Kathy Griffin Says She Can Joke About the Photo Now. You Know Which One.

Kathy Griffin is coming to Dallas.
Kathy Griffin is coming to Dallas. courtesy Kathy Griffin

The infamous photo Kathy Griffin released May 30, 2017, in which she held an effigy of President Donald Trump's severed and bloodied head by its fluffy, blond mop of hair earned her the kind of fame that no former D-list celebrity would ever want.

"This was another level," Griffin says. "I like to pride myself on the ups and downs, and I've been around a long time. What I like to tell about this story in the show is that it's historic. I'm the first celebrity in the history of the United States that a sitting president tried to decimate. The apparatus that's in place is only used for politicians until me."

The Emmy and Grammy-winning comedian is no stranger to controversy. She's unafraid to speak about politics, social issues, her run-ins with celebrities and her stories from inside the Hollywood machine. However, the photo she posed for with photographer Tyler Shields created a raging wildfire of media attention and criticism. The fallout cost her tour dates, friendships and her co-hosting spot on CNN's New Year's Eve broadcast with anchor Anderson Cooper, who posted on Twitter that the photo was "disgusting and completely inappropriate."

It also attracted a bipartisan wave of ire from news commentators and TV pundits, death threats that she still gets more than a year later and a two-month investigation from the FBI to determine if she should be charged with conspiracy to assassinate the president (she wasn't), according to a profile in The Hollywood Reporter.

"The deepest cut was my deal with Squatty Potty," Griffin says referring to a digital commercial she appeared in for the toilet stool before the company removed all her advertisements. "You know what they called me? The Queen of Poop. I need love, dammit."

It also altered her stage shows and "the whole business-touring model," Griffin says.

"It's got some meat on the bone, baby," she says. "I talk about the investigation, Anderson Cooper who was nice, the First Amendment. It's got a different feeling that you can only get from a theatrical audience, but it's still got laughter and we talk about some serious things. I wouldn't be able to do this at a casino."

Griffin seems to have moved past some of the fallout from the incident even if she still lives with the aftermath. She can joke about it, as evidenced by her aptly named "Laugh Your Head Off" world comedy tour that is coming to the Winspear Opera House on Saturday. The tour poster is a re-creation of the infamous photo, but with Griffin holding the Earth in place of a fake Trump head.

"I took a photo and 24 hours later, 60 million people would think I'm a member of ISIS," Griffin says. "How are 60 million Americans so quick to say that makes sense? They're recruiting a lot of 57-year-old, Irish, red-haired comedians. There's a big demand in ISIS for that. News flash! I don't think they let women do stand-up comedy much less have any choice of any kind. I can laugh now, but there was a time when I couldn't. So I'm so thrilled to be doing this tour and after this, I don't know what's going to happen."

Griffin says she'll tell everything she's been through since the release of the photo changed her life. 

"I tell the stories about being detained at airports in 15 countries overseas, being on the Interpol list, all that crazy shit," she says. "I went to see Randy Newman the other night and I have a couple of my Hollywood friends who are the fucking worst. They're like the least supportive of anybody and I say that with love. They love to come up to me and be like, 'Oh my God, that must have been a rough three days' and I'm like, 'Yeah, I got 14 death threats today and the FBI called today. So thank you for being concerned, but it hasn't let up at all.'"

She's even become a political pawn for conservative politicians as they lead their campaigns into the midterm elections, she says.

"I'm in the new GOP ad although I'm in better company this time," Griffin says. "It's like me, [Colin] Kaepernick, Madonna. I'm trying to be optimistic. That's how bad it is. I'm actually happy. If I'm in another ad that portrays me as a member of ISIS, but I'm in it with Madonna, it's like we did a duet."

The backlash still follows her even as she learns from it and jokes about it.

"Seriously, I used to Google News myself out of sheer vanity, but now I can't out of sheer disbelief." – Kathy Griffin

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"I'm on a right-wing blog every day," she says. "Seriously, I used to Google News myself out of sheer vanity, but now I can't out of sheer disbelief. For some reason, the right-wingers have really chosen me to stick with. I have made it my mission, by the way, that whatever happened to me will never happen to another female comic. After Michelle Wolf attended the White House Correspondent's Dinner, which I attended and let me tell you, there's a story in my show about the fights I got into at the White House Correspondent's Dinner that are worth the price of admission alone. Plus, the fact that I've known this fool, moron Trump for so long and had to go into the feds and testify about him and not say things under oath like, 'Well, I think he's just a big asshole.'"

The legal pressure that followed the photo is what helped her decide to start writing material about it for her shows so she could fight back, she says.

"I talked about the whole interrogation because I was the only one they put through all that," Griffin says. "They didn't make the guys do it, like Johnny Deep or Morrisey or Snoop Dogg or anything. I actually made history in a rather frightening way. It's never happened where a president in the Oval Office, right-wing media and the Department of Justice coordinated to decimate an American comedian, much less a female comedian, dammit. So that's when I put my boxing gloves back on and said, 'I'm gonna figure this out.'"

Her show isn't just a dramatic, cautionary tale about her ordeal or a manifesto about freedom of speech. She assures her fans that it's still a comedy show.

"It's not a serious show. It's got a couple of heavy moments because it's real and important for me to tell the story." – Kathy Griffin

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"Don't worry," Griffin says. "It's not like a lecture on the First Amendment. It's not a serious show. It's got a couple of heavy moments because it's real and important for me to tell the story. As I said on the day of my disastrous press conference, if it happened to me, I believe it can happen to you and it has with Samantha Bee and Michelle Wolf, etc., etc. I also put in tons of light, fluffy stuff. It's a journey. It's a roller coaster."

She says she has some new, juicy celebrity encounters to share with the crowd, like her friendship with Stormy Daniels, the adult film star who admitted on 60 Minutes that she had an affair with President Trump. Griffin says she called Daniels the night the porn star was arrested in Columbus, Ohio, by three undercover cops for charges stemming from a state law prohibiting nude or semi-nude employees of sexually oriented businesses from touching customers.

"I actually have a dream, and I'm not kidding, of doing New Year's Eve Live with Kathy Griffin and Stormy Daniels," she says. "I don't know where. Maybe Netflix wants to pick us up, and we can do it in a strip club somewhere near Raleigh or Durham."

She says she also has some stories about the neighbors who moved in next door in the midst of her ordeal,  "none other than Kim Kardashian West and Kanye Kardashian West."

"I'm going to be spilling the tea, as the kids say," Griffin says. "I'm going to be spilling a big, giant teapot all over Texas."

Tickets start at $45.
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Danny Gallagher has been a regular contributor to the Dallas Observer since 2014. He has also written features, essays and stories for MTV, the Chicago Tribune, Maxim, Cracked, Mental_Floss, The Week, CNET and The Onion AV Club.