Kathy Griffin and Trixie Mattel on Stand-Up, Scientology, and Self-Help Books

Trixie Mattel

Photo courtesy of Trixie Mattel.

When two funny ladies get together for a good gossip sesh, there’s no telling what chaos might ensue. So, last month, when Trixie Mattel visited Kathy Griffin at her home in Malibu, we made sure we were recording. Mattel—the RuPaul’s Drag Race champion, Palm Springs hotel proprietor, author, podcast host, and beauty entrepreneur—has no shortage of projects on her plate, with a new cosmetics drop coming this Spring. And last night, Griffin kicked off “My Life on the PTSD List,” a 34-date romp across the United States. Below, the two get into it all: scientology, unruly hotel guests, celebrity churches, RuPaul, meeting Barbra Streisand, and living around the corner from Mel Gibson.


KATHY GRIFFIN: I just had surgery last Tuesday on my throat, by the way, but my voice is a little better.

TRIXIE MATTEL: I saw your clip. It’s night and day compared to a year ago. It was like Minnie Mouse.

GRIFFIN: They thought I was dying. They’ve never been so nice to me on The View. I sounded so cancer-y and they were all checking in on me. It was heaven, and it’ll never happen again.

MATTEL: Next time you go there, you should do a Tiny Tim situation. Like, a crutch or something.

GRIFFIN: How in this age of so many beauty entrepreneurs and influencers have you been able to thrive and stand out?

MATTEL: You know, in stand-up they say that when you start, you’re doing someone else’s set, and then you figure out your own thing. When I started doing YouTube, I felt like I was almost doing what I thought YouTube beauty people did. Then the stupider I got, I started to be like, “Oh, the key is to derail what other people do and just start acting foolish on your own.”

GRIFFIN: So, you use humor. You use your character.

MATTEL: Yeah. I had a meeting once with a YouTube agent and they said, “Well, your channel’s not technically a beauty channel. It’s technically a personality channel.” And I said, “Well, why isn’t it a beauty channel?”

GRIFFIN: Right. You’re beautiful.

MATTEL: They said, “Because you cook with Easy Bake Ovens and you show your Barbies. People watch for you and the makeup is just the activity.” 

GRIFFIN: How do you continue to find hilarious ideas after all these years?

MATTEL: When I stay busier, I’m less nervous and I overthink less. When I’m on the spot, I’m the funniest. I have my little bullet points, but I let myself go on tangents.

GRIFFIN: That’s what you’re so good at. What does it mean to you in this day and age to keep creating content? I’m so old-fashioned. I find it almost shocking, if somebody tapes the show with their phone and they put it online, then the next show I do they’re going to think it’s old material because somebody fucking taped my show last night. But I look at somebody like Rosie O’Donnell, and she’s happier doing TikTok than stand-up. TikTok is like her talk show.

MATTEL: You know who else has that thing? Sandra Bernhard.

GRIFFIN: Oh, she’s so brilliant. Do you ever run out of ideas and panic?

MATTEL: I stretch myself thin sometimes and find myself reheating a section from a year-old set.

GRIFFIN: That’s what I like to do, too. I’m so old-timey, my material is literally in a notebook. There’s a hate letter in there and a couple of cards for certain things that I’ve written down. That’s a show, for me. I don’t want to go on TikTok and do an hour of material. That’s my living.

MATTEL: I wouldn’t go on there and give out your real shit. I think the internet is a great place to create a high level of intimacy with your audience that’s different from what you present in your act. People do care about what you thought of your breakfast, and that’s not necessarily the funniest thing to put in a show.

GRIFFIN: Right. Rosie’s TikTok isn’t hysterically funny all the time, but it’s truly compelling.

MATTEL: She’s the bomb, man. She and I did this special together for Netflix and I just was like, “I got to tell you, I know you’re so sick of hearing little faggots come up to you and tell you how much they love you, but I fucking love you.” I like this wave of comics who were really big before social media but who still embrace it and run with it.

GRIFFIN: Like Steve Martin?

MATTEL: Yes, or Leslie Jordan

GRIFFIN: How did DJ’ing become a passion for you?

MATTEL: Being a drag queen, I worked in nightclubs my whole life, you know? When COVID happened, suddenly all this club music that I’ve heard in my ears for a decade was gone. How do I have that music in my life at home? Deep down, I’d always wanted to learn to DJ. I bought the club standard equipment, set it up in the living room like a little club, and just started dumping hours into learning the tech side of it. I’m very tech-savvy.

GRIFFIN: Where are your favorite places to DJ?

MATTEL: I love doing the big festivals, but honestly my favorite thing to do is to call one of the local L.A. gay clubs and say, “Hey, it’s Trixie. I have Friday off. Don’t advertise me, can I just come down and gig?”

GRIFFIN: I’ve done that at the Laugh Factory. I’ve called the owner and I’ve said, “What’s your worst time slot?” And he’ll say, “Wednesday’s at 10.” I used to split the door with him and now I just say, “Keep it.” It was after I was canceled, so the gays that showed up were actually down.

MATTEL: They were going hard for you.

GRIFFIN: I used an egg timer.

MATTEL: I went. You were in your PJs. You said, “When this timer goes off, I’m going to walk offstage.” And we were like, “Ha, ha, ha.” It dinged in the middle of a sentence and you were in a car by the time we were done clapping. It was like, “Oh, bitch, she really did just quit.”

GRIFFIN: That is the secret to a lot of stand-up success, someone who can fucking move on. I have bombed and I have bombed. I bombed in a place called Rawhide. What the fuck I was doing performing at Rawhide? I don’t know. I remember because I could actually hear people’s feet as they walked away over the popcorn machine.

MATTEL: I bomb. Coming out of COVID, I did a show in Belfast in Northern Ireland right after COVID.

GRIFFIN: Exciting. Exotic.

MATTEL: I hadn’t done stand-up in two years. I was mortified. But then I was talking to Margaret Cho and she was like, “Are you kidding? Bombing is part of it. One time I bombed so bad that my friends wrapped a blanket around me, put me in a pedicab, and sent me home because I was crying.” You’re like, “I’m worthless.” Have you ever been to Provincetown? 

GRIFFIN: Oh, yeah.

MATTEL: I’ve done Provincetown a few times. Me, Jinkx [Monsoon], and all the drag queens would have our one-woman shows. We’d all meet after our shows. Half of us would be drinking because we had a great show, and half of us would be drinking because we’re like, “I’m fucking horrible.”

GRIFFIN: Why? Is it the audience?

MATTEL: It could be anything. The other thing is rich white fags on vacation. They think they’re the funniest people.

GRIFFIN: They just want to be on the TikTok. Okay, general questions about Trixie Motel. What’s your favorite thing about running it and what’s the most challenging?

MATTEL: We thought the hardest thing would be guests. I have a gay bar and sometimes guests get drunk and whatever. We thought it’d be the guests. People are paying top-dollar to stay there, and hiring is hard in Palm Springs. There are a lot of retired people. So it’s finding employees that are into not showing up wild to their interview. Sometimes in the interview we’re like, “Whoa, girl.”

GRIFFIN: This is not a circuit party. It’s a job interview.

MATTEL: And sometimes people will rent it out, celebrities or corporations, and that’s who acts crazy. Sometimes people have done drugs and get on the roof and we’re like, “Please get down.” Or one time, this lady, she was a motel reviewer and she stayed there and she tried every drink on the menu and threw up in her room.

GRIFFIN: By the way, are you in the WGA?

MATTEL: Mm-hmm.

GRIFFIN: You should be and so should I. What is your writing process? 

MATTEL: Stand-up over time comes out. I’ll write down a bullet point and try it out later. Girl, I’m so bad sometimes. I’ll wait until the night before and just poop it out. I have such a hard time.

GRIFFIN: You’re still doing it.

MATTEL: You exercise, right?

GRIFFIN: Everyday.

MATTEL: When I run or jog, that’s where I think of a lot of my jokes.

GRIFFIN: Absolutely. I’m vain and I want to be thin, so I do a 90-minute walk every single day, or Pilates. I put my iPhone at the highest volume, but on speaker, because as a woman, I’m afraid to wear AirPods. If somebody attacked me, I wouldn’t hear them or see them.

MATTEL: When has anybody ever had it out for you?

GRIFFIN: First of all, living in Malibu, I am blocks away from Mel Gibson. Marc Andreessen lives down the block, which is also scary. And Mark Burnett. I’m afraid of some of the Malibu locals, like Gary Busey and Mel Gibson, because they’re unpredictable. Gary Busey just got busted for pissing on a newsstand.

MATTEL: They’re probably having these exact same conversations about you. They’re like, “We don’t trust her.”

GRIFFIN: “If you run into Griffin at the Whole Foods, run. She’s trouble.”

MATTEL: “Have you seen her? She has this big visor on with no headphones. What a freak.”

GRIFFIN: “She walks like a psycho.”

MATTEL: How long has it been since you’ve done a book?

GRIFFIN: I did a book right before Trump. I actually had a pretty successful book tour. I went to number 15, which is not bad. But that was 2017.

MATTEL: I think we were 12. Ours was technically “self-help.”

GRIFFIN: It’s so hard.

MATTEL: Self-help was a little easier. But a lot of those self-help titles have been there for years. What Women Want, and stuff like that.

GRIFFIN: Another Mel Gibson movie. He has a church in his backyard. What kind of bullshit is that?

MATTEL: There’s a lot of that going around.

GRIFFIN: Mark Burnett has one too, but they call it a “Catholic” church.

MATTEL: Were we kind of at a church at Sia’s the other day, right?


MATTEL: When you really think about it, I bet you the conservatives would see us at Sia’s and be like, “They’re at their little church.”

GRIFFIN: There was a ceremony where Chaka Khan became Sia‘s godmother. It was informal, but it was a ceremony nonetheless. There was a mini cow, a petting zoo, Paris Hilton, and someone called Diplo.

MATTEL: It was almost like Mary in the manger.

GRIFFIN: It was kind of like Chuck E. cheese.

MATTEL: We should go nonprofit for tax reasons. What if you just had the “Griffin Church” and just stop paying taxes?

GRIFFIN: Yes, yes. Like Kanye has that school, the Donda Academy.

MATTEL: I live a block from The Celebrity Centre, the Scientology Celebrity Centre.

GRIFFIN: First of all, you’ve got to give it to them on the branding, just calling it the Celebrity Center. 

MATTEL: It’s cunty. It is a nice-looking building. It has an air about it.

GRIFFIN: I had a girlfriend who actually got out and got her money back and did a one-woman show about it. But she got me in there one time and no joke, there’s an office with a red stanchion and it says, “L. Ron Hubbard.” It’s his office, supposedly preserved, and then he ascended to the level 72 of heaven or whatever the fuck he did.

MATTEL: Wait, wait, wait.

GRIFFIN: There was a fresh rose that they would put on his desk. 

MATTEL: Creepy.

GRIFFIN: Well, I don’t think Leah Remini is doing that anymore. 

MATTEL: We could do that with RuPaul though at some point.

GRIFFIN: Ascend?

MATTEL: When she goes, we’ll probably still worship. Drag Race will go on and Ru will be a hologram.

GRIFFIN: What would the office look like? 

MATTEL: I think it’d be a few bean bag chairs, very hippie dippy.

GRIFFIN: She’s got a museum in her house.

MATTEL: I know. She calls it her dressing room and I’m like, “You don’t get dressed in here, bitch.” It’s like the Barbra Streisand Mall.

GRIFFIN: I know people who have gone there. And by people, I mean gays. She’s got a vintage store, but you’re not allowed to buy anything. She’s a hoarder, but she calls herself a collector. All my gays who have actually been there were melting. Let me tell you, they were bragging mother fuckers.

MATTEL: They kind of go to make fun of it and then they leave being like, “It’s completely amazing.”

GRIFFIN: “Oh my God, there’s the dress from Funny Girl.” People were practically crying. But I have met her several times and I do find her to be very scary. Every time, I try to make her laugh. Let me tell you, it’s all or nothing. She either goes with it and I’m literally on cloud nine, or she looks at me like, ” I’m sorry, did you just speak?”

MATTEL: I just met Cindy Crawford. Remember her? I met her at a Christmas party.

GRIFFIN: Oh, I do. She’s in a power marriage.

MATTEL: In person, of course, she is drop dead. Your breath leaves your body.

GRIFFIN: Stunning. Forget it.

MATTEL: Everybody can get work done. But she really looks her age, and perfect. I was talking about some ’90s television show. I was like, “Cindy, do you know this show?” She goes, “I was a little busy in the ’90s.” I went, “Doing what?” She laughed, thank god.

GRIFFIN: Oh, thank god.

MATTEL: Sometimes you loft one of those and they look at you like, “Who let you in my house?”

GRIFFIN: It’s happened so many times. What do you hope your legacy will be? You have a magic wand, you can make it whatever you want.

MATTEL: Oh my god. Well, gay people don’t have kids, usually. Some do. Lance Bass, don’t get mad. I always thought, “If I don’t have kids, what would it mean to have lived?”

GRIFFIN: But look at your body of work. That’s permanent.

MATTEL: I just always think, “Did I pick up drag and leave it in better condition than I found it?”

GRIFFIN: You totally did.

MATTEL: Well, thank you. Is that okay, Interview mag?

GRIFFIN: Yay, Interview. We love you.