Essay, Opinion, Politics

KATHY GRIFFIN’S NOT APOLOGIZING ANYMORE, PRESIDENTIALITY AND HIGHER STANDARDS

Header source: Wikimedia Commons

When Trump’s actions are getting increasingly damaging to vulnerable minorities, it’s getting harder and harder to imagine why we should expect people like Kathy Griffin to keep apologizing.


Kathy Griffin, the comedian who faced massive backlash from a May 30th photo she posted of her holding up a mask of President Donald Trump covered in fake blood, styled to look like his decapitated head, is refusing to apologize anymore.

She was the subject of a recent article from The Cut, months after the fallout that cost her 15 live performances, her gig hosting CNN’s New Year’s Eve broadcast and an endorsement deal – not to mention the thousands of death threats.

The story, which takes place in late June, opens with a description of Trump’s Twitter rant that day: denouncing Robert Mueller’s investigation, mocking House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and calling Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer “Cryin’ Chuck.” The nickname came from Schumer getting emotional when discussing the Trump immigration ban.

“Why are people still expecting me to apologize and grovel to a man that tweets like this?” Griffin “vented” to the piece’s author Bashar Ali. “I’m a comedian; he’s our fucking president.”

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pop culture, Review, television

REVIEW—CHELSEA & THE FUTURE OF THE TALK SHOW

Season 1, Episode 1

Grade: A

When you’re a comedy kid growing up, you study comedians. When you’re an unfunny comedy kid, you really study comedians. When I was a kid, I watched clips of Dane Cook obsessively—relax, this was when we were all on that Cook train, you liars—and then I moved on to people like Mike Birbiglia, Demetri Martin, Jim Gaffigan, Loni Love, Amy Schumer, Gabriel Iglesias, Tina Fey and Bo Burnham. But a huge influence on my comedy and my writing and my funniness—besides Lorelai Gilmore—was Chelsea Handler.

After Chelsea Lately ended, Chelsea Handler went soul-searching. She did a bunch of standups—Uganda Be Kidding Me—and books—Uganda Be Kidding Me—and then the hilarious and insightful docuseries Chelsea Does.

And more than anything else, her new Netflix “talk show”, Chelsea, feels like a natural extension of Chelsea Does, which in turns is a natural extension of Chelsea Handler in a way that Chelsea Lately never was. During Lately, you could always feel the tension, the vague bitterness that Chelsea had towards E! and the sense of a caged tiger pacing behind bars.

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Source: Netflix

Chelsea made no bones about the fact that she kinda fucking hated E! and felt like an idiot doing Lately. And something she made very clear on the first episode of Chelsea, centered around education, is that she hates feeling like an idiot.

In a year of trying to “shake up” the talk show game, Chelsea manages to succeed where others have failed. And by “others” I know that you know that I’m talking about Kocktails with Khloe. Now, don’t get me wrong—I would take a bullet for Khloe Kardashian in a way that I would never for Chelsea Handler—but Kocktails felt like a total money-funded passion project, aimed at giving a new network star quality and a ratings boost.

In a similar way, Chelsea feels a little indulgent, and is the first step Netflix is taking at live-streaming rather than binge-worthy season drops. But Chelsea is smart and funny and not talking itself too seriously, whereas Kocktails always felt like it was a little too aware of the cameras. In the first episode, Chelsea does—but doesn’t—do a monologue, and sits behind a—very fancy, black—desk, turning it into a “meta, breaking the fourth wall” version of every late night talk show. And it feels almost on purpose—like Chelsea knows that she’s going to get compared to everyone else, so why not beat them to the punch?

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Source: Netflix

Some of the show was a little weird—the “Netflix University” faux-commercial was boring and didn’t feel cohesive—but Chelsea had some fucking impressive guests. Her first guest was the U.S. Secretary of Education, John King. At first, when he was testing her on basic education, it felt a little like “This is about you but it’s really about me,” but after that, the interview is actually interesting. They talk about the need for education, personal mentors, and other cool stuff. After that, Chelsea brought out Pitbull, who spent twenty minutes trying to chase down Chelsea’s dog Chunk, who was loitering in the background like a beautiful teddy bear. Pitbull is starting a charter school in Miami—Slam Academy—and continued on the theme of “teacher mentors.”

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Source: Netflix

I think this could really be Chelsea’s strong suit. Since it’s a three-times-a-week digital stream, rather than doing “trending topics” like Lately, Chelsea could do much better by connecting pop culture to a larger episodic theme, similar to each documentary of Chelsea Does. Like, who the fuck would’ve known that Pitbull would’ve started a charter school? And also how he got his nickname “Mr. Worldwide?” It’s cool.

Side bar: they did that thing I hate, which is having the first guest sit in on the second guest’s interview. You had the U.S. Secretary of Education watching Pitbull try to be BFFs with a dog. It always seems so awkward, like when Bill O’Reilly had to stay while Jimmy Fallon interviewed Lorde, and I was like, “Who tf is Bill O’Reilly?” and my mom was like, “Who tfudge is Lorde?”

After Pitbull went back to his kennel—someone stop me, please—Chelsea brought out Drew Barrymore. She began by talking about how she, like Chelsea, didn’t really receive an education, but how that drives her. She read the dictionary as a kid, which is the ultimate nerd-out. The conversation veers towards Drew’s divorce, which was surprisingly honest and raw and real—a testament to the intimacy of the stream—and then how she wants to be a cheerleader for women by discussing divorce, and raise her daughters to be awesome women. The interview felt fun and fresh, unlike when talk shows bring on guests who are forced to hawk their latest project.

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Source: Netflix

In one episode, Chelsea made me do what Kocktails couldn’t accomplish in twelve—make me want to keep watching. I want to see what the next topic is, and who she brings on. I want to see what this turns into.

Keep on, keeping on Chelsea.

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Life, Rambles

MEMORY CANNIBAL, also known as THE TONYA HARDING STORY

As a writer, you’re constantly handling the balance of how much of your personal life to divulge to your audience. As a comedy person, you’re constantly balancing how much of the painful details to twist into a funny anecdote. So when you’re a comedy writer, you’re basically playing the game of “Which horrific moment of my life can be a funny essay without me completely selling my soul to the Devil, Faustus-style?”

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Source: thatslutinthearmchair.tumblr.com via Giphy. Caveat: I’ve been watching a lot of Happy Endings recently and all of the gifs will come from there. You’re welcome.

I’m not a comedy writer, or a comedy person, or a writer. I’m not even legally a human. But as a professional Ina Garten drag impersonator and someone who operates a blog, I find that more and more, I’m running into that issue. When nothing was happening in my personal life, it was easy to write about it. But as I grow and evolve, and the issues in my life grow and evolve, I am beginning to notice a line in the sand that is harder and harder to cross.

And it’s only until things actually started happening in my life that I realized that the “life” that I was writing about was literally nothing. But now my life is actually starting to roll, and not just in the same sense as the Gloucester Cheese Roll Competition. Because that’s funny.

There is an intense impulse to publish for writers. My journalism professor talks about that impulse all the time, or at least I’m assuming he does, because I spend most of my time in that class reading RuPaul’s Drag Race recaps. But when something happens to me, like that time I fell down the stairs or the time I sat on a plate of quesadillas or any time I make a fool of myself in front of a boy, my first instinct is to share it, Tweet it, or blog it. And that instinct is more than just the desire to share something that happens. It’s the desire to take back control of the situation.

Blogging incapsulates your life, packaging it into palatable, hilarious little morsels. The tale of me getting hurt by the first boy I cared about becomes a funny essay. A bad date becomes fodder for griping. The various aches and pains of existing as a real-life scarecrow—my brand—translates into rubbery antics. Writing takes the sting out of embarrassment and hurt and pain, and turns it into comedy. And on one hand, it’s extremely cathartic. It provides me the distance to process and dissect something, to take myself out of the equation.

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Source: jparx.tumblr.com via Giphy

Recently things have been happening to me. Some are amazing. Some are terrible. And my first instinct has always been to blog about them. But for the wrong reasons. I want to take myself out of these moments, but I’m also afraid to. I’m afraid to talk about the crazy, shitty things that are monumental in my life because then I relinquish control of them. They cease being intimate to me. They become content, public domain. They are no longer mine. And that’s been hard to come to terms with. That some things could easily be sting-less and funny and palatable, but that would mean losing my place in them. It would be accepting them as past and renaming them as something meant to be consumed.

My wanting to blog them is my wanting to stop them from hurting. Things have been rough lately, and that kneejerk reaction to make the bad thing stop is very much in play. But sometimes things have to hurt. I can’t—I shouldn’t—blog my way out of this. I’m trying not to make it into a joke or a punchline or a laugh. I’m trying to give it gravity. It’s really fucking hard, and lousy and frustrating. Because my instinct, as a writer and a former dork and a wannabe cool kid, is to cannibalize, produce and de-sting all the awkard’s and ew’s and damn’s of my life.

I’m a memory cannibal, and that’s not always a bad thing. A lot of amazing things come out of shitty situations, but I’m in this weird position of realizing that if I mean to take this writing thing seriously, there are lines in the sand that I have to respect. One of my favorite writers, Ryan O’Connell, wrote about the same kind of experience. And as he got older, he realized that he couldn’t just write about every drug trip, bad sexual experience, and “Ouch-funny” moment that happened. That knowing the difference is the divide between “writing” and “being a writer.”

So in true self-absorbed writer fashion, I’m writing about writing about something. Maybe one day in the future, when I have enough money to hire a defense lawyer, I’ll tell some of the stories that I’m keeping in the vault. They’ll be good then, and I’ll have distance. And in my tell-all book, Telling It All—The Tonya Harding Story (Just Kidding, It’s Me, Danny), I’ll reference this blog post, and people will go to their antique Macs and pull up the article while sitting in their hover-houses with their pleasure-robots (I hope).

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