Woman with short red hair and blue button-up shirt with fist in the air standing at a podium, there's a White House logo and red, white and blue flag behind her, the name "Kathy Griffin" is at the top of the page and the words "A Hell Of A Story" are placed across the podium
Promotional poster for “A Hell Of A Story.” For the first time in two years, comedian Kathy Griffin is back with another comedy special after a scandal that dramatically changed her career.

Kathy Griffin has been on our television screens for years. Whether it was her Emmy award winning reality show “Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List” or one of her 23 stand-up comedy specials, we’ve all cherished her takes on Hollywood and the ridiculousness emerging from it. Her latest comedy special “Kathy Griffin: A Hell of a Story” sees her analyzing a completely different subject matter from her usual celebrity gossip–a real story about how one monumental mistake can shatter your career.

In 2017, Griffin posed for a picture holding what looked like a severed head of Donald Trump. The backlash imploded overnight with CNN immediately dropping her New Year’s Eve co-hosting gig with Anderson Cooper and Squatty Potty cutting her from a sponsorship. Losing jobs wasn’t the only part of the aftermath. Griffin was investigated by the Secret Service, put on the No Fly List for three months and was even threatened with charges of conspiracy to assassinate the president. 

“Kathy Griffin: A Hell of a Story”–a self-financed film due to being turned down by many network and streaming services–leaves Griffin’s whirlwind of a two years all on the table. Being a long-time supporter for LGBTQ+ rights and hosting gigs on behalf of her favorite Democratic candidates, Griffin has always expressed her political ideologies throughout her career–however, this is on a completely different level.

The film begins with around 25 minutes of a documentary section. Griffin shares candid moments of herself while on the “Laugh Your Head Off Tour” overseas. Viewers get to see the multitude of stressful situations that come up from her assistant resigning last minute to being detained at almost every airport she visited–most of the time, for hours on end and not knowing how it ended up this way.

During the stand-up portion, Griffin goes through all aspects of the tumultuous day her life changed forever. She describes getting calls from people telling her she was about to get “Dixie Chicked”–referring to the formally blacklisted country group that criticized former President George W. Bush in 2003. Holding nothing back, she expressed her raw feelings about friends Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen who did not publicly support her during the scandal. It is unimaginable to think about watching your career completely fall apart in just one day.

On top of being on intense watch over a ketchup-covered mask that ended up being the last set-up in a photoshoot, Griffin received thousands of death threats and bravely read some of the notes out loud. Some of the death threats involved her family, including her sister Joyce who passed away from cancer in 2017. As horrifying as Griffin’s experiences were, she still somehow managed to maintain her specialty of fearless and unapologetic comedy.

In a time where many comedians and celebrities are criticizing the president and his administration, Griffin’s version of events is the most personal and specific to this era of political controversy. As unusual as the story sounds for a celebrity to be going through this much investigation due to a controversial image backed by the First Amendment, Griffin explains that this attack could happen to just about anybody. 

Out of all the stand-up specials she’s done, this is by far the most significant. The attempt to be provocative and parody Trump’s “blood coming out of her wherever” remarks paid the ultimate price, but it is evident she learned a ton from the experience. More than anything, what is most impressive about Griffin’s telling of her humiliating experience is that she never backed down in regards to continuing what she loves to do–making people laugh. 

Rylee Jackson can be reached at ryleejackson@sagebrush.unr.edu, or on Twitter @rybyjackson.