Originally posted Saturday, September 8, 2018 by RODNEY HOemail@example.com on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog
Kathy Griffin’s comedic stock in trade for most of her career was not remotely political. She was all about telling dishy stories about the Kardashians, Justin Bieber, Ryan Seacrest or whatever celebrity encounter that bemused her.
But she released a veritable political Pandora’s box in May, 2017 after posting a picture of herself holding what appeared to be a bloody head that resembled Donald Trump. She originally deemed this a simple visual protest of the president.
Instead, she was pilloried for what was deemed by many as a vicious and vile photo shoot. Trump called it “sick.” She was hounded by death threats. Promoters pulled her concert dates. CNN abruptly cut her from its New Year’s hosting gig. The Department of Justice investigated her as a potential terrorist (and after two months, deemed her not a terrorist). Kiss her Squatty Potty endorsement goodbye.
The good news for her: she toured to receptive audiences in Europe that fall and began booking dates in 2018 in North America selling out shows in Los Angeles, New York and Boston. She will be at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre Sept. 21. (Tickets, priced at $36 to $72, on sale here, with mezzanine and grand tier seats still available. Her ticket prices are comparable to what they were in 2010.)
The bad news: she has been unable to nab any paying film or TV gigs. No streaming service or TV network has been willing to buy up the rights for her stand-up show as a comedy special or create a docuseries.
“After my tour ends November 4, I have nothing going on,” said Griffin in a recent interview. “Welcome to Hollywood! Not a special, not a show anywhere. It’s a shame. I’m really proud of my story and the historical nature of it. Everyone is afraid of getting a mean Tweet from Trump.”
She initially apologized for the photo but has since taken it back with fury and fire. The travails she has gone through has provided her plenty of fodder for her current show, which she cheekily dubs the “Laugh Your Head Off” tour.
“I’m now fully embracing the photo,” she said. “I was put through the Trump wood chipper although I didn’t break the law. Now I’m out and putting people on blast.”
Among her targets:
- TMZ’s Harvey Levin, a “gay Trumper” who she called a “piece of [excrement]” who “will do anything for a buck.”
- CNN host Anderson Cooper, a former good friend who called her photo “disgusting” on CNN. “It sucked. I didn’t get a call. Nothing!”
- Her former Bravo boss Andy Cohen, who snarkily said “Who?” when asked about Griffin to TMZ.
Griffin said the photo brouhaha cost her millions of dollars in lost income and her legal fees are now in the six figures to fend off Trump. She said she was fortunate to have saved a lot of money and has been able to absorb the hit. (She purchased a $10.5 million Bel Air mansion in 2016 in cash.)
She has also become a big cheerleader for the #MeToo movement and has little sympathy for the likes of Louis C.K., Chris Hardwick and Aziz Ansari. “It’s bro’s before ho’s,” she said. “They traumatized these women. I know. I’m a girl comedian in a misogynistic field. I’m happy to be a living example of someone who takes the punches and didn’t go down.”
Griffin, for instance, deliberately worked with the stylist Suzie Hardy who accused Seacrest of sexual harassment. (He strongly denied the charges.) “I’m bitter, party of one,” she said. “I’m going to hire this woman. I’m going to pay her because nobody is hiring me after my scandal.”
Griffin is already known for pulling Bruce Springsteen-type stand-up shows. While most headliners will do 60 to 90 minutes, she’ll often go two hours. But she has a lot to get off her chest and some of her shows this year have ticked close (or past) the three-hour mark.
“I’m fine with people taking a pee break or maybe they can just bring a colostomy bag,” she cracked.
More seriously, she said, “after being told for a year and a half that I will never work again, I treat every show like it’s my last.”
She is promoting her own shows and her boyfriend Randy Bick is her manager. She built up a mailing list of 200,000 names and chose cities to go to based on where the demand for her shows have been.
While her fan base still includes those who love to hear her dish about the “Housewives,” she jokes that she is now “Kathy Griffin: enemy of the people” and a new more politically engaged crowd is showing up.
“I’m doing well in Atlanta,” she said. “I’m very happy to go to a red state. I’m excited about Stacey Abrams. I hope she wins in a landslide.”
Emotionally, the aftermath of the photo has been rough, she acknowledged. She certainly found out who her true friends were. Actor Jim Carrey, who she didn’t really consider someone she was all that close to, called her when the situation was blowing up and gave her advice she took to heart.
He told her that she has a story, “that when all this is said and done, you can put this through the Kathy Griffin comedy prism and you’ll have a story any comedian would give their right arm to have. You had the worst president personally put his thumb on you and try to take you down.”
Griffin is well aware the photo will haunt her, much like Jane Fonda in 1972 visiting Vietnam during the war and being photographed seated on an anti-aircraft gun. To this day, Fonda is dubbed “Hanoi Jane” by her haters.
“I will be addressing it the rest of my life,” Griffin conceded. “I’m just glad to have the opportunity to tell the whole story.”
LIVE IN CONCERT
8 p.m., Friday, September 21
Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre
2800 Cobb Galleria Parkway, Atlanta
Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.
Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.