When Kathy Griffin posted a gruesome photo of Trump’s bloodied head, a storm of controversy broke out from deep outrage to conversations of freedom of speech. The blowout was also intense as she lost her job on CNN, gigs got canceled and she has been severely criticized by the press. She apologized and seemed sincere, but that didn’t put an end to the barrage of death threats.
As a comic, I’ve done over-the-top material and have died onstage, but never threatened to be killed. Griffin’s posting was misconceived and certainly not funny, but, the backlash seems to be overkill, more disturbing than her post. Where were these people when horrible racist photos were posted about Obama? Where were the denouncements when male standup comics made homophobic and misogynistic jokes?
I started to write about this, but hesitated, worried that supporting her right to do shock art might cost me business, as I’m a humorist for many ultra conservative companies. When I realized how frightened I was to write something that would offend a potential client or go against my “brand,” that woke me up to just how important it is to support her, regardless of how much we might have despised what she did.
|Judy Carter, Kathy Griffin, Shante Lewis|
used with permission from The Fullfillment Fund
I've known Kathy Griffin for years, starting when she was a newbie at The Groundlings and Uncabaret in LA. She's always been shocking, saying things most people might think, but not say. I remember being taken aback when she told a story about a date that ended with a golden shower, laughing so hard, I had an asthma attack. This was the most shocking thing I'd ever seen done by a female comic. I couldn’t believe that she was talking so honestly about intimate and horribly humiliating things.
Her openness inspired me to be more daring and authentic on stage. I started talking about being gay, even writing a book about it for Simon and Schuster, “The Homo Handbook” that won the LAMBDA Literary award for best humor book yet was banned in Arkansas and other states.
Now that I'm doing corporate events, and as my prices go up, my authenticity has gone down. I'm more restrained, forced to face the challenge of passing the scrutiny of HR. I was even asked to take the word “drugs” out of my speech, and that was for a pharmaceutical company.
Griffin’s piece was consistent with what she’s always done – shocking us and shaking us up. In these desperate times, it takes a lot to wake up Americans. Being a “nice girl” seems ineffective when we’re coping with an administration telling us, “There is no climate change, no election tampering by Russians, and by the way, we are selling your National Parks.”
Another consideration is Griffin is a comic. What she does might be offensive and in bad taste, but she’s not putting any of us in danger. Measuring this against what the president has done, we have to concede that his actions and words, the hateful language he’s used to describe certain people and groups . Should we hold a comic to higher standards than the leader of our country?
When we try to censor performers, when we tell them that they crossed a line, and need to get in line, government approved entertainment will have us be as tepid as Disney on Ice.
Wait – Bill Maher is also being attacked because of a word he said?
Shouldn’t we hold up our president to the same decency we ask of comics?
I would like to know how you feel about it. Please chime in on my FB page