Since the elec­tion many co­me­di­ans have taken aim at Don­ald Trump – Kathy Grif­fin was ac­cused of go­ing too far

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In June a pho­to­graph by Tyler Shields went up on the TM web­site. It fea­tured the co­me­dian Kathy Grif­fin hold­ing a Don­ald Trump mask doused in tomato ketchup. It looked like she was hold­ing the pres­i­dent’s sev­ered head. Grif­fin thought it was go­ing to be fine.

“I’ve done sim­i­lar stuff be­fore,” she says. “I’m not the big­gest star in the world. It’s not like I’m Ellen [De­Generes], where ev­ery­one is watch­ing me . . . I have a few mil­lion fol­low­ers. I have a cou­ple of Em­mys. I’ve done TV shows. My joke is I’ve been fired more than I’ve been hired . . . It’s very rare that I do any­thing that catches the at­ten­tion of more than just my own fan base.”

But all hell broke loose. Trump tweeted about it, and be­fore she knew it she was be- ing in­ves­ti­gated by the Se­cret Ser­vice. “I hope you’re ready for the charge,” she says. “‘Con­spir­acy to as­sas­si­nate the pres­i­dent of the United States.’ Me, Kathy Grif­fin.”

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion was dropped, but she’s on an In­ter­pol list now, she says, which means that she has been stopped at ev­ery airport she has trav­elled through. She was, for a while, on a no-fly list.

What hap­pens then? “You f**king don’t fly!” she says.

Death threats

Worse still was the re­ac­tion from Trump sup­port­ers to­wards her and her fam­ily. Thou­sands of death threats flooded in. Her sis­ter Joyce, who died in September, had cancer. (Grif­fin shaved her head in sol­i­dar­ity. “I looked like that char­ac­ter Eleven, from Stranger Things.”) “The de­plora- bles would call my sis­ter and give her death threats while she was f**king dy­ing.”

But she apol­o­gised. Why? “The pic­ture goes out and, I’m not kid­ding, I went back to bed,” says Grif­fin. “My as­sis­tant runs into the room with the phone and says it’s Rosie O’Don­nell and it’s ur­gent. Who is the pre-em­i­nent ex­pert on be­ing trolled by Don­ald Trump?” (Trump has been at­tack­ing O’Don­nell for years.)

“And she says, ‘ Take it down. Apol­o­gise.’ And I’m like, ‘ Whaaat? Calm down, girl.’ And she says, ‘What if [the as­sas­si­nated jour­nal­ist] Daniel Pearl’s mother sees this?’ And I thought, Oh, f**k. And hav­ing per­formed in those war zones [ for US troops] – and hav­ing never wit­nessed an ac­tual sit­u­a­tion like that, thank God – I apol­o­gised.”

But then she changed her mind. As time went on her apol­ogy ran­kled. “The pile-on started to not make sense,” she says. “The over- re­ac­tion. The fake out­rage . . . Trump started do­ing things where he was ac­tu­ally killing peo­ple. We’ve had 22 sol­diers ac­tu­ally killed un­der his ten­ure, and I’m sure you’re aware of how he’s treat­ing the widow of La David John­son . . . [ so] I went, ‘ Yeah, I’ll be tak­ing that apol­ogy back right quick, be­cause that is some bull­shit.”

Now she’s “100 per cent lean­ing into it”, she says, tak­ing her story on the road with her trollingly ti­tled Laugh Your Head Off tour, the posters for which fea­ture Grif­fin hold­ing a globe in a pose rem­i­nis­cent of the of­fend­ing pho­to­graph.

“I’ve been do­ing this for my whole ca­reer . . . I’ve a his­tory of this. I of­fended the acad­emy when I won my first Emmy and said, ‘ Suck it, Je­sus, this is my award now.’” She laughs. “I’ve been in fake Hol­ly­wood trou­ble be­fore, but to be on the In­ter­pol list and to have the pres­i­dent per­son­ally com­ing at me?”

She’s now ashamed of Hol­ly­wood com­pla­cency about Trump, she says. “I’ve known Pres­i­dent Moron Nazi Cheeto . . . for 20 years. You can look on­line and see pic­tures of us to­gether . . . He would bull­shit me into host­ing a charity event in New York, and then I’d find out later that he never gave to the char­i­ties . . . He likes to be called the Don­ald . . . When you meet Trump he goes like this . . .” She does a Trump im­pres­sion. “‘Call me the Don­ald.’ Which I think is the weird. So I’m go­ing to the make fun of him.”

A brain and a mouth

Cur­rently joke telling is what’s sav­ing her, she says. “My train­ers in life [ were] Don Rick­les and Joan Rivers. They raised me, in a way. Joan would al­ways say, ‘As long as you have a brain and a mouth and a mi­cro­phone you can make a liv­ing.’ Thank God for for­eign coun­tries and open minds.”

There are on­go­ing con­se­quences for Grif­fin’s Trump- bait­ing stance. “Fox News came at me again yes­ter­day. That’s our state tele­vi­sion. We have state- sanc­tioned tele­vi­sion now, like RT,” she says, re­fer­ring to the Moscow-funded Rus­sian international tele­vi­sion net­work.

Why did Fox come at her? “I did this live [Aus­tralian TV] show called The Project. I said the pres­i­dent was a Nazi in a jok­ingly lov­ing way, ex­cept that he is . . . I can’t stand how all these Amer­i­can so- called jour­nal­ists are danc­ing around it. This is a guy who sanc­tioned a Nazi rally in Char­lottesville where a woman died.”

Dumbed-down cul­ture

She sees Trump as ev­i­dence of a griev­ously dumbed-down cul­ture. “I grew up on Dick Cavett,” she says. “I seek out the ad­vice of peo­ple like Phil Don­ahue, Marlo Thomas and Glo­ria Steinem . . . I re­mem­ber the time when peo­ple read news­pa­pers and it was frankly em­bar­rass­ing to not know some­thing.

“And now we have got this pres­i­dent who is what I call ag­gres­sively stupid. He loves how stupid he is. When you try to cor­rect him you’re the ass­hole. My whole life I love be­ing cor­rected. If I say some­thing that’s in­ac­cu­rate, or I meet some­one who’s ob­vi­ously smarter than I am, I want to lis­ten. So I’ve been a sponge my whole life, and that’s prob­a­bly why I’m a comic.” She laughs. “And now I’m wring­ing out the sponge and ev­ery­body gets to see all the dirty water.”

This at­ti­tude, she says, is partly down to com­ing from a fam­ily of “filthy Micks” – “I hope I don’t of­fend,” she says – orig­i­nally from Cork and Kerry. She tries out an Ir­ish ac­cent and won­ders if we might be re­lated. “At our din­ner ta­ble you had to f**king bring it . . . You had to know what al­der­man was in trou­ble, and you had to know what Mayor Da­ley had done that day.”

She finds it funny when peo­ple tell her that pol­i­tics is none of her busi­ness. “I love when peo­ple say, ‘Stay in your lane.’ Honey, the pres­i­dent put me in this lane. I couldn’t get out of this lane if I wanted to.”

He likes to be called the Don­ald ... When you meet Trump he goes like this ... ‘Call me the Don­ald’. Which I think is the weird The dan­ger is Trump just be­comes a clown. Clowns are dan­ger­ous, of course. We know that. But he’s more than just a clown

Kathy Grif­fin’s Laugh Your Head Off tour is at Vicar St, Dublin, on Wed­nes­day, Novem­ber 8th

From left: Alec Bald­win as Don­ald Trump, Jimmy Fal­lon, John Oliver, Seth Mey­ers, Stephen Col­bert, Kathy Grif­fin, and Melissa McCarthy as Sean Spicer. ILLUSTRATION: MICK RUANE In a re­cent Ir­ish Times in­ter­view, Amer­i­can car­toon­ist Tom To­mor­row com­plained that it was get­ting in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult for satirists to com­pete with re­al­ity. Fur­ther­more, in the im­me­di­ate af­ter­math of the elec­tion columnists were not­ing the fail­ure of po­lit­i­cal com­edy to have an ef­fect on the out­come. John Oliver and Sa­man­tha Bee were sin­gled out as ex­am­ples of cut­ting edge satire that had spo­ken al­most en­tirely to the con­verted.

Most of the Amer­i­can late night hosts de­cided that they were go­ing to fight on none­the­less. Some, such as The Tonight Show host Jimmy Fal­lon, The Late Show, Tonight, Live more

lost cred­i­bil­ity by pan­der­ing to Trump (Fal­lon fa­mously ruf­fled his hair dur­ing a very soft pre-elec­tion in­ter­view). Oth­ers, like Stephen Col­bert on CBS’s

and Seth Mey­ers on NBC’s Late Night, re­fo­cused their gaze on the ad­min­is­tra­tion and gained new rel­e­vance.

Mey­ers, in par­tic­u­lar, might have felt like he had some­thing to atone for. Some say his comedic at­tack on Trump dur­ing the 2011 White House Cor­re­spon­dents Din­ner partly set the seed for Trump’s pres­i­den­tial run. John Oliver, the host of HBO’s Last Week

might also be feel­ing guilty. He once begged Trump to run for pres­i­dent think­ing it would be a hi­lar­i­ous folly.

These com­edy moments may well have had some sort of im­pact. Trump is clearly not im­per­vi­ous to satire. He has tweeted crit­i­cism of Satur­day Night

of­ten than the av­er­age tele­vi­sion re­viewer. That show has also re­gained its mojo. It was crit­i­cised be­fore the elec­tion for al­low­ing Trump a guest ap­pear­ance but Trump has been an­gered by Alec Bald­win’s de­pic­tion of him and Melissa McCarthy’s im­per­son­ation of Sean Spicer.

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