Kathy Griffin made a desperate attempt at regaining relevance with her Tyler Shields photo shoot featured a faux beheaded Donald Trump. Why is her career basically over (for now)? As it turns out, there is a lot of reasoning behind this beyond the alleged sexism she and lawyer Lisa Bloom trotted out during their pointless press conference.
1. She couldn’t let it go. Kathy Griffin kept herself as part of the news cycle when she apologized for the Trump photo, then made herself the center of it when she and Lisa Bloom called for a joint press conference. The morning after said press conference, Bill Maher said the N-word on TV. If Griffin would have just gone away for a day or two, or even just doubled down and stood her ground a la Joan Rivers, instead of desperately trying to re-capture media attention, all of this would have fizzled out already.
2. No one really likes working with her to begin with. A source close to me who’s worked with Kathy Griffin in professional settings told me she’s a bigger diva than actual divas. “Mariah Carey is actually pretty easy to work with. Kathy Griffin won’t let people look her in the eye, and you can only speak to her through an assistant,” my insider noted. “She talks about her life on the D-list, but she expects more special treatment than actual A-list celebrities. It’s not surprising that as soon as people had an excuse not to work with her anymore that they dropped her immediately. Hardly anyone can stand her.” When you look back at the fact that she’s dissed former employers, including E!’s Fashion Police, that doesn’t seem surprising.
3. She’s made a career of bullying. Like Donald Trump, Kathy Griffin is a fan of punching down. She’s started feuds with Ellen DeGeneres (who doesn’t have the best rep herself, but is also much more media savvy) and Demi Lovato, among others, then cried “bullying!” when they responded to her in kind. She’s picked on Britney Spears’ mental illness. She makes a career out of badmouthing people more successful than she is, and when it finally came back to bite her, she cried sexism and bullying. Make no mistake, Donald Trump, to paraphrase Cicero, was excreted more than he was elected. He is the worst. But her M.O. isn’t much different than his.
4. She’s confused about what “freedom of speech” means. Kathy Griffin still has the constitutional right to say whatever she wants, whether it’s as a comedian or a citizen. However, and this may not be to her liking, that also means that everyone else also has the right to respond to her in kind, whether it’s club bookers with their cancellations or audiences with their wallets or jerks on Twitter. While no one should be subjected to death threats or harassment in any form, valid criticism is fair, especially for an ill-advised, tasteless, pointless gesture like this.
5. She’s not the first entertainer to be investigated by the Secret Service. A lot of partisan hacks and generally ignorant people are harping that Kathy Griffin is being investigated by the Secret Service over a photo depicting her beheading what is clearly meant to be the President of the United States. Some people are saying that no one who burned effigies of former President Barack Obama had to deal with that, and that Ted Nugent threatened to kill Obama without consequence. There are a lot of fallacies and falsehoods here: Nugent was, in fact, investigated, as was Eminem over his song “Dead Presidents.” So were private citizens who disseminated racist and threatening imagery of Obama. The Secret Service’s job is to investigate any and every threat against the President and his or her family, regardless of whether it’s satirical, a parody, or a slang for cash. Why aren’t all incidents reported? Because, well, there are a lot of them. Why is Kathy Griffin getting the most attention for hers? Because she courted it.
6. It wasn’t funny. As a comic and a comedy aficionada, I will defend the freedom to make a joke until the day I die. That said, a good rule of thumb is generally, “This has to be funny enough to justify its darkness and potential controversy. Unfortunately, Kathy Griffin’s attempt at humor didn’t land, despite being clearly premeditated and planned: This wasn’t an off the cuff remark or response to anything, and if it was, indeed, a response to Donald Trump’s comments about Megyn Kelly’s “blood coming out of her wherever,” it was 18 months late. Tyler Shields and Kathy Griffin had to plan a shoot, gather the props, do her hair and makeup, get the lighting right, cover the mask in ketchup — this was a deliberate attempt to be edgy and it failed. If Kathy Griffin would just take the L, write better material, and move on, and the rest of the world would likely move on with her.