Comedian, actress and dish queen Kathy Griffin is no stranger to controversy, but this year she finds herself back from celebrity exile after drawing the fiery and somewhat hypocritical wrath of the political establishment, media and the entertainment industry last year for a satirical photo she took depicting her holding the severed, bloody head of Presdient Donald Trump. The result was quick and decisive, as representatives for venues and networks across the country rushed to cut ties and cancel upcoming gigs.
Griffin, not one to sit around idly, wrote some new material and took her act and story overseas, performing in venues across the globe to places such as Australia, New Zealand and Europe.
Now she's back on American soil for her "Laugh Your Head Off" tour, which rolls into Philadelphia Oct. 6.
Griffin has always been an unfiltered comedian, but we had to wonder if going through a year-long crucible of being investigated by the Secret Service, placed on Interpol watch lists, getting death threats from the right and drawing the ire of the president and the GOP had humbled or dampened her spirit.
"I want to talk to a lesbian, goddammit!" Griffin exclaimed loudly the minute we got connected on the phone. "If you want a job done right, you get a lesbian. I'm sick of you gay boys."
OK, business as usual.
Griffin, up until now, has mostly specialized in insider stories, jokes and barbs aimed at her run-ins and interactions with celebrities. But now that she's locked horns with the Trump administration and their army of sycophants, she's turning her comedic commentary toward politics.
"I do pose this question to the audience," she said. "God knows I love my gay men. But what if we did an experiment as a nation where men would just let women run shit for two years, and then we'll give it back. I am pitching Wanda Sykes 2020. Lesbians of color need to take over this country for two years."
That would get our vote!
Kathy is still all about the jokes, but said there is a serious undercurrent to her current tour now that America seems to be hellbent on going backwards and diving headlong into fascism.
"I stared out in Auckland, New Zealand because I couldn't get a show in my country of origin even though I didn't break the law," Griffin said. "The First Amendment is the first for a reason. I didn't pull my dick out and rub anybody, ever. I may have one, but I'm not going to reveal that on this call. I don't know if it's a gift from the comedy gods because the country is in turmoil right now, but I'm so grateful that I prevailed over the president and the Department of Justice. They thought they were going to decimate me and now I get to go town to town and country to country telling this story.”
People have an idea that once Trump is out of office, things will be fine, Griffin said. “If I hear one more person say 'Well, Mike Pence would be an improvement …’" No. We're not praying the gay away. Jeff Sessions, I think he's a down-low member of the community. People think he's this harmless elf, but he's a busy little bee working to take away LGBT rights day after day after day. Yes, we all have to keep up on everything. What's it going to take for you fuckers to get rid of Pat Toomey? Fuck that guy! For god's sake, keep Bob Casey in. When it comes to LGBT issues, I enjoy [touring] and talking about the ground battle."
When scandals derailed the careers of Louis C.K., Bill Cosby and Roseanne, more than a few peers and actors came to their defense in the press. Griffin said nothing like that happened in her case.
"To this day, it hurts," she said about her professional peers turning their backs on her. "I'm going to be 58 Nov. 4. I've been doing standup for decades. Everybody just headed for the hills. I did get support and an encouraging phone call from Jim Carrey. I talk about that in the act because I don't know Jim very well but at least he understood the weight and the magnitude."
Griffin said the fallout from the photo promises to be a standup comedy performance of epic length.
"I walk the audience through the parts of the story that I haven't said publicly, like the interrogations," she said. "My mom got death threats in her retirement home. It's a three- hour show, so wear your colostomy bag. Parts the show are a little bit heavy. There are parts of the show where you can hear people gasping because I understand they know I'm not bullshitting. Everything I say in the show is backed up with documentation. When you put it all together, they targeted a 57-year-old female comedian. Obviously, this is an administration that thinks LGBT people, women and people of color shouldn't have the right to make a living or be responded to in the case of sexual assault.”
Americans are distracted by everything, Griffin said. “There are these gay kids who grew up in a world where they say, 'I came out when I when I was six.' Well, good for you. But part of your job now that you have that privilege is that you have to hear about the struggle and listen to Aunt Kathy about everything from Stonewall to what this current administration is doing, because they are not fucking around about turning the clock back."
Griffin said that she's self-funding the taping of this latest tour for an upcoming special in the hopes that the powers-that-be at any of the networks approach her again.
"I'm just now becoming less toxic in the television community, meaning that the six white dudes who control every check in Hollywood are still afraid of me," she said. "I really feel like I have an explosive story on my hands that is really fucking funny. I like to make a point: I'm not just any comic. I don't do 45 minutes of hacky jokes that somebody else wrote. I do three hours of material, every word I wrote myself. I'm battered and bruised, but I'm not down yet. I want the audience to be laughing, but I also want to tell them: Be alert, motherfuckers!"
Kathy Griffin's "Laugh Your Head Off World Tour" comes to Philadelphia 3 and 8 p.m. Oct. 6 at Merriam Theater, 250 S. Broad St. For more information or tickets, call 215-893-1999 or visit www.kathygriffin.com.