“The thing that I want people to know and take away from this movie is honestly, it really can happen to you,” Kathy Griffin tells me on this week’s episode of The Last Laugh podcast.
The film, a part-documentary, part-stand-up special titled Kathy Griffin: A Hell of a Story—she calls it a “docu-comedy”—tells the tale of how one photoshoot changed her life.
It has now been more than two years since Griffin held up a mask of Donald Trump covered in fake blood. After the president tweeted that she should be “ashamed of herself” and the Secret Service started investigating her supposed assassination threat, she issued a series of tearful apologies, which she now says she “one thousand percent” regrets.
It was when she heard Don Jr. say he wanted to “decimate” her that she decided it was time to fight back. “I admit that I was broken for two days,” she says. “And then I picked my ass up.”
Since then, Griffin has brought her “Laugh Your Head Off” tour all over Europe and then the United States. Her self-financed film chronicles that experience and culminates in the full live performance, which represents perhaps the best work of her decades-long career.
But fans will only be able to see it for one night only in theaters later this month thanks to Fathom Events. No studio, network or streaming service would pick it up.
“I’m completely blacklisted in television and streaming,” Griffin says. “And just keep in mind I’ve literally generated billions of dollars over my 40-year career. I’ve worked for every single network, all kinds of cable, touring like an animal. I think the year before the Trump photo I had done 80 cities in one year. They all turned their backs on me.”
Watch the EXCLUSIVE trailer for Kathy Griffin: A Hell of a Story right here:
On the reaction to her Trump ‘beheading’ photo
“First of all, I’ve done outrageous stuff my whole career and everybody knows that. And I’ve gotten into what I call ‘Hollywood trouble’ before and this was a whole other animal. The fact that it was the lead story on Fox for 17 days in a row... What I didn’t necessarily understand was how Team Trump was able to make it go global in almost minutes. There were memes and cartoons associating me with ISIS within hours of that photo going live. People, globally, thought that I was in ISIS in addition to thinking I went too far.”
On TMZ’s close relationship with Trump
“I had gotten a tip from two former TMZ employees that Harvey Levin talks to the Trumps multiple times a week, which I found hard to believe. Seriously, even in this crazy administration. I kept saying it and the right wing was like ‘she’s unhinged’ and I was so happy when The Daily Beast finally wrote that great article where Harvey says he considers himself to be Donald Trump’s personal publicist and that was one of those things where I was like, ‘OK, good, a little bit vindicated.’ The joke in the film is, can you imagine if Barack Obama was calling Perez Hilton for policy advice?”
Does she regret her initial apology?
“I one thousand percent rescind the apology. Because I did it based on good advice. Rosie O’Donnell called me and said, ‘I think you should apologize.’ But you have to realize when she said ‘people think you’re in ISIS and they think you’re inciting violence and not only that, decapitation,’ I had to take to that in because I honestly thought she was joking. And when she said the words, ‘What if [James] Foley or Daniel Pearl’s mother saw this?’ then I thought, oh my God. And I admit [the apology video] is a hot mess. But what I did that was really wrong was—it was such a crazy time, I didn’t want to invoke the names of Foley and Pearl because it’s so tragic. So I guess if I had done it properly, I probably should have reached out somehow to those women personally and really explained myself. Because when I made the apology video, it was sloppy and gave the right wing so much chum.”
On the U.S. attorney’s office investigation that upended her life
“This has never happened in the history of the United States, for real, to a private citizen, much less a comedian. They spent two months of taxpayer money—they didn’t call me to say let’s have a conversation and see if you’re serious, they just opened it. So I immediately had to hire a very expensive and very lauded Supreme Court-winning First Amendment attorney. They opened the investigation because they were very seriously considering charging me with conspiracy to assassinate the president of the United States.”
On Alec Baldwin asking her to cameo on SNL’s 43rd season premiere
“Alec Baldwin reached out, basically saying this is not what we do in America. And then when he said Lorne [Michaels] and I would like you to do the premiere of SNL, I was like, ‘No way.’ And I even said, ‘I don’t think Lorne’s a fan, so is this like your idea?’ And then the next day he goes, no, I talked to Lorne, he’s a fan. And I said, obviously that would be great. And look, I’m not being precious. If you want me to walk on holding the head on a stick, if you guys can make it funny, I’ll throw myself under the bus. And I remember I called my agents at the time, and they represented Alec as well, and said now it’s getting to the point where I need somebody to officially step in. Is this Alec just trying to be a good pal and say, don’t worry, you’re going to get work again? Or are they really thinking about a sketch with me in it? So finally, it just kind of came and went. I’m not blaming Alec, because I really do think he had good intentions. I do blame Lorne.”
Next week on The Last Laugh podcast: Stand-up comedian and soon-to-be star of his own ABC sitcom, Nate Bargatze.