To call comedian Kathy Griffin a survivor is a vast understatement. The stand-up comedian, Emmy winning star of My Life on the D-list, and actress has bounced back after treatment for lung cancer and a procedure that permanently altered her voice. Earlier this year, she also announced her separation from Randy Bick, her husband since 2020. “I shouldn’t have married that guy,” she confides to Closer exclusively. She has also overcome depression, prescription drug addiction, and a scandal that came very close to ending her comedy career. “I was used to working, and next thing you know, I’m a terrorist and no one will hire me,” she says.

With the support of her friends — famous and otherwise — and the love of her fans, Kathy, 63, has turned the corner. She’s back on the road in 2024, bringing her comedy to America on her My Life on the PTSD-List tour.

Who were your comedy inspirations?

“Joan Rivers. Moms Mabley when I was a little kid. Seeing those women alone was revelatory. When Joan would guest-host The Tonight Show, it was an event. She said the things everybody was afraid to say and took a lot of heat. I watched her through the highs and the lows, and she always stayed true to herself. She was a hard worker who earned every damn penny she made. She was my mentor and good friend and I miss her every day.”

Anyone else?

“I also loved Don Rickles. He was a great friend of mine, and I miss him desperately. He would say, ‘You know, I don’t like it when people say I’m an insult comic. I do comedy. I make fun of people and am not really hurting them.’ And I would tell him, ‘Don, you’re so much more. You bring joy to people. You make people laugh so hard.'”

Tell us about your new tour.

“The whole show acknowledges the PTSD I’ve had over the past six years. First of all, my voice is a little bit altered due to the surgery I had for lung cancer. I had part of my left lung removed, and I’ve never smoked. So, I joke about it. I also lost my mom. Also, the Trump thing happened. To top it off, I became addicted to prescription pills, and that caused me almost to take my life.”

Those are hard subjects to laugh about!

“That’s what I was the most nervous about. I thought, ‘How can I talk about PTSD in a way that doesn’t make you uncomfortable?’ I tell the audience, ‘Clap if you’ve been affected by cancer in any way. Clap if you’ve been affected by addiction. Clap if you’ve been divorced.’ So that tells me the audience is going to let me go there. They’re going to let me talk about this stuff. And if I make it funny, they’re into it.”

How Kathy Griffin Jokes About Her PTSD, Cancer on Comedy Tour
Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images

Let’s talk about “the picture.” In 2017, you posted a photo of yourself holding a mask of President Trump dripping with what appeared to be fake blood. What happened next?

“My industry dumped me. I was in the middle of a 50-city tour when that happened. Then, 25 cities all pulled out because of threats. The government started the official investigation against me, and my lawyers said, ‘This is a serious thing. They’re serious about charging you with conspiracy.’ I spent a million dollars in lawyer fees. After that, I was stopped at every airport in the U.S. and overseas. They take your phone, they take your passport. They wanted to end my career.”

You received death threats?

“The stuff that came to my house! The FBI would show up and go, ‘Miss Griffin, there is a credible threat against you. We have a duty to warn you.’ I mean, that was my life. I was enemy No 1. Thank God my fans stayed with me.”

Where do you think you got your resilience from?

“My parents. My dad, John, lived to 90. My mom, Maggie, until 99. There was just something about my family. They were rough. I’m not going to lie. The expectations were, ‘You show up at the dinner table. We’re going to have political arguments. We’ll talk about the day’s news.’ I’m grateful I was raised with this expectation. You had to show up and know what you’re talking about. You couldn’t show up at the dinner table and go, ‘I’ve never heard of that.’ My dad would say, ‘Read the paper.’ I still do that today. Whatever city I’m in, I open the show with local news.”

Did anything positive come out of the scandal?

“I’m on a daily text chain with Mary Trump, E. Jean Carroll and Stormy Daniels. Yes, it’s the truth. Those girls are an inspiration. They’re so strong. Stormy flew to Vegas to see me for my first show in six years. And E. Jean is coming to see me at all my New York stops. Mary, too. I know, it’s crazy. I wouldn’t know them if it weren’t for the political scandal. I’m trying to look at the good parts of this experience and go, ‘You know what? Today, I know who my real friends are.’”

Is there anything you wish you did differently in your life?

“I wouldn’t have started my job so late. I worked for free for years. I would change all my fights or conflicts with executives because I was dumb enough to think I couldn’t negotiate like my male counterparts. I should have gotten my mom a dog sooner. I got her this little dog that she fell in love with around the end of her life. I should have bought my parents their condo sooner. We didn’t grow up with anything. Solid, Midwest, middle-class — but I wanted them to have a fun life. They visited me on set. Even when I was on ER and had five lines, my mom and dad got to travel with me to the set. George Clooney fell in love with my mom. That was fun.”

Do you think we have lost our sense of humor as a nation?

“To a degree? Yes. But, on the other hand, it’s a very tricky thing. Look, there’s stuff I said in my specials 15 years ago but I wouldn’t say now. Times change. You have to grow with the times. I’m so grateful that the audience lets me make fun of my own PTSD, something I thought was only for wounded combat veterans. I think we’re at a time after COVID where people have had it with the same-old. You’ve got to find the humor in everything, even the darkest times.”

Kathy’s comedy tour is running through the end of 2024. Visit for more info.