Kathy Griffin’s comedy career careened out of control 15 months ago over a staged photo of her holding Donald Trump’s bloodied, severed head. She quickly lost close friends and her 10-year CNN New Year’s Eve gig, found herself under federal investigation and saw all her U.S. concert dates canceled.
Now, Griffin is back on the road and she says fans are laughing their heads off.
“I’m still digging myself out of this hole, one dick joke at a time,” says the often-vulgar Griffin, who performs Saturday night at the Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami, part of her “Laugh Your Head Off World Tour.”
“It has really been a bizarre, surreal experience that, on one hand, I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. On the other hand, I get all high and mighty on my First Amendment stump because it really is a First Amendment issue — whether or not you like that photo.”
The day the photo by Tyler Shields went viral on May 30, 2017, Griffin’s friends and foes attacked her online.
“For the record, I am appalled by the photo shoot Kathy Griffin took part in. It is clearly disgusting and completely inappropriate,” tweeted Anderson Cooper, Griffin’s close friend and New Year’s Eve co-host. They haven’t spoken since.
“Disgusting but not surprising,” tweeted Donald Trump Jr.
The president himself tweeted: “Kathy Griffin should be ashamed of herself. My children, especially my 11 year old son, Barron, are having a hard time with this. Sick!”
“A mean tweet from Donald Trump,” Griffin says. “Yeah, you think that’s real cute until it happens to you. Because then you’re into what I call the Trump wood chipper.”
Within days of the photo fiasco, Griffin held a widely seen press conference in which she sobbed for public forgiveness. Later, she fired her lawyers and retracted her apology.
Griffin says she was subjected to a federal investigation and lived “under the specter of being on the no-fly list for two months like I’m a terrorist.”
Eventually, she began booking tour dates outside the United States, playing 23 sold-out concerts, according to Forbes.
Last March, Griffin announced she would play New York City’s Carnegie Hall in June. That show reportedly sold out in 24 hours.
“Congratulations and welcome back!” tweeted Bette Midler. “You were in Show Biz jail longer than the Stanford Rapist was in real jail!”
Griffin, who won Emmys in 2007 and 2008 for Bravo’s “Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List” series and a Grammy for her 2013 comedy album “Calm Down Gurrl,” is currently touring about two dozen North American cities.
Her original Sept. 12 Miami date was rescheduled after the jet she was flying in on caught fire and had to be rerouted to Washington, D.C. She not-so-jokingly blames the first family for her flight troubles. “I’m convinced it’s the Trump family working as the cabal that they are,” Griffin says.
The longtime comic says she knows what her concert audiences want to hear.
“At the beginning of the show, I show like a five-minute reel. I start with the photo and the fallout. Like Matt Lauer is on it. How ironic is that? Matt Lauer is on the ‘Today’ show saying ‘Kathy Griffin took a picture of Donald Trump’s decapitated head!’ And I’m like, ‘Where is Matt Lauer now?’”
She tells them about the death threats she gets “constantly.”
“I’m not just talking about the [Real] Housewives. There are a couple of moments that are pretty intense. I actually take the audience inside the room when I was interrogated under oath by the feds,” she says.
“That’s why the tour is doing well and being received so well. ... No one else is going to stand up and tell the real deal. I’m kind of the perfect messenger for this particular point. I’m the one who was put through it more than anybody. And nobody came to my support. Nobody. Nobody had my back. As you saw, Anderson turned on me. CNN fired me.”
Still, she sees a bright future.
“No. 1, the sky’s the limit. I’m a free agent. I’m no longer at Bravo. I’m no longer associated with any one place,” Griffin says. “On the other hand, I will be honest with you — I’m finishing this tour on Nov. 4 and I don’t have one single day of work ahead of me after that because of this. Because of the outrage. I call it the faux outrage. Can you imagine?”
Griffin describes herself as “a lightning-rod comedian.”
“I am now ‘dangerous.’ I am also now someone who was absolutely, ridiculously and wrongly accused of doing everything from breaking the law, which people don’t understand. You can dislike that picture, but, there was nothing illegal about it.”
Griffin says her LGBTQ fans have not abandoned her. “I’ve been an ally a really long time. When I kick the bucket, they’re going to go, ‘Alright, wait a minute. I heard this crazy story about a 57-year-old crazy red-haired comedian who took a picture with a mask and then they tried to take her down, they tried to take her down and she wouldn’t go down.”
In June, her tour raised $11,318 for The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention group for LGBTQ youth.
During her 40-year career, Griffin says she’s made over $75 million. Forbes estimates the “Laugh Your Head Off” tour could gross about $4 million.
“I’m almost getting bitter about Colin Kaepernick,” she says. “Where’s my $100 million Nike deal? I was dropped as the face of Squatty Potty for god’s sake! Live with that in your conscience.”
If you go
- What: Kathy Griffin: “Laugh Your Head Off World Tour”
- When: 8 p.m. Saturday
- Where: Adrienne Arsht Center, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami
- Tickets: $39.50 to $254 at https://hrld.us/2QF4KuG