For a decade, TV’s most watchable show on Dec. 31 has been “New Year’s Eve Live” on CNN — because of Kathy Griffin.
Funny, bawdy and over-the-top, Griffin bedeviled Anderson Cooper, with whom she formed an unlikely comedy team. She would do goofy, off-color things to embarrass him, and his embarrassment was highly entertaining.
But that’s not going to happen this year. CNN fired Griffin because of an ill-considered, unfunny sight gag. The infamous image, staged and shot by photographer Tyler Shields (known for being edgy and shocking), showed her holding what appeared to be the bloody, severed head of Donald Trump.
All hell broke loose.
CNN fired her. Her tour dates were canceled. She was vilified by members of Trump’s family. Griffin even lost a job as the celebrity spokeswoman for the Utah-based Squatty Potty company. Seriously.
All because of an ill-considered, failed attempt at humor.
The punishment did not fit the crime. And suggestions that Griffin threatened Trump’s life were politically motivated garbage.
Make no mistake, Shields’ and Griffin’s joke was a horrible idea. It was tasteless, stupid and unfunny.
But if every comedian who told a terrible joke lost his or her job, there’d be no comedians.
And, quite frankly, if a comedian’s career can be ruined because he/she takes on someone in power, that’s a dangerous thing for America.
It’s also worth asking if this would have played out the same if Griffin had been a man. I don’t think so. There was a definite strain of sexism in what happened to her.
Men have gone too far, too. There was outrage when Stephen Colbert made a supposedly anti-gay joke about Trump and Vladimir Putin — much of it false outrage by Trump supporters angry because Colbert regularly sticks it to Trump — and all the signatures on the fire-Colbert petitions went nowhere. It’s been pretty much forgotten.
MSNBC fired Sam Seder when an alt-right provocateur dug up this 2009 tweet: “I hope if my daughter is ever raped it is by an older truly talented man w/a great sense of mise en scène.” But when it was explained to MSNBC that the tweet was a slam at those who argue that director Roman Polanski’s films somehow redeem him for having sex with a 13-year-old, Seder was rehired.
Griffin, however, is not returning to CNN. Instead, Andy Cohen will be joining Cooper on New Year’s Eve.
Trust me, it won’t be the same. I saw Cooper and Cohen when they brought their act to Salt Lake City in June, and, well, Cooper was great.
But that’s beside the point. What happened to Kathy Griffin was a knee-jerk reaction that should have long since been corrected.