Kathy Griffin is not letting the world dismiss her. If anything, she's having the last laugh.
Griffin became a viral sensation last year after posting a photo of herself holding what looked like the bloody severed head of President Donald Trump. The administration was quick to admonish her, and a widespread backlash followed. But she's reclaiming the experience with her Laugh Your Head World Tour, set to land at the Arsht Center's Ziff Ballet Opera House this Saturday.
"Honey, it was a long, dark tunnel," the comedian says. "I was walking in the street yesterday, and two middle-aged white women called me a terrorist. I was stunned that a silly photo of me holding a Halloween mask with ketchup on it would get me banned by everybody, even Trump-hating liberals."
For nearly a year, Griffin feared her career was over. "It wasn't until I sold out Carnegie Hall in 24 hours that I felt I might have a chance at coming back," she recalls. "But make no mistake — I still haven't been given a real chance by establishment Hollywood... They're still too scared."
After the photo went viral, Griffin says, she was essentially quarantined. She recently told The Breakfast Club that people she considered friends ghosted her, and she teared up describing the death threats her mother and sister received. She also couldn't find work stateside. Instead, she went abroad, performing in 15 countries and 23 cities, where audiences had a completely different reaction. They didn't understand all the fuss Americans were making over the photo, she recalls.
"I've always prided myself on being outspoken, but after the Trump photo, I really have no filter. When you've lost your career, been the subject of a federal investigation, and had your liberal friends turn their back on you, you simply have to realize that. Even though I know many, many power players in Hollywood, you’ll notice I haven’t been on television in any meaningful way. I’m choosing to be optimistic."
The experience, however, has ignited and impassioned Griffin in a way she has never felt before. Now she's more vocal about calling out misconduct in politics, saying it's "a daily mission." Full of takedowns of the president and others in power, her Twitter feed addresses topics ranging from Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh's alleged attempted rape to the struggles of poor communities facing dangerous hurricanes. No matter the issue, Griffin makes her opinions known, regardless of where her outspokenness might take her. She's practically untouchable at this point.
"I've always done the kind of comedy that's made me controversial," she says, "but if I were to give advice to my younger self, I would say to never, ever back down even if everyone hates you... If you feel that what you are saying or doing is right in your heart... people will come around."
This summer's world tour has brought the whirlwind of last summer's events full circle, and Griffin credits her fans for getting her through the hot mess she endured. The Laugh Your Head Off World Tour, in a way, is a play on what happened — her story of survival and, now, her triumph.
Major comebacks are rare in the entertainment industry, and Griffin doesn't take hers for granted. She says her career now is relatively self-sustained; she promotes her own shows through a mailing list, a text list, and kathygriffin.com. And through it all, she keeps herself buoyed the way she always has: by making herself laugh.
"No matter what, let yourself be able to laugh at anything and everything. Plain and simple: During the most difficult times, the people you think will have your back will abandon you and the people you least expect will be right by your side. My next-door neighbor Kim Kardashian was nicer to me than most of the people I have earned money for. My current act is a large pot of scalding-hot tea! You don’t want to miss it."
Kathy Griffin: Laugh Your Head Off World Tour. 8 p.m. Saturday, September 22, at the Adrienne Arsht Center, 1300 Biscayne Blvd., Miami; 305-949-6722,arshtcenter.org. Tickets cost $39.50 to $154.