One year ago, Kathy Griffin’s career was in chaos, after she tweeted a controversial video of herself holding a mask styled to look like Donald Trump’s bloody severed head. The veteran standup comic instantly became persona non grata in Hollywood, receiving countless death threats and losing lucrative marketing deals, tour bookings, and even her New Year’s Eve hosting job on CNN. (She tells Yahoo Entertainment that her falling-out with CNN co-host and friend Anderson Cooper “cut like a knife.”)
Griffin expressed regret at the time, but now, as she embarks on her snarkily titled “Laugh Your Head Off” comeback tour, she’s no longer apologizing. And she defiantly promises that her new comedy show will address the “big orange elephant” in the room.
Griffin recently sat down with Yahoo Entertainment to discuss getting support from Mark Hamill, Amy Schumer, and Rosie O’Donnell, giving support to Stormy Daniels, whether she’d ever run for office (Daniels/Griffin 2020, anyone?), and why she isn’t sorry anymore.
Yahoo Entertainment: First of all, the title “Laugh Your Head Off” is just brilliant.
Kathy Griffin: I am so glad you get it. Because honestly, I started thinking about any way to be comedically productive when the government … including the moron in the Oval Office and his idiot grown children, Feckless Eddie Munster and Date Rape, when they came after me, and then the Department of Justice put me under a two-month federal investigation, never happened in the history of this country. You have to go from being emotionally a wreck to just somehow thinking — and this is just how I’m wired — “Can I put this through a comedic prism?” And so, yes, I thought, “You know what? This is a picture seen around the world. It actually is the same picture that allowed me to tour around the world for the first time. I have now leaned in, as they say, to the photo by naming the tour because… I don’t think anybody’s going to come to the show and not want to hear that story.
It’s the big orange elephant.
I mean, you’re being kind and that’s a horrible thing to say about elephants. But yes, he’s a big orange elephant.
I feel like you’re sort of the Dixie Chicks of comedy. They rebounded [after catching flak for criticizing George W. Bush] and won tons of Grammys, after sort of becoming persona non grata. Now the tides are turning for you too.
I love the comparison to the Dixie Chicks, but I was really Dixie-d***ed. Meaning, the Dixie Chicks had the left wing, and they put them on the cover of Time and Entertainment Weekly as sheroes. I mean, I had personal friends tweeting that I was ruining the resistance, that I was disgusting. And the Anderson [Cooper] thing, of course, cut like a knife. … A lot of people got scared, and I really saw the crowd mentality take over, even my personal relationships. And many of them have not recovered, and now I know why. You know, I really did learn who my friends are and are not.
Oh, by the way, I’m very open [to winning awards]. I want at least three pity awards. You know, whatever awards shows. Maybe I don’t really deserve it, but there’s some liberals on the deciding committee. I will take any pity award. I am not precious about that.
I love seeing the attitude you have now. I’ll be honest with you: When you apologized at the time that the photo fallout happened, I was surprised at that time. It seemed, to me, out of character for you, because you were not a stranger to “offensive” humor, or humor that would offend some people, and I’d never seen you take it back before. What was going through your mind then, and obviously, how did you come to the place where now you’re not apologizing anymore?
So, a year ago the reason I apologized was… when I get a call from my good friend Rosie O’Donnell, who was very much there for me. She’s the preeminent expert on being trolled by Trump. I mean, he has not let up on her in 10 years. So when she called and she said, “Look, this thing has gone viral,” I was like, “Good!” And she’s like, “No, in a bad way.” And I’m going, “Oh, bro. I don’t care about that stuff.” And she’s saying, “No, no.” Meaning, what I know now and I didn’t know then was I had been entered into what I call the “Trump woodchipper.” The apparatus that was already in place, where they already knew Trump would personally call [Fox News host Sean] Hannity.
Everyone loved to call me “unhinged,” and TMZ was recording my tour cancellations in real time, which they have never done. And I said, “You know Donald Trump talks to Harvey Levin?” Harvey Levin is a self-loathing, gay, Republican man, so I don’t know what he thinks the Trump administration holds for him. It’s not unlike Caitlin [Jenner] going to Trump Tower thinking Trump was going to be for trans rights. … So, all those things put together was what I call the “woodchipper.” They were very effective at very quickly taking an offensive photo, to some, and then truly convincing millions of Americans that I, Kathy Griffin, from Suddenly Susan and My Life on the D-List and all my specials, had joined ISIS.
Besides Rosie here were some other people in Hollywood who supported you — at least eventually.
It’s taken time, and one thing I’m actually really touched by and gives me hope — I mean, it’s not like a little thing, but having Mark Hamill tweet, “Go see Kathy Griffin, she’s hilarious” with actual links to buy tickets. Or having Amy Schumer, once again, not just tweet like “give Kathy a break, she’s funny” but actually tweet like: “Here are her dates. Go buy tickets now.” And that’s something that’s relatively new, but it’s so refreshing.
Many of those folks, I didn’t want to reach out to and ask for help because I knew that I would be kind of putting them in danger a little bit. Amy Schumer for example, she sent me a video that very day that was so sweet, and Nikki Glaser was there. She was in a car with, I think, two other female comedians, and it’s the funniest tape. I actually should post it now; I hope she wouldn’t mind. But I didn’t want to post it for a whole year, because I thought, “Now Amy’s timeline and her social media is going to be flooded with the robots and the troll farms.” And also, I got many, many death threats in person, and people would come to my home, send me things to my home. You know, it wasn’t just the online stuff.
You were a very extreme case of cyberbullying, or bullying in general.
The other thing that’s a bummer is I do feel like with this Trump ideology, or whatever you want to call it, now everyone is suffering. I don’t think the “Be Best” campaign is working very well! So, the cyberbullying thing it was, like, for tweens, ‘member? It was for Demi Lovato fans. Now you have a president, although I call him an “accident,” who’s actually the worst of the bunch. And so, it’s enabled everyone to think Facebook is news, and now all of a sudden, your racist uncle posts something that then 10 of your cousins, who you thought you could trust, believe.
You mentioned losing friends over the controversy. Did you have falling-outs with family too?
Yeah, I’ve lost many, many relatives; I can’t convince them I’m not in ISIS. Sorry, I can’t say that without laughing! I’m from Oak Park, Illinois. … I don’t think I would do very well in ISIS. I think it’s too physically taxing. I also do not believe in their ideology, and I also, you know I’d be the “feckless c***” of ISIS. I would be the bitchy outspoken one where whoever the head, whoever was in charge of my squad, would be yelling at me all the time, and I’d probably break a hip during those exercises. You know, I’m not getting any younger.
So once again, to learn how to make jokes about ISIS; it’s a journey. But in a way, the administration has helped me, because they have done so many heinous acts, one after another — as well as being felons, some yet to be convicted, but they’re still committing felonies and they’re the same group who is trying to convince all the Trumpies to say, “Lock her up!” to me. So, you can hate that picture, but it’s very much covered under the First Amendment, and also, I’m having a lot of fun describing that story in my show while talking about how my neighbors during that entire trial were none other than Kim Kardashian West and Kanye Kardashian West. So, don’t worry, [my new show] is not like a long serious speech about the First Amendment. I’m still going give you the good ol’ Kathy Griffin razzle-dazzle and the celebrity run-ins and who was naughty and who was nice and the crazy things people said to me and who reached out and who didn’t.
And also, I still have run-ins to this day. I might go to an event and I’m very honored because this evening I’m going to get an award in West Hollywood, and it’s the same award that they gave to my friend Stormy Daniels. You heard me! I’m friends with Stormy Daniels. Yeah, I contributed to her legal defense fund. I don’t want to say “Stormy 2020” yet. But admit it: If Stormy Daniels could start Monday as president, you’d say, “Great.”
Would you ever run for office?
Never! Are you kidding?
Come on! Stormy/Kathy 2020!
The Griffin/Daniels ticket? I do like the Griffin/Daniels ticket. And by the way, I don’t really care — like, if [Stormy] wants to be president, I’ll be vice president. Women aren’t [competitive] like that. We just want to get stuff done. I also have my political platform — which I know would be a losing one: I would ask the men to literally step down for two entire years and let women run everything. And then we refold them back in. I don’t think I would probably win on that platform, but it’s a secret thought I harbor in my dark brain.
This article originally ran on Yahoo Entertainment.