Kathy Griffin on Trump and comedy in the age of social media

Kathy Griffin. Photo: Supplied

Kathy Griffin. Photo: Supplied

US comedian Kathy Griffin has a long history of sparking outrage. She’s been banned from an impressive array of talk shows and theatres, and most recently, became an international sensation after posing with President Trump’s decapitated head (fake, obviously). We spoke to her ahead of her Australian tour and, well, things didn’t quite go to plan. For one thing, she’s the one who starts asking the questions – and we had to trim some of these for “legal” reasons, as you’ll soon see.

Hello, Kathy.

What do you want to talk to me about? I’m the most controversial woman on your continent.

I was hoping to talk to you about what we can expect from your Melbourne shows.

Is that really your opener? You’re disinvited to my show. Can I talk to your wife for a second?

Sorry, no.

I can tell you don’t get me and I think she might like me. I am bored with you, put her on now. I’ve decided our talking points will be the plebiscite, Australian gun control, Sia, Lorde and Harry Styles.

That all sounds good. Can we talk about the backlash to the Trump video?

The backlash changed everything. I lost everything. I did nothing illegal but I was under a two month federal investigation, I was on the no-fly list. Nobody seems to be noticing. It’s difficult for me to see people not connecting the dots, to see that this is yet another story of an all-powerful white man taking a woman down. He didn’t pick Kevin Hart or Will Ferrell.

I don’t have one single day of paid work ahead of me in the United States. Not one single day. None of my friends care and none of my co-workers care. It’s really weird. I’m out there doing everything myself. I don’t have a publicist, I don’t have an agent. Going on this tour is going to be fun. That photo and video have given me the opportunity to tour the world. I never thought I’d be adding a second show in Melbourne or playing the Sydney Opera House for the third time. Two days after the incident, I emailed my stand up agent and said, can you find a bunch of places where they don’t like Trump? And he found 15 countries.

I had to convince my 97-year-old mother, who didn’t quite hear what was being said on TV, that I hadn’t joined ISIS. I had to say to her that I don’t think ISIS is looking for 56-year-old redheaded American comedians. That was the point where I went, “That’s funny.” That’s where I go, “Wait a minute, I might be on to an act.”

I wouldn’t put it past my mother to be a spy. She’d be a little tipsy, but she’d probably do it for $20 or a couple of boxes of wine. You guys have a name for boxes of wine there, right?

Goon bags.

That’s her jam. It’s her fluid of choice.

When I say fluid, it means we should talk about the plebiscite. I’m feeling optimistic, I think you guys are going to get there. I think it’s backfired for Turnbull. I have some choice words for him. In the states, the minute it became legal, the whole country just moved on. They realised it wasn’t turning our children gay.

Do you want to talk about Australian gun control?

I’m sorry! Kathy can’t come to the phone right now. Why? Oh, because she’s on a WORLD TOUR! Get your tickets to the #LaughYourHeadOff world tour at kathygriffin.com Video by: @mrjamesstapes and @johnraphael12

A post shared by Kathy Griffin (@kathygriffin) on

Why not?

I wouldn’t wish a day of our news on anybody. If I had someone visiting from a foreign country, I’d have to limit them to two hours news. The gun control thing is insane. I, personally, would like to live. I would not like to be shot by anyone, even my best friends. Even Cher, and I just love her. That’s how anti-gun I am. But if I go online, there are thousands of Macedonian robots saying how un-American I am because I don’t believe in guns.

Will I be able to get away with making fun of Lorde, or is she like a God to you people?

No, she’s a New Zealander. You can say whatever you like about her.

Calm down, you’re all the same. I’ve got news for you, Mr Australia. Whenever I do interviews with New Zealand, all they do is rub it in your face about how gay marriage is legal there. Don’t act like you don’t know Lorde is a pain in the ass.

Is she really?

I’ve been trying to win over Lorde for five years, ever since she was a Royal. I have to be honest, I find her physical movements funny. I’m sorry. She sings while reenacting either a scene from Birdman or The Karate Kid, wax on/wax off. I go up to her all the time, trying to get her to say hi to me, but she doesn’t like me. I do sometimes say Oh Lorde, or even Lordy… is she triggered by that? I know Millennials are easily triggered. You add an e to the end of their name and they freak the f**k out. Calm down, Lorde.

How difficult is it to be a comedian in the current media environment?

It’s completely different. I’ve been doing this for 25 years. Social media has changed comedy because everyone is so easily triggered. My photo was a very obvious example of that. I like going too far. I think comedy needs both ends of the spectrum. If you want Ellen DeGeneres and you don’t want to hear swear words, I think that’s awesome. I personally like really in-your-face truth-telling, from the heart comedy.

What I’m looking forward to on this tour is being able to speak freely about something I haven’t even been able to talk about here. People are freaked out here. This shouldn’t have been a news story, sides shouldn’t have been drawn. That’s what Trump does. He divides, but I refuse to be conquered.

Do you know how my neighbours are? It’s Kim Kardashian-West and Kanye Kardashian-West. He likes to be called Pablo, because he thinks he’s Pablo Picasso. I call him Pabs. I’ll be regaling the audience with stories of living next door to them. I have so much material. They’ve been supportive. That’s how crazy things have gotten. In the middle of this insane time, Kim Kardashian-West will text me, saying “Thinking of you”. I’m not saying we’re besties, but it’s one of those moments where you go, “If you stay in showbiz long enough, anything can happen.”

Kathy Griffin: Laugh Your Head Off

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