Kathy Griffin Spills All: Fallout From ‘The Photo’ and How She Handles the ‘Automated Hate’ of Social Media
Pride without Kathy Griffin simply isn’t “Pride.” This month the famed comedian is headlining not one but two shows in New York City, one at Radio City Music Hall (June 25), the other at Carnegie Hall (June 26), proving now more than ever that she’s officially back in the swing of things after that one photo she took a little over a year ago. (You might’ve heard of it.)
Chatting with her, Kathy Griffin comes off as the same irreverent, hilarious and down-to-earth person she’s always been. During our sit-down we chat about everyone from Roseanne Barr to Samantha Bee, the “blackballing” she experienced in the fallout from her infamous “Trump beheaded” hullabaloo to the hours and hours of new material she’s now added to her arsenal.
After our conversation, one thing was clear: Kathy Griffin has emerged from the other side of the last year wiser and more capable than ever, ready to take on the stage, the current administration and the world.
HORNET: The LGBT community recently found out it could be more difficult for us to purchase a wedding cake, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s recent decision. Thoughts?
KATHY GRIFFIN: Oh, the cake! Let me just be honest — the gays don’t really eat those cakes. They like to have them for show, but if they do get one and it’s a gay worth his salt, you know he eats the cake and barfs it up. I mean, you have to take your shirt off because Channing Tatum could be coming out any minute.
After that notorious picture was released of you holding the fake, bloody head of President Trump last year, is it an accurate assessment that the gays had your back?
The gays did not turn on me. Now, the power gays, let me just say, did not exactly rise to the occasion. You know the names I’m talking about, so let’s not act like there isn’t a gay mafia, because they made me a star! The gay community was the first community to give me hope that I could do my job. Despite the fake business man in the Oval Office and his sons, Eddie Munster and Date Rape, their concerted effort to decimate me has not worked. As you can see, they are now trying that on Samantha Bee. I hope TBS stands by her, as they should, as well as her advertisers.
So it’s safe to assume that you have plenty to say, both about what happened with this administration, but plenty to say about the world of pop culture, as you always have.
We are living in crazy fucking times. Don’t worry, though, my show is not just going to be a First Amendment lecture. It’s going to have lots of sprinklings of great pop culture stories. Like living next to Kim and Kanye, which is completely true. I have stories that are unique and worth the price of admission just for that part.
Also, remember, I go way back with Trump. I met him on Suddenly Susan in the ’90s! He was with Marla Maples, the showgirl, and that was before Melanie went missing. I want you to know, the show is very fluid, but so much is going on. I just did five shows in Canada, and they were all totally different. I promise to give the audience the juicy stuff they are showing up for.
For example, I will tell everyone about the day the photo went live: Anderson Cooper, who was naughty, who was nice, the death threats, the craziness. People know a piece of that story, but it’s nice to have over a year of perspective be somewhat in the rearview mirror. I also found out I am now on a new kill list. It’s probably because I am too pretty and people are threatened by that — that’s what I tell myself. I don’t even know yet what I’m going to be saying, but I am going to be giving the meat and potatoes. I talk about the interrogation, I take the audience in the room with me and all of the other crazy things that happened.
In this polarizing and ever-changing world we’re living in, you must constantly have more material coming to you.
I am constantly getting new things. I went to the White House Correspondents Dinner and got into all kinds of trouble, and I could do a whole hour on that alone. I have an excess of material, but I’m very excited to be alive and to be doing it.
Michelle Wolf was devastatingly funny that night and got a great deal of press for her material and the reaction from the room. Do you think people like her, you and Samantha Bee are having to deal with a brand new set of rules?
One hundred percent. Not only that, we have to deal with keeping our jobs. In my situation, it is unprecedented. In the history of the country, the President of the United States has never done anything like this. He used the power of the Oval Office, the First Family and the entire right-wing media. This was prior to #MeToo, prior to #TimesUp, and prior to The Daily Beast revealing — as I had alleged — that Donald Trump talks to self-loathing gay [and founder of TMZ] Harvey Levin. That is really what cancelled my tour — TMZ reporting on bomb threats at my theaters. It took me a year and a federal investigation to learn that those bomb threats were fucking robo calls.
I am laughing now, but I am thinking that this is what the failed businessman in the Oval spends his time doing. Talking to Harvey Levin, taking to Sean Hannity and figuring out ways that Kathy Griffin, Michelle Wolf and Sam Bee won’t have a job. In the meantime, they are all criminals and are all going to prison.
So are you able to look back on the year and laugh about this now?
I hate to admit it, but [the critical tweets from Donald Trump and Donald Trump Jr.] are funny now when I read them. Just the idea that this would come from the president! Now knowing all that we know, it’s just a dream for me to stand onstage in front of not just a couple hundred people. All the old white man dinosaurs were saying, “You can’t tour yet; you’ll be lucky if you can play clubs,” and I said, “I’m playing fucking Carnegie Hall. I sold it out in less than 24 hours.”
What are your thoughts on Roseanne Barr and the fact that what she said would cause her show to implode in the way that it did?
And also the President sticking up for Roseanne! I don’t know that she lost her mind; I personally think she is now a true believer, which I think is scarier. You know how Hollywood works — she’ll probably just go to rehab or whatever. [Laughs] Or she’ll say it was one of her multiple personalities or something. I think she says that because she saw that made-for-tv movie Sybil. Speaking of Sybil, starring Sally Field, who knew we would live in a world where Sally Field would tweet the word c*nt? The Flying Nun! That’s progress, my friend.
So I guess you don’t subscribe to the mindset that celebrities shouldn’t speak out on social issues.
I’ll tell you this, the day that my photo came out, Sally Field and Minnie Driver weren’t tweeting things like that. It’s actually encouraging to me that more Americans, celebrity or otherwise, are getting emboldened to say, “Wait a minute, the other side is so crazy.” And that side is getting help from 12-year-olds in Macedonia working for bot farms.
By the way, I don’t know about you, but when I was 12 I was happy to work at a diner. But you’re in Macedonia, you’re 12 and your job is to send Kathy Griffin death threats on Twitter for 10 hours a day. Damn those kids are focused!
And I’m just warning you, if you feel like tweeting that you interviewed me, your timeline will be filled with things like “You be stay away from ISIS lady now.” [Laughs] I am constantly apologizing to my friends who stick up to me online. They have no idea they are being flooded by automated hate. That’s just something fun I learned in the last year. I am gonna try to put it through my comedy filter and make it all funny.
Roseanne defended the vile thing she said as “a joke.”
Let me be clear — her tweets are not jokes at all. When people talk about my photo, I don’t necessarily defend that as a joke either. I thought of it more as a controversial statement. I never thought that photo would be a “haha” joke. Some people found it funny. When I was playing overseas, where they are obviously used to imagery like that, I was playing shows and had many people say, “I don’t know what it was about that picture, but it just made me burst out laughing.” I usually would say, “Probably the silliness of it, that I am obviously holding a mask with ketchup.”
Overseas they had an understanding of the Trump wood chipper. My photo was pre-#MeToo, pre-#TimesUp, so there was not a pussy hat committee that would come in. I had to learn how to bite and scratch back my own way. What I learned, though, is to lean in to what is legal and possible and clarifying for people.
It’s great that you are still determined to speak your mind.
Luckily we have made some real progress, but that is why I am personally so involved in the Samantha Bee situation. I am going on Twitter and trying to get my followers to tweet the advertisers to stick with her and thank them. I feel that I was very much a test case.
In my case, it started with Don Jr., then the fake businessman in the Oval picked it up, and then Melanie. Then CNN fired me, I was banned for life from this and that. I hope you appreciate you are talking to the former face of Squatty Potty! That hurts, my friend. I loved that product, dammit. You put a footstool under your knees when you’re taking a shit and it unkinks your colon. Dammit, once a spokesperson always a spokesperson!
Even in the craziness of this experience, even I had to laugh at things like not only am I under a federal investigation that went on for two months, but I also lost my Squatty Potty endorsement? That one hurts. I can take on the Department of Justice, but Squatty Potty — that one hurt!
In today’s ultra-sensitive world, are comics still allowed to be funny?
I feel that as a comic, desperate times call for desperate measures. I think it’s great that people like safe comedy with Ellen DeGeneres or prop comedy with Carrot Top or Jerry Seinfeld, who doesn’t curse. I also have my brand of comedy, which by the way Donald Trump knows personally, as he has personally hired me to roast him. I have stories in my act about my own personal run-ins with him.
I am proud of that, because I feel like I have some material that no one else has. People react to it. There are times I’ll hear a gasp, and there are times — like when I talk about the interrogation — you can practically hear a pin drop. Then there are times, when I read one of the death threats and it has people laughing hysterically because it’s so over-the-top. Many Trump fans do not believe in grammar. At all. It’s not a priority! They want that wall!
Post-picture, is it different standing in front of live audiences?
I can usually tell with a live audience what they want. I call it “taking the temperature.” I just did five shows in Canada, and they all wanted to hear the Trump fallout there, because they can’t stand him. Fantastic. Some audiences, I can always tell, want to hear more about my mom, they want to hear more about the Kardashians.
The day that the photo went live, I just happened to be having Kris Jenner and Melanie Griffith over to my house. That alone is perfect for the act. Kris Jenner is on one hand going “Apologize. My kids do it all the time,” and Melanie Griffith, who is a big lefty like myself, is trying to make me laugh and going “You should have done the whole cabinet”!
It is so cool now that all the time has passed. I texted both of those ladies when I did my first show in Auckland, New Zealand, and then when I resumed the tour in Canada, and it was just sweet. I make fun of the Kardashians all day long and make fun of all celebrities, but you know it’s kind of amazing the couple that stuck by me, just getting those texts — “We knew you could do this,” “We knew in time you could step onstage, not just in some little tiny venue either!” I am everywhere, from the Sydney Opera House and Carnegie Hall to Radio City Music Hall.
What happened to you seems very similar to what happened to Joan Rivers following her departure from The Tonight Show and her own short-lived talk show on Fox.
Yes! As you know, one of the things that made Joan finally get the respect and recognition she deserved is when people saw her go through all those struggles. You could see it on her face. People really came to respect that about her. You knew her, and you knew that all those years people were trying to say she was mean, it was just such a fucking joke. I would ask her about this all the time. She really let it roll off her back, and I realized, I really have to get better at that. I’m getting better, but I look at her and how she handled things.
I remember one time she was in this Twitter war with Rihanna. It wasn’t in the days when everyone and their cousin was in a Twitter war, it was entertainment news-worthy. She had a show in Las Vegas the same night I did, and we met after each others’ show and we had dinner. I was kind of cautiously saying, “So, the Rihanna thing is really heating up. Those fans are really going for you hard. Are you OK? Do you have anyone screening those posts? Are you looking at them, are you not looking at them?”
She’s cutting her meat and she doesn’t even look up and she says, “Isn’t it fabulous?!” [Laughs] I kind of have that attitude. I am so happy to be selling and selling well. I am so happy to be able to tell other comedians, including the up-and-comers, “I came back!”
Click for more info on the upcoming Kathy Griffin shows at Carnegie Hall and Radio City Music Hall. Head to KathyGriffin.com for more tour dates.
Featured image of Kathy Griffin by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP