Kathy Griffin‘s self-financed documentary about her Trump photo debacle (no need to rehash it here, if you don’t know it, you just arrived on earth) Kathy Griffin: A Hell of a Story, premieres at SXSW. She talked to New York magazine’s Maggie Bullock about the dollars and sense of reinventing herself.
How much of a financial hit did you take when the photo came out?
“Conservatively, I lost about $2 million. But then the [Laugh Your Head Off] tour grossed $4.4 million. That’s kind of an amazing year. And I’d maybe made $2 million before the tour started…. Mostly, though, I make money from showing up on a set, being funny. If I’m not good enough, I get fired. I show up at a concert and the ticket sales aren’t good enough, I don’t get as much money. I mean, it’s simple math.
I decided I needed to document this show because the nature of the material is truly historic. I’ve talked to many First Amendment attorneys about this. Like me or not, never in the history of the United States has a sitting president used the full power of the Oval Office, the First Family, the right-wing media, and two agencies within the Department of Justice — the Secret Service and the U.S. Attorney’s office — to put an American private citizen under two open federal investigations for conspiracy to assassinate the president of the United States, based on a photo that was 100 percent protected by the First Amendment. That image has changed my life irrevocably. It’s even in a new NRA ad. It just keeps giving. I can never go back to just being the girl that would talk about the Housewives.
I’m a completely different type of artist than I was before. I’ve had to educate myself on how to come out of this situation financially, which I’m very proud of. Now I run my tour business very differently. I do something called “four walling”: I handle the insurance, hire the ushers, rent the venue, and sign the contracts [and that way I collect all the revenue]. I now know how to sell out every motherfucking seat, and how to work directly with the fans.
… I have never bounced a check in my life. My credit score is ridiculous. When I say Oprah level, I mean I have zero debt. I bought my house for $10.5 million cash outright, because as Suze Orman taught me, if you can’t afford to buy a house in cash, you can’t afford it.
I didn’t want to be an actress with no job security going,
‘Oh my God, I have this baller house but I’m scared of the mortgage.’
No. I bought the one where I went,
‘Boom. I can afford it.’
I can fucking die in this house. Sometimes I just walk around this big house going,
‘Fuck you, Hollywood, I fucking love this house!'”
Griffin has two Emmys and a Grammy (both located right in the foyer of her “fuck you” mansion for maximum visibility), plus a pair of best-selling books and a spot in the Guinness Book of World Records for the highest number of TV specials (23). (By her own admission, her net worth is $35 million.)
“I now own ‘My Life on the D List,’ my specials, and two years of my talk show. Frankly, they don’t have any value right now because I’m still considered toxic. But bet your bottom dollar, at some point somebody is going to go,
‘Wait a minute. We can just make an acquisition deal with Kathy Griffin — buy her whole library and just run it?’
It’s not happening today, it’s not happening tomorrow, but that library is in a temperature-controlled vault and it is mine and mine alone. It has taken me years to regain my own work, years of legal fees and begging and pleading, just saying,
‘Look, if you guys don’t think this has any value, then just fucking sell it back to me.’
I wore them down.“
Here’s the trailer for Kathy Griffin: A Hell of a Story.
(Photo, Avalon; via The Cut)