Kathy Griffin Is Back — and Taking Aim at Trumps, Sarah Sanders and "Nazi" Roseanne
The comedian tells 'The Hollywood Reporter' how her "un-shockable gays" — and the original Luke Skywalker — helped her bounce back from the Trump photo scandal.
After making headlines for a photoshoot stunt that depicted President Trump's bloodied head last year, Kathy Griffin worried she would never tour the country again.
"I was on a no-fly list and under federal investigation for conspiring to kill the president," the comedian, who wrapped a successful international stand-up tour earlier this year, tells The Hollywood Reporter. "I had no idea how the U.S. tour would go. At some points, I thought my career here was over."
Despite her worst fears, Griffin has returned stateside in an extension of her Laugh Your Head Off world tour — her Tuesday night stop at New York's Carnegie Hall is just one of several sold-out shows. According to Griffin, her homecoming wouldn't have been possible without the unwavering support of her "un-shockable gays" and, surprisingly, Mark Hamill. Her rehab tour began with a sitdown interview with THR back in January.
While she hoped the LGBTQ community would stand beside her post-controversy, Griffin never expected the upturn in her career to be propelled by the force of Luke Skywalker himself. Last month, after a handful of friendly exchanges with Griffin, Hamill showed interest in attending one of her shows and the public support, she says, brought her a new group of fans. "Hamill randomly started tweeting me really supportive things one day," she recounts. "I've never had the freaking Star Wars nerds. Now I have a whole new fanbase, which is awesome. So thanks, Mark Hamill. They better buy tickets!"
Griffin was deserted by longtime business associates including agents and publicists in the wake of the Trump scandal. Now, her star power is back on the rise. (The Emmy-winning My Life on the D-List alum recently topped THR's Top Comedians social chart.) Speaking to THR ahead of her Monday show at Radio City Music Hall, Griffin shares her unfiltered thoughts about a fellow comic shrouded by controversy (Roseanne Barr), Trump and his administration, and the joy of making America laugh again.
You made your first appearance last year after the Trump controversy at a drag benefit called BIDS, a charity you've long supported. Why do you think gay audiences continue to support you?
They've always been my biggest supporters, my most fierce supporters. I love to say "the un-shockable gays" — because if you're a gay person growing up in this country, I don't care what city you're from, I don't care if you are on the down-low or out, you have had to deal with adversity. I've identified with the LGBTQ community, literally, since I was in first grade. I made friends with the gay kid before I knew what gay was. We just hit it off. And in high school, the only dance I went to was — because, of course, no one asked me — when my gay friend finally asked me. And by the way, I officiated his gay wedding two years ago, so we're still friends. One of the things that honestly got me through the whole Trump thing was when a bunch of drag queens from Fire Island dressed up as me and they were carrying Trump heads. Or if they couldn't make a Trump head, they'd make something to carry and they also tried to recreate my blue dress. And I was like, "Yes, girl! Ahead of the curve again!" Honestly, the LGBTQ community has always been ahead of the curve and, frankly, on the right side of history.
How did the fallout from the Trump photo inspire your latest tour?
Well, first off, the name of the tour. I got [attorney] Lisa Bloom [to coordinate a press conference in which Griffin said sorry for the photo, but later retracted her apology], who is a fucking useless pain in the ass. And it was a disastrous apology and a disastrous press conference. But the next day, I was like, "Wait a minute. Is Laugh Your Head Off tour funny?" And turns out, it is. It's very funny.
What are some of the stories you tell on tour about your experience with Trump and his administration?
Little by little, I realized that whether it's people who aren't offended by the comedic term "feckless c—" — because when applied to Ivanka Trump, it's fucking true — there's a real thirst for people who are going to tell it like it is. People really do want to hear the story. They want to hear the interrogation room story, they want to hear the stuff about [former CNN New Year's Eve Live co-host and friend] Anderson [Cooper], even the stuff that's hard to say. I wrap that all in a bunch of straight-up comedy. And also, it's actually easy to center my show around the Trump story because he's this failed reality star/pop culture figure. So I have a story, which I believe is worth the price of admission alone, about spending the day with Donald Trump and Liza Minnelli, just the three of us. You can't get that from any other comedian. That was quite a day. And I have several Trump stories. I just never told them in my act before because people didn't want to hear Donald Trump stories. They wanted to hear about Real Housewives. But now that he's the fool in the office, they're like, "Wait, he said what? He did what?" I'm very happy to bring that to the table.
How were you able to orchestrate a comeback without the help of your old team?
Well, my gays and Mark Hamill, of course. But in all seriousness, they all left after the Trump stuff. All the naysayers, even my stand-up agent, I don't talk to anymore. The good thing is I've got this all on my own. I know how to tour without needing a man's permission. My commercial, I made myself. I made my own poster, I made my own graphics. I mean, I don't mean me personally. I field it out. But I no longer rely on the machine because it's that machine — once again, the old white dinosaur males — who all said, "We're putting this bitch out to pasture." And I've been through this, honestly, since I was 40. Every year, it's the same old fucking white guys at the agencies and the publicists. My joke is, "They're trying to put me out to pasture and damn it, I won't moo!"
You tweeted your support for Samantha Bee after she received flak for calling Ivanka Trump a "feckless c—." How do you feel your respective scandals were received by the public?
I can imagine she's going through a lot of what I went through and that's why I'm on a mission. And I've taken to my social media to activate all my followers to support the corporations who stick with her and shame and shun those who leave or have already left. I think she's in a little bit better position than I was because she does have a TV show. It's also an international show. It played everywhere I went when I was touring overseas. Also, the word was bleeped and she's used it twice before. We've been talking because I kind of have a feeling of what she's going through. I hope it isn't with the same intensity that I experienced.
Do you think Bee should take back her apology like you did?
I don't know if she'll take the apology back. I think it's kind of moot because I would guess most people assume what I did — which is that she was probably forced to do it. I think she will stand by her work. From what I know of her — and I don't know her very well at all — she seems to be confident and have real strong convictions about her abilities and talent. You've got to remember, those are two things the president doesn't possess: abilities or talent. She will be a better talk show host and comedian than he will ever be a president. So yes, I think she will be the victor. I just hope she's getting the support she needs because I didn't have much support. I get a lot of joy and gratification out of supporting people like Sam Bee and Michelle Wolf. Remember, I was in the room during Michelle's monologue.
I imagine your experience at the White House Correspondents' dinner is a huge part of your show.
I like to take people behind the scenes and tell them what really happened. And yeah, the nerve of Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who I believe is also a linebacker for the Dallas Cowboys —although I can't confirm that — but the nerve of her sitting there on the dais with her fucking sourpuss. Honestly, that's the worst thing you can do. The Michelle set was tight, it was appropriate. It was supposed to be a roast. If Trump wanted to come to it, he certainly had the opportunity. I’d like to think — when I'm having especially egotistical days — that he didn't come because of me. Trust me, I would have had several things to say to his faces and his chins and his asses.
What is the No. 1 thing you'd want to tell Trump in person?
It’s going to start with a vitriol run of like, "You better suck my dick, you piece of my shit. I have more balls. I've gone to Iraq and Afghanistan and performed under mortar fire. And you're militaristic and you’re the patriot? You can't even find Iraq and Afghanistan on a map, you illiterate fuck." It would start like that. And then I would probably go in on him pretty hard.
You spoke with GQ about Roseanne before the show was canceled. As someone who has experienced their fair share of controversy, do you think she will ever make it back on TV?
No, fuck her! She's a fucking Nazi. No, dude. No Nazis! I know that sounds crazy, but America has a new policy: no Nazis. But we have an administration that is quite pro-Nazi. They led the march. They think there are good ones and bad ones. There's no good ones! Roseanne wasn't even a typical Trump voter, so the idea that they were trying to have her portray the rest of America was always bullshit. I'm sorry, but they knew what they were getting into. You know she tweeted that David Hogg, the Parkland survivor, is a Nazi? I have no sympathy for her and I have no empathy for her because she had every opportunity that I didn't. And I would have killed to have a real network behind me. I would have killed to have some of the best writers in television. And I would not have fucked that up by being a Nazi!
Are you hoping for your own return to television in the future?
That's my dream. I hope someone has the balls!
For tickets to Griffin's Laugh Your Head Off world tour, go to KathyGriffin.com.