In today’s hypercharged environment, the notion of comedians sticking together might be understandable in one respect. With people like Jerry Seinfeld now refusing to do shows on today’s college campuses and social media’s creation of a bigger outrage machine than ever, comedians are constantly on the alert for defending their First Amendment rights.
However, defending Kathy Griffin’s now-infamous photo shoot featuring a likeness of the severed head of the president of the United States is a different story. Nothing about the photo or the incident was funny — and Griffin’s own defense of it revealed a sad hypocrisy on her part.
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Griffin’s press conference on the matter put her in an even worse light. She victimized herself and made it sound as if she were the target of a government conspiracy. Wrong. She had the freedom to express herself, and she did. Then she faced the consequences of that free market. CNN let her go from her New Year’s Eve co-hosting duties, various casinos and comedy clubs have disinvited her, and she even lost a spokesperson gig.
Still, through it all, some people have stuck by the comedian and shrugged their shoulders at Griffin’s intentional crossing of many moral and cultural lines. Here’s a look at three who stand out:
Jerry Seinfeld. “Yes, it was another bad joke. Every comedian tells bad jokes,” Seinfeld said in an interview with People published this week. “We all do it. That’s how we find the good jokes.”
He added, “So someone told a bad joke — so what, I don’t understand the big deal.”
Seinfeld has a good point — but not one that relates to Griffin. It’s true that it’s more difficult today for comedians to work through bad material and try new things; social media allows for the incessant pressure on, and the review of, every little thing that’s said and done.
Yet Griffin’s photo shoot seemed to have no comedic motivations. The comedian and photographer Tyler Shields appear to believe the two were making a legitimate political point, so it wasn’t just a “bad joke.”
Comedian Kevin Hart addressed the issue best in a recent appearance on “The View” when he said, “Times are different now, and as a comedian, you have to understand and respect that.”
He added, “If you put yourself in a position to be viewed in a negative way from the public, with social media being the way that it is, if it’s negative it’s going to spread … I think you have to use better judgment.”
It’s a balance comedians are still finding, though Griffin was not acting as a comedian during her photoshoot. She knew what she was doing, and she’s only now hiding behind the defense of “just trying to be funny” in an effort to salvage her sinking career.
Jim Carrey. “It’s the job of the comedian to cross the line at all times,” the 55-year old Carrey told Entertainment Tonight. “That line is not real, and if you step out into that spotlight and you’re doing the crazy things that [Trump] is doing, we’re the last line of defense. The comedians are the last voice of truth in this whole thing.”
“The comedians are the last voice of truth in this whole thing.”
Carrey is currently a producer on the just-released Showtime series, “I’m Dying Up Here,” about comedians coming up in the ’70s, so it’s not a surprise he’d want to say something about the Griffin controversy to set himself apart from the crowd. He even disagreed with CNN’s firing of Griffin, which is strange. CNN is supposed to be a respectable news organization. It can’t be hiring comedians who “cross the line” because that very much affects how they’re perceived as a delivery system for the news.
Jamie Foxx. “Listen, as comedians, sometimes you go beyond, past the line,” the 49-year-old comedian and “Django Unchained” actor told Entertainment Tonight. “I still love Kathy Griffin. She went past the line, she’ll pay for it in the way she pays for it, and we’ll go out, and we’ll laugh with her again.”
At least Foxx seems to acknowledge there is a price Griffin needs to pay. Whether people will laugh with her again, though, is up in the air. Griffin’s career is looking pretty dim at the moment — and her defense of her actions right after she apologized has only made her look worse after that photo debacle.