).
It'll be interesting to see how Griffin evolves as she becomes more of an A-lister.