Kathy Griffin Says Her Personal Life Fell Apart in Wake of Photo Scandal (Exclusive)

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Kathy Griffin has almost no friends, and she’s OK with that.

“I mean, I lost 90 percent of my friends,” she confesses to ET, reflecting on the one-year anniversary of her “Trump mask” photo scandal. One May 30, 2017, photographer Tyler Shields shared a now-viral image of the 57-year-old comedian posing with a ketchup-covered mask resembling President Donald Trump. Many found the image disturbing, as it appeared that Griffin was holding the president’s severed head. The photo cost Griffin almost all of her jobs.

“You know, not being able to work in my own country, it's not the way it's supposed to be here in America,” Griffin shares. “And you can hate that picture all you want, but it's very much covered under the First Amendment … I didn't break the law, OK? If you don't like a Halloween mask and ketchup, get over it.”

And it turns out, the scandal damaged way more than her career

“My personal life did fall apart,” she says. “My joke is, I'm down to eight gay guys, two puppies, my boyfriend and my mom, and my mom is on the bubble.”

“My life got very pared down and, you know, it was interesting,” she continues. “The comedian Katt Williams called me that day and he said, 'Get out a pen and a piece of paper.' And I thought he was going to give me, like, advice or talking points or whatever, but he gave me a better tip, which is, 'Write down the name of every single person who calls you today with complete support and, at the end of that day, look at the list and those are who your friends are.' And there were three names!”

Those three names were Williams, Griffin’s mother, Maggie, who was concerned her daughter had joined the terrorist organization ISIS, and Jim Carrey, whom Griffin admits she barely knows.

“Jim Carrey said something very vital, and I don't know him very well,” she notes. “So, I'm not trying to act like, 'My bestie, Jim Carrey,' but he tracked me down and he said this great thing. He said, 'Today, you're the most famous comedian in the world,' and I was sobbing and I go, 'Jim! For all the wrong reasons.' And he goes, 'No, use it.' He goes, 'You're gonna have material that's so unique and personal.'"

Griffin says she used Carrey’s words of encouragement and her late mentor, Joan Rivers’, mantra, “When the going gets tough, get tougher,” to trudge on through the backlash. After spending some time in hiding working on new material, she returned to her roots to see if people were ready to hear what she had to say.

“Nobody can stop me from a microphone and my offensive jokes,” she coos. “I went, OK. What made me? What led to my biggest success? And I thought, it was when I used to do the Laugh Factory in Los Angeles, and I called the owner, Jamie Masada, and I said, 'What is your worst time slot? I'll take it' ... I would do shows there, and people would line up around the block. And then I started going, OK. I can do, like, theatrical stand-up shows.”

Griffin’s Laugh Factory gigs led to her booking international theaters for what has now become her Laugh Your Head Off world tour. After playing 16 countries around the globe, Griffin returns for her first U.S. tour date in more than a year later this month -- and it’s to a sold-out theater. In fact, Griffin has sold out many of her still-to-come shows in the U.S., including Carnegie Hall in New York City.

“I can't believe it!” she gushes. “I am so thrilled and so grateful. I mean, this whole year has been wild.”

And if she could go back and do everything over, Griffin admits she wouldn’t change a thing.

“For a long time, I was saying things like, ‘No, I wouldn't do it,’” she admits. “I've even said things like, you know, ‘I would do it, but with, like, a blowup doll so people would really get it.’ And now I realize … like, when [Donald Trump Jr.] went on Good Morning America and said, ‘She deserves what's coming to her,' I'm like, 'No, b***h. You deserve what's coming to you! And guess what's coming to you? Me.'”

Tickets to Griffin's tour are available via Live Nation


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