Kathy Griffin-Hosted Shorty Awards Mix Humor With Sincerity

Kathy Griffin speaks onstage during the 11th Annual Shorty Awards-Getty-H 2019
Noam Galai/Getty Images

The comedian talked about the good and bad of social media as she continues to make a comeback after she took a now-infamous photo with a fake severed head of President Trump.

Amid jokes about the college admissions scandal — an unintentional one turning out to be Olivia Jade's nomination for vlogger of the year — and lighthearted acceptance speeches, the 2019 Shorty Awards had its fair share of inspiring and serious moments, too.

For instance, the Playstation Theater in New York City erupted in its loudest applause not when Kathy Griffin delivered a rousing monologue or after Shane Dawson won YouTuber of the Year, but during the acceptance speech for the "phenom changemakers" award, which went to March For Our Lives.

Parkland school shooting survivors Adam Alhanti and John Barnitt took the stage, dedicating the honor to anyone fighting against gun violence. They also urged the audience to voice opposition to a Florida Senate bill that would allow trained teachers to carry guns at school.

"Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida, we are urging you to represent the citizens of Florida and veto Senate Bill 7030," Alhanti said. "Our teachers need to be armed with books and pencils and a proper salary, and not firearms."

Other phenom awards went to Kevin Love (athlete), Marsai Martin (entertainment), and Terry Crews (activism). Crews used his acceptance speech to reveal what it was like to speak up about his sexual assault

"You have to understand, when I went home that first day, I told my wife my career was over. We knew it was over. We said, ‘It’s done,' " Crews said, describing the aftermath of his tweets that accused WME's Adam Venit of sexual assault. "And you know what my wife told me? She said, ‘You know what, we were done after football. We were done after everything else you were gonna do. We’ll find something else to do.’ And that’s the reality of what this thing is. I’m an accidental activist. Because the point is, these things happen, and you look around and you wait for somebody else to do something and you realize it’s you."

The fact that Griffin was hosting the awards show was inspiring in itself. Though it's been two years since she took the now-infamous photo with a fake severed head of President Trump — which cost her jobs, endorsements and landed her on the no-fly list — she told The Hollywood Reporter that a lot of people are "still after" her.

The latest? David Wohl, the father of Jacob Wohl, the conservative activist banned from Twitter who was recently accused of attempting to recruit men to make false sexual assault allegations against Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg.

"I just love it when the middle-aged white guys try to come, like, step up to me," Griffin said. "I’m like, ‘Bring it on honey.’ "

Wohl was banned from Twitter in late February, but just last week, a slew of far-right figures like Alex Jones and Milo Yiannopoulos were removed from Facebook and Instagram. Griffin said she finds this sort of regulation "important."

"I’m a first amendment expert now. My gosh, I gave a speech about it everywhere from Oxford University to a venture capital convention. And there is a difference between what I did, which is legal and covered, and yelling ‘Fire!’ in a theater," Griffin told THR. "So I hold Mark Zuckerberg, Sheryl Sandberg, Jack Dorsey and the YouTube guys as responsible as any other entity."

But according to Griffin, there is, of course, a positive side to social media. Without it, she may not have been able to rebuild her career after the fallout from the photo. As she still attempts to make a full comeback, Griffin said her approach is similar to that of many influencers and YouTubers.

"I don’t have an agent right now… but these kids don’t even care. They just DM these companies personally, and they get deals done, and they have lawyers and that’s just like me," Griffin explained. "I have myself and my team; I have a production company and I’ve got my lawyer; and we do everything. I found out I have more in common with them than we ever knew."

Greg Galant, CEO and cofounder of the Shortys, told THR that he's enjoyed watching Griffin start anew.

"She's really taken to social media to reinvent herself," he said. "It's been cool just watching her kind of tear up the playbook and figure it all out."

Galant can certainly relate to the idea of reinvention, especially when producing an awards show that revolves around a constantly evolving social media landscape.

"When we started, Twitter was really the only social media platform that you could post publicly. Facebook was still locked down to your friends. Instagram didn’t exist," he said. "So we have to reinvent the show every year, but that’s what’s fun. The Oscars haven’t had to reinvent themselves since they added sound to movies. For us, though, it’s like every year things are changing so we have to change categories, add new things, and reinvent it."

See all of the winners of the 11th annual Shorty Awards here.