The Making Of Kathy Griffin's Calm Down Gurrl

First-time GRAMMY winner details the improvisational spirit behind the recording of her Best Comedy Album-winning Calm Down Gurrl
  • Photo: Michael Buckner/
    Kathy Griffin
February 24, 2014 -- 3:39 pm PST
By Kathy Griffin /

(The Making Of GRAMMY-Winning Recordings … series presents firsthand accounts of the creative process behind some of music's biggest recordings. The series' current installments present in-depth insight and details about recordings that won 56th GRAMMY Awards.)

(As told to Chuck Crisafulli)

The title came to me just looking at everything going on this year — all kinds of nonsense in the news and political weirdness and celebrities not being able to control themselves. I found myself hollering back at my TV, "Calm down, gurrl," whether it was to a government official or a celebrity, male or female, young or old. "Calm down" is actually a terrible thing to say to us women when we're upset. However, I feel that collectively as a nation we all needed to hear it. You've got the government shutdown, global warming deniers, Justin Bieber drag racing. OK everybody, take a deep breath. Keep the government running. If you need to urinate, use a urinal. That's what the "calm down, gurrl" is for.

As for the album, this was a recording of one of my Bravo specials, and I'd like to tell you that when I record a concert I'm presenting a perfectly crafted monologue and that I know where every joke is going to land — but none of that is true. This was recorded at a beautiful theater in Santa Rosa, California, and a lot of it was improvised. I went in to this recording very well-intentioned; I felt prepared. I thought I had it together. I put together what I call a "set list" — though honestly, it's just a notebook from Rite Aid that looks like an angry 7-year-old has been scribbling in it. But whenever I start taping it's really a matter of the audience's energy and which direction they want to go. Certain audiences want the really outrageous out-there stuff, others just want celebrity stories, and others can't hear enough about my 93-year-old alcoholic mother and her box of wine.

With Calm Down Gurrl the crowd was so great and supportive that I found myself saying a lot of stuff that I had never even practiced before. At the end of the night I wasn't even sure what I'd covered — hearing the final edit of the album was like hearing it for the first time.

Once I have a bit recorded, I lay it to rest. I'm just about to start a tour, but I won't be doing any of the material from my "GRAMMY-winning album." I may hit the same topics, but it'll have to be a different story.

The last thing I should mention, because I know readers will be interested, is a description of what the Calm Down Gurrl post-taping after-party was like. It involved a tuna melt, curly fries, a diet soda, and me watching Suze Orman until 5 a.m. Wild. I defy any of the other winners to keep up with that.

(At the 56th GRAMMY Awards, Kathy Griffin won Best Comedy Album for Calm Down Gurrl, marking the first GRAMMY win of her career. She had previously received five consecutive nominations for Best Comedy Album. Griffin will kick off her latest comedy tour March 15 in Las Vegas, with dates scheduled through June.)

(Chuck Crisafulli is an L.A.-based journalist and author whose most recent works include Go To Hell: A Heated History Of The Underworld, Me And A Guy Named Elvis and Elvis: My Best Man.)


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