Published May 16, 2018Ahead of the Canadian leg of her hugely successful Laugh Your Head Off World Tour, comedian Kathy Griffin is reflecting on whatever happened to her old friend Roseanne Barr.
"I know her very well, but I don't know who this new person is; she's been taken over by the pod people like in Invasion of the Body Snatchers," Griffin tells Exclaim! over the phone from her mansion in Bel-Air.
With the recent return of her once-beloved sitcom Roseanne, Barr has shed her progressive outspokenness for a colder, libertarian stance that began with intense, real-time criticism of Barack Obama's administration, and has recently manifested itself in support for Trump, both IRL and in subtle, vile proclamations by some characters on her sitcom. It's all a bit baffling for friends like Griffin.
"Roseanne is actually playing a nicer version of who she's turned into these days," Griffin observes. "The last time I had lunch with Roseanne and her boyfriend, I am not kidding, it was a four-person lunch and our entire conversation was about how they're old hippies. And it wouldn't surprise me if she was a Bernie Sanders supporter or something. Although that crowd also can blow me. They're as vicious as the Trump people, the Bernie Bros — they also want to assassinate me."
A Grammy, Emmy and GLAAD Award winner, Kathy Griffin was a provocative, forward-thinking comedian, ubiquitous character actor, bestselling author, and successful TV host (often called upon to MC major award shows, but also to helm her own programs like Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List) until May 30, 2017.
That was the day a photo of an emotionless Griffin hoisting a bloodied Donald Trump mask in the air, like it was the president's severed head, went viral, leading to a broad spectrum of condemnation. Democrats and Republicans attacked her, the president and various family members persecuted her on Twitter, and CNN fired her from her long-running gig co-hosting their New Year's Eve show with Anderson Cooper.
For Griffin, who initially and emotively apologized, the backlash felt like the end of the world. She lost work, and her career and life seemed finished. She received death threats, which is a frighteningly normal circumstance for a woman on social media these days. But there was also the spectre of Secret Service interrogations and a very real, two-month federal investigation of the photograph by Trump's Department of Justice. This was beyond rebuke; satire and comedy were under serious attack.
But as the Trump administration spiralled further and further out of control, revealing itself to at least bear the whiff of corruption and incompetence, growing increasingly unstable and unpopular as a result, Griffin was embraced. She retracted her apology and made light of her circumstances with the Laugh Your Head Off World Tour and describing her harrowing ordeal.
"I don't like Trump and I'm an American woman who is more than happy to go to other countries and stand on stage and say, while I'm a proud American, I'm happy to admit we've lost our minds and accidentally elected — with apparently the help of several other countries and robots and bot firms — an insane person who is in the full throes of dementia. There, I said it, and I'm as qualified as any of his doctors."
On this tour, Griffin doesn't shy away from the controversy. In fact, she delves into all of it headlong, going as far as explaining that, much like disgraced and possibly prison-bound Trump aides like Paul Manafort and Michael Cohen, Griffin's legal team told her she might be subject to a "no-knock raid" at her home or office by federal agents.
"It is terrifying," Griffin says of the scrutiny she has endured and its improbable fodder for material. "But when you get down to it, it became so crazy that you have to go, 'Okay, I have to find the funny.'"
It's not all weird-ass government investigations for Griffn, of course. Her social standing seems as strong as ever; until two months ago, her Bel-Air neighbours were Kanye and Kim Kardashian West.
She gleefully describes the scene down the street whenever Stevie Wonder has an uproarious party that almost always features a huge musical guest, who surprises everyone in attendance with a performance. Though, in true D-List fashion, Griffin can't help but clarify that she herself has never actually been invited to one of Stevie's parties. She just observes all the hubbub and takes busybody notes. Who knows, perhaps she's been shut out just for being a nosy neighbour.
"Well, I mean that actually is good news," Griffin reasons, "because for me to not be invited someplace merely because of my annoying personality is much more refreshing than me not being invited someplace because people are mad at my Trump ketchup-y mask photo and think I'm in ISIS."
Kathy Griffin's "Laugh Your Head Off" world tour touches down in Ottawa (May 23), Toronto (May 25), Kitchener (May 26), Calgary (May 31), and Vancouver (June 2). Find the complete itinerary here.
Listen to this interview with Kathy Griffin on Kreative Kontrol or below: