ET's Brice Sander recently spoke to the 58-year-old comedian about her self-produced documentary, Kathy Griffin: A Hell of a Story, which details the controversy that dominated headlines. Some of the repercussions of the infamous photo shoot -- which she publicly apologized for -- included CNN letting go of Griffin in 2017 after she previously hosted the network's New Year's Eve special alongside Anderson Cooper for a decade, and Griffin losing friends, including Cooper.
Griffin opened up to ET about the specific toll the scandal took on her relationship with her boyfriend, Randy Bick. Griffin announced on Twitter last November that she and Bick split after dating for seven years, but she confirmed the two got back together in April on Instagram.
"A lot of it was tough," she acknowledged about the aftermath of the controversy. "My boyfriend, whom I live with and he's my tour manager as well, you know, his family struggles with him now ... they're Trumpers."
Although Griffin said she still feels "really guilty" about bringing family drama on him, the two were obviously able to work it out after taking a four-month break.
"I know it's very Maury Povich, but -- you know, I don't think I'm pregnant at 58 -- so, it wasn't one of those Maurys where, we were on a break and now there's a paternity test," she joked. "But yeah, we took a little break and we're back. And now, we just came to the decision that, we've really been through so much together. We've now been together over eight years. Even though he's 19 years younger, we both turned to each other and realized, this is the longest relationship for both of us, you know? We should fight for it and make it work. And you know, it was just one of those things where, it was a lot of pressure."
Griffin said the scandal definitely led her to reevaluate her relationships, and that she hasn't spoken to a member of her family in months, if not years. The comedian said she was unfairly blamed at times for circumstances not under her control.
"And you know, it's interesting, I've found when something like this happens, a lot of people put it on them," she said. "I got one single comment on my Facebook timeline and now it's your fault. And I'm thinking, OK, first of all, that was a robot. Do your homework. There's troll farms and they're in Macedonia, they've been well-documented. And if you get a comment that says, 'ISIS lady be bad!' It's probably not a person, you know? And so, I found a lot of people kinda put it onto me."
"And I think a lot of it was their own guilt, and I think everyone does know -- and what hopefully comes across in this film is -- that feeling you come across when you're getting what I call a dogpile, and you think certain people are going to be there for you and get surprised, and they're not there at all," she continued. "And then you have to figure out, OK, is this someone that has a legit reason? Is this someone who doesn't have the fortitude to be my friend after all? So, there's a lot of nuance involved and I'm kind of always navigating those waters."
The comedian said she knows that she will probably never be able to escape the controversy in some form but is taking a cue from Jane Fonda, who is still remembered to this day for taking a controversial trip to North Vietnam in 1972 and protesting the Vietnam War.
"So, I will always give a nod to this photo in the way that Jane Fonda, unfortunately, will always be Hanoi Jane to certain people," Griffin said about how she's handling the scandal two years later. "Even though she's an amazing icon and on a hit show again and has generated gazillions of dollars for the industry."
"Obviously, I look at Fonda and I look at the body of work she's had since her scandal and it's interesting, when I talk to people about her, and I hear the people that only focus on Hanoi Jane, I kinda sideline them and go, whatever," she added. "But when I hear the people that talk about her amazing Academy Award performance in Coming Home, or Klute, or her series with Lily [Tomlin] on Netflix, obviously, it gives me great joy to see, 'Oh, you got over that!' You see that she's funny and she's still an activist, yet she's on a great show and she's 81. And she's got the great body, to this day."
When it comes to herself, Griffin said she also hasn't changed much despite going through the life-changing scandal. During the interview, Griffin was shown a flashback of her first interview with Entertainment Tonight in 1996.
"Oh my gosh and the curly hair is back, that was two noses ago, I love the nostalgia," she cracked. "Can I tell you what surprises me? It's surprising how similar my sort of philosophy is, like, besides the fact that I have my real actual curly hair back, very shallow, I was thinking, yeah I still say that, like, I just want to make people laugh more than anything. ... It's funny, like, when people ask that question, what would you say to 6-year-old Kathy right now?, I always say, 'I would tell her to be a whore and make some good money,' which is for the gag real, but I'm just, I guess sort of laughing at all those years ago and I'm not really that different. I am kind of the same and I will admit that I am pretty much the same off camera."
"So here we are two and a half years later and I'm just so glad and so grateful that I can tell the story in a way that is formative, gritty, real, funny," she said about the film. "And honestly I want it to be relatable to people, like I said, whether they're a fan of mine, whether they're a fan of comedy. You know, whatever. I just hope it's informative in some ways but funny more than anything, and it's brutally honest."
Griffin said the documentary has actually gotten her the best reviews of her career. As for what's next, she shared that she would love to make a return to TV.
"I'd love some sort of a consistent TV presence," she said. "I'm still a TV animal, it's still the most-watched medium. ... I would like to do something, probably on television or in the streaming space, that, No. 1, once again reminds people, it's Kathy Griffin that you've known for years, making you laugh, obviously, primarily as a comedian. And it would be nice to do something where more Americans could kinda get back at that place."
ET spoke with Griffin last month at the HBO's Emmys after-party, where she explained why her former neighbor, Kim Kardashian West, probably won't care about the Emmys audience seemingly laughing at her while she presented the Outstanding Competition Series award. Watch the video below for more: