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Comedian Kathy Griffin is back from the blacklist, still cracking wise

Brittany Delay – Bay Area News Group (TNS)

Kathy Griffin is a two-time Emmy and Grammy Award-winning comedian, television host, bestselling author and outspoken advocate. She is both revered and feared for her biting satire, unapologetic celebrity takedowns and off-the-cuff comedy style.

While you might know her from her comedy specials or film and TV appearances, you might have also caught her name in the headlines over the past couple years. It’s been a tumultuous time for her, fraught with cancellation, cancer, addition, divorce and a psychiatric hold. Most notably, she was considered a terror suspect by the U.S. government after she posted an infamous photo of her with what’s meant to look like Donald Trump’s severed head.

Now cancer-free, off the no-fly list and funnier than ever, Griffin is returning to the stage for the first time in more than six years with her new stand-up tour “My Life On the PTSD-List.”

We spoke ahead of an upcoming Northern California performance.

Q: Can you tell me a little about the concept behind this tour, and what audiences can expect?

A: I was recently diagnosed with complex PTSD. I know that’s a trendy thing to say nowadays, but it’s real for me. I was treated like a terrorist by the former administration, put on the no-fly list and investigated by the DOJ. I was unable to work for six long years. Nobody would book me. I lost my mind! I became addicted to prescription pills. I tried to take my life. I was on a 5150 psych hold for three days, like a combination between Britney and Kanye combined.

I eventually got sober, but then I got lung cancer, even though I never smoked! I lost half of my left lung, so my voice is different now. I lost my voice metaphorically during the Trump scandal, but then I lost it literally. I wear this psycho headset microphone now, and it makes me feel like Janet Jackson. Also, I filed for divorce 84 days ago. Who the (expletive) gets divorced at my age? I’m having to start over at 63, and I want to be on the “Golden Bachelor.”

On the tour, I talk about that stuff, because people can relate to everything from the drug addiction to the cancer and divorce. I also just talk about situations that I get into. Like last weekend, I went to Paris Hilton’s birthday party, and I got a piggy back ride from Gigi Gorgeous. She dropped me on my tailbone, and when I fell back, you could see I didn’t have any underwear on, because I didn’t want a panty line! So, I tell stories like that, because I don’t give a (expletive). I’ve been through so much, that frankly, being dropped by a trans girl and having no underwear on is the least of my worries.

Q: That Trump incident had a severe personal and professional impact. There’s no denying that it was unfortunate, but have you been able to find any silver linings?

A: God, I really think I lost about a third of my audience permanently. I’ve always made fun of celebrities, and the people in the South thought that I was taking the piss out of Hollywood as an insider, and that’s why I did so well there. But those MAGA folks that turned on me, they ain’t never coming back. I truly believe they’re in a cult.

However, that incident put me in a very different group. It got me, dare I say, a little respect. I was just on MSNBC last week, and I had a profile in the New York Times. As traumatic as it was, that photo incident put me in with a lot of good smarties who saw I had something substantive to say. It connected me with people that are dealing with things that are not just Hollywood focused, and I think it gives me the freedom to talk about other issues. For example, everywhere I go, I look up who the local representatives are. Believe it or not, I’ve met a ton of them since the Trump thing. I even went to the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, and I got in a lot of trouble there! I got to yell at everybody right to their face and I almost got kicked out. But I befriended Cabinet members right in front of all that press, and all the Fox News reporters that (expletive) on me? They all wanted selfies for their (expletive) daughters.

Q: You’ve spoken in the past about certain anxieties regarding aging out of Hollywood. Has that anxiety eased at all with this tour, or have you gotten any rejuvenated confidence from it?

A: I’ve gotten rejuvenated confidence because of the audiences. I know I should be independent and it should come from within and all that woo-woo bulls—, but let me tell you, I have a real relationship with my audience. People will come out to see me again and again, because they knows that every show is different. When I go to Napa, I’m going to make fun of you guys right to your faces. Yeah, you heard me! I’ll do my own research on whatever crazy (expletive) you guys are up to. I like to open shows with stuff like that, but then I don’t really know what I’m going to say next.

I do have some stories that I call “anchor stories” and those are just whatever situations I’ve just gotten into. Like Paris’ birthday, where I thought I was gonna go and be among celebrities and feel like I was on the A-list, and instead I ended up bottoms up on my tailbone without my underpants on! Or, I have this one story about going to Mexico on vacation with Sia, and everything on the trip went wrong. It was like Lucy and Ethel go to Mexico. Those stories have all the bells and whistles, and the good old fashioned Kathy Griffin signature celebrity element.

Q: What’s it like to be performing after so long, is it back to muscle memory or has there been a readjustment period?

A: It’s the weirdest thing. We got a call from The Mirage, saying “We want Kathy back!” That’s actually one of the places that put out a statement six years ago saying “Kathy will never be welcome here again.” But the dude that made that statement, he finally died, so that’s how I get work, is when the men that hate me finally die. So, he croaked, and I got booked for a show. It sold out, which in Vegas is hard, because the competition is ridiculous now. Anyways, the minute my feet hit the stage, I was totally relaxed. I did my show, it was all new material, obviously, because it’s not like I was trying it out anywhere. It was just all in my head. I also got my new headset microphone, which gives my body more freedom, so I run and roll around on the stage like a weirdo, and it’s just a blast.

Q: You survived lung cancer, but you lost half a lung. Has that affected your delivery in any way? Did you get the new headset because it’s harder to speak now?

A: Yeah, I have this new headset, and I’m a little self-conscious because I think sometimes now, the audiences can hear me inhale when I get excited. If that happens, I just kind of stop and make a joke about it, and the audiences have been completely forgiving. I can’t really do impressions the way I used to, though. Like, if I’m going to talk about Oprah and how she’s Ms. Ozempic now, I can’t go “oooOOZEMMPIIICC.” I can’t really sound like her anymore, but the audience gets it. They know I’m doing Oprah, and that headset microphone helps my voice carry.

Q: Speaking of pipes, you’re a pop diva lover. You’ve expressed adoration for artists like Madonna and Celine Dion and Lady Gaga. What is it about these artists that you love so much?

A: I think the reason I become friends with a lot of these divas is because stand-up and music have this marriage, in that they’re both very sexist industries. For example, I love seeing Taylor Swift. I may have made fun of her before, even though I’m terrified of the Swifties, but what I like about her is that she’s a change agent. I’ve never seen a female pop or rock star have her boyfriend go to her concerts, cheering her on.

I’m hoping this Taylor thing starts a change, so that female artists can finally get their flowers, because in stand-up, it’s never happened. You don’t hear guys thinking a female comic is sexy, and when I asked my guy friends who they would see at a comedy show, they all admitted “It wouldn’t occur to us to go see you or Chelsea Handler or Wanda Sykes. We’re going to go see Chris Rock or Dave Chappelle.” My biggest challenge is getting people to move past the stigma that chicks aren’t funny. That stereotype still exists, and it’s just misogyny and sexism. There’s no other explanation, and I’m one of the people that wants to just go “Sorry, chicks are just as funny as guys!” I wish people would get over it, because the female comics I know are (expletive) funny.

Q: I can see straight men feeling that way, but you’re widely adored by the queer community. It’s primarily gay men, though. Do you think you have the same connection with gay women?

A: Yes, I finally got the lesbians. I once interviewed lesbians, asking “Why don’t you love me as much a gay men?” They were like, “Because you don’t talk about stuff that really matters to us, you talk about Britney Spears and the Kardashians, and we don’t care about that.”

Now though, I’m a political lightning rod, and I’ve done so much work for the LGBTQ community. I think the lesbians have watched me fight for their rights. I’ve been involved in six lawsuits against MAGA people since the whole Trump incident. I’m in a lawsuit right now with the Tennessee federal court, because I was advocating for two trans kids who were harassed by a MAGA guy in a hotel lobby at their prom photoshoot. So, the lesbians know I am a real ally. I don’t just talk to talk. I’m in court. I’m at the marches. I’m doing everything I can, and I finally got them.

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