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Kathy Griffin Is Back On The Road, And Feistier Than Ever

(Photo by: Jen Rosenstein)

Kathy Griffin Is Back On The Road, And Feistier Than Ever

After six years, the award-winning comedian is back on the road for her My Life On The PTSD-List tour, which includes stops across Canada…

By Christopher Turner

It’s safe to say that Kathy Griffin has had a pretty rough few years. In 2017, she famously became public enemy #1 when she posed with a plastic Donald Trump mask with ketchup on it, something that led to the US government investigating her as a terrorist for conspiracy to assassinate the president, which left her on the no-fly list and unable to work. CNN very publicly fired her from her regular New Year’s Eve gig with Anderson Cooper and in the years that followed the mask incident, Griffin was faced with even more daunting challenges, including lung cancer (which resulted in the removal of half of her lung and a permanent change in the sound of her voice); the loss of her beloved mother, Maggie; her divorce from Randy Bick after nearly four years of marriage; and an addiction to pills that led to a suicide attempt.

Now cancer free, able to fly and funnier than ever, Griffin is currently back out on the road with a brand-new stand-up tour, appropriately titled My Life On The PTSD-List. The legendary two-time Emmy and Grammy Award-winning comedian, television host, bestselling author and outspoken advocate has been winning rave reviews since she kicked off the tour in February 2024, in a show that displays her resilience and  humour with a reminder of the power of laughter to heal.

Before she plays a selection of Ontario dates in May (in Ottawa, Toronto and London), we sat down with her for a wide-ranging conversation that touched on the tour, buying back the rights to her past work, role models, her biggest PTSD trigger, combatting hate, and much, much more. The conversation is a reminder of why she is both a true queer ally and one of the great comedic voices of her generation.

Hi Kathy! Big fan. Let’s kick things off by talking about your new stand-up tour, My Life On The PTSD-List. What is it like being back on the stage after six years?
Can I be honest? It feels like home. I was nervous the first couple of times because it had been so long, but the audiences have been so supportive that it all came flowing back, and I’m so grateful that it did.

What can fans expect from the show?
Well, obviously, there will be a lot of smack-talking about celebrities. Those fools never learn. Also, I talk about my diagnosed complex PTSD. I know that’s freaky but, trust me, I make it funny. Trust me, don’t be scared.

Can I get a little preview of a gasp-worthy story you’ll tell on stage?
Yep. I was at a party at PH House with RO, and Rose turned to James Charles and said, and I quote, “You’re that makeup guy Jeffrey Starr, aren’t you?” That one always gets the gay gasp, it’s scandalous. Do you hear me? Scandalous!

The tour’s title is, of course, a play on My Life on the D-List, which I read that you bought back the rights to along with the rights to your 19 specials and eponymous talk show. What made you want to do that?
I was out of my mind. I actually had the audacity to think that one of the networks or streaming services would want to buy them from me and fans could watch my old specials and Kathy Griffin My Life on the DList for nostalgic reasons and to get a good laugh. I still own my own library, but just recently found out my talk show, which ran for two seasons, is now on Amazon. And I haven’t seen a penny. Welcome to Hollywood! 

It’s very Taylor Swift of you. Why do you think it’s important for artists to own their own work?
I am the Taylor Swift of ownership; I make so much more money than her. It cost a lot in lawyer fees to buy back my catalogue. It may be worth something posthumously, so I’m just waiting to croak to be a big hit. Wish me luck!

What is your advice to comics, or anyone else who may look to you as a role model?
If you idolize me as a role model, #1 you are correct; #2 you are a misfit, a miscreant or a troublemaker of some kind. The advice I give to artists who want to be comics is simple. You have to really love it, love it like a mother loves a child, because at least at the beginning you will bomb more than you kill. But if you have what I call a burning desire to hit the mic, then do anything you can to hit that mic. And for God’s sake, write your own stuff. If you do it any other way, you’re cheating.

Who do you consider a role model?
It’s funny you bring up Taylor Swift, because as much as I yaaasss her in my new act, and I do, I see something in her that I’ve never seen in a female pop/rock star. The divas of my time, who I am lucky enough to know – Cher, Stevie Nicks, etc. – never had the beautiful moment of their man, like a TK [TravisKelce], fist-pumping at their shows and celebrating them for their talent and success. In my day, you would hear things like, ‘Nobody wants to be Mr. Cher,’ but now we get to look at Taylor and Travis and applaud him for applauding her. I’ve never seen anything like it and it could be the beginning of a big change.

Who is making you laugh these days?
Man, Wanda Sykes kills me. There is no one like her and I think that’s what makes a true star. I also fall out of everything Margaret Cho does stand up. I’ve known her for decades; she is so funny and changes with the times. I also admire Amy Schumer for many reasons – her last tour was the highest-grossing female comedy tour in history, and that’s an important watermark for us all to aspire to.

I know you’ve talked about this before, but the past few years have been…a lot. Lung cancer, divorce, addiction, a suicide attempt, the death of your mother…Trump. How are you feeling?
I’m feeling up and down, to be honest. The tour has been purely therapeutic, and, not to sound like an asshole but the audiences have been on their feet at the end of every single show so far. So sometimes I pay the price and my PTSD really kicks in when I get home. Yesterday I had to have a doctor come to the house. Most days I’m fine, hang out with my dogs and watch documentaries about cults. I am always okay on show days because of muscle memory and the sheer gratitude that I have for being able to do each and every show.

Kathy Griffin Is Back On The Road, And Feistier Than Ever

Bringing it back to your tour for a minute, what has been the biggest trigger of any PTSD you’ve experienced over the last few years?
I think talking about my PTSD is triggering, but I feel it’s important to talk about, especially if I can make it humorous. And that’s my motto, I’m always about the funny first. I’m not shy about talking about any topics as long as I can make them humorous. Sometimes I even take a photo trying to call attention to the horror of a certain president we had. Have I learned my lesson? Hell no.

We are seeing so much political hate and anti-2SLGBTQI+ legislation happening around the world right now.… How do you think the community can best combat the landslide of hate?
Oh great, I get to do my rant. Election day in the United States is Tuesday, November 5. If you’re American, you are going to vote for Joe Biden. He is our guy, and I do not want to hear any bitching about him, including about his age. He is only 18 months older than Trump. Now let me tell you something, and I want you to listen hard. If Trump wins on November 5, you can kiss gay marriage goodbye on November 6. The reason I took that controversial photo is because I meant it as a very serious warning, especially to the gay community. Because of the hardcore evangelicals in this country, they own him, and the shared agenda with many conservatives in [the United States], including those in the Federalist Society, is to eradicate gay people. I am not kidding. I think if Trump gets re-elected, it will not be safe for a member of the queer community to even walk down the street. Also, it is essential that you vote down the ballot as well. Yes, I know it’s a lot of work to look up sheriffs, councilmembers, members of Congress, state senators, etc.…but simply go to a 2SLGBTQI+ website that you trust and that has done the work for you – many gay organizations have voting guides. Please at least give them the respect of taking the mock ballot into the booth and voting all the way down the ticket for representatives who will forward the queer agenda. Drive a twink to the polling place if you have to! Uh-oh, I used a naughty word again. Please vote.

You’ve also had to deal with your fair share of hate online over the years. Any messages for your haters?
My haters can suck my dick.

What do you want people to know about you that they might not already know?
I am being sued in federal court in Tennessee by a guy named Samuel Johnson who used to be the CEO of a company called VisuWell. There is a viral video that you’ve probably seen because it’s been making the rounds for three years. He’s a big Trump guy and boasts about Trump a lot on his social media, he goes on Newsmax and talks about me, etc.… Samuel Johnson is harassing two trans kids at their prom photo shoot in a hotel lobby. I believe they were minors at the time. They were scared and asked him to go away and leave them alone, but he would not. The video went viral on TikTok for a full day, and I saw it on Twitter the next day, and I tweeted that he should be fired. The company, VisuWell, responded to me and told me that they had already let him go. But who does SJ sue? You guessed it, Kathy Griffin. 

That’s insanity…
I want the community to understand that there are many ways to be a true ally. I consider myself a true ally and I hope you do too. I advocated for these two trans kids, and this I can commit to you: Samuel Johnson will not get a penny from me. I will freeze in hell before he does.

I hope he doesn’t see a penny. That being said…I have got to switch gears again. Favourite TV show, movie and song?
Jesus. That’s a change of pace. [Laughs] Favourite show is Drag Race, duh. Favourite movie is The Dead Zone starring Christopher Walken. Favourite song is “Move Your Body” by Sia. 

Last question. After the tour wraps…what’s next for you?
I wish I fucking knew. I am so hoping for a special, I can’t even stand it. I have the material ready to go. Every night on tour I do two hours by myself. My agents told me that the industry is still squeamish about me, so I think that’s why it hasn’t happened yet. I’m in the process of winning them all back, but if there’s one thing I know, it’s how to come back from trouble.


Kathy Griffin’s My Life On The PTSD-List tour runs until June 9 with remaining Canadian dates throughout Ontario in Ottawa (Tuesday, May 7, at the Meridian Centrepointe Theatre), Toronto (Wednesday, May 8, at the Meridian Arts Centre) and London (Thursday, May 9, at Centennial Hall). For tickets or more information, visit www.kathygriffin.net.

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