The comedienne is set to make her debut on the E! show on Jan. 12

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Oh, it’s definitely on for Kathy Griffin!

In anticipation of her Jan. 12 debut on E!’s Fashion Police, the 54-year-old comedienne talked to PEOPLE about how she’ll fill the very large shoes of the late Joan Rivers – and how she’s going to look while doing it.

You said you wouldn’t take the gig unless you got the blessing of Joan’s daughter, Melissa Rivers.
That was obviously a very important part of this whole project moving forward. Joan was a good friend of mine and we had a real connection as genuine human beings, but also as girl comics. We talked a lot about what it’s like to be a female comedienne and how it’s really different when you’re standing alone on stage. I remember saying to Joan at our last dinner together, “We’re in a pretty small club but you’re really in a class of your own, a club of one.” She accomplished so much, and I’ve said I wouldn’t be able to do what I do if it weren’t for Joan. Now I really wouldn’t be able to do what I’m going to do if it weren’t for Joan.

Of course it was important to get Melissa’s blessing, and Melissa in fact called me after I repeatedly said I wouldn’t do it because I know that it’s a sensitive area. She called me at home and gave me her blessing.

How will your style be the same – and differ from Joan’s?
Joan took Fashion Police and morphed it into a show that was able to take the piss out of all aspects of celebrity. I think that is something I’m gonna have fun with, too. Joan would, of course, show the pictures and make hilarious comments, and my style is a little more improvisational, a little more conversational. Stylistically there are differences of course because, you know, we’re two different human beings. But I hope to at least continue in her fearless spirit because that’s really what I think the show demands and I think it’s what the viewers want. You need somebody to bring the hammer down. I’m gonna be like the Judge Judy of Fashion Police. I’m gonna not hold back, no holds barred, because at the end of the day with everything that’s happening in the real world, it’s a place to truly have some fun.

Do you feel like you have to dress a certain way to co-host the show?
A couple of years ago my friend Robert [Verdi], who’s a very great stylist and fashionista, assigned himself with a gay mission to get me off the worst-dressed list. In fact, there has been a Kathy Griffin style evolution and I’m going to talk about myself in the third person now. I have enjoyed some really wonderful clothing and some great pieces, as he would say, some great looks for a few years. So, I have definitely gotten more into it.

Can you see yourself injecting current events into your commentary while you’re talking about fashion?
Yeah, I think it’s essential that I inject my own current events jokes because A, that’s what I do. That’s really my wheelhouse and my comfort zone, and I honestly feel that the celebrity culture world has gotten more outrageous than even I could’ve imagined. So, it’s going to organically happen that I make these connections between who is on the red carpet, when they’re on the red carpet, who mysteriously has chicken pox, who doesn’t, who was a Cosby defender, who isn’t.

And honestly you’re gonna be amazed at how I tie it in to what they’re wearing because, you know, these celebrities aren’t just models in dresses anymore. We know everything about everyone’s personal life. We even have maybe seen an interview about how they chose that dress. It’s all changed so rapidly and it’s all online in two seconds, and now, you know, people overhear other people saying things on the red carpet.

It’s just a completely different landscape, and from a comedienne’s point of view, it’s never been better. Nobody has secrets, and in my opinion nothing is off the table or off the carpet.

For more from Kathy Griffin, pick up the latest issue of PEOPLE, on newsstands now