Kathy Griffin’s ‘Life on the PTSD-List’ comes to Florida

(Photo by Jen Rosenstein)

Kathy Griffin knows how to make people laugh. The two-time Emmy and Grammy award-winning comedian has been doing it on for decades, finding international success on both stage and screen.

She’s also no stranger to making history. Griffin was inducted into the Guiness Book of World Records in 2013 for writing and starring in 20 televised stand-up specials — and a year later, joined Whoopi Goldberg and Lily Tomlin as the only female comedians to secure a Grammy for Best Comedy Album.

Griffin later became the unprecedented focus of an American president in 2017, after an infamous photograph of her holding a Donald Trump mask covered in ketchup went viral. “I wasn’t canceled,” she told the New York Times in 2022. “I was erased.”

The comedian was investigated by the federal government for being a terrorist and was placed on the no-fly list, leaving her without work while facing numerous lawsuits. In recent years she was also diagnosed with lung cancer, resulting in the removal of half of a lung and a permanent change to the sound of her voice; lost her mother, a beloved feature on her series “My Life on the D-List” and more; faced an addiction to pills that led to a suicide attempt and in December, filed for divorce.

All this and more led to “My Life on the PTSD-List,” the LGBTQ+ ally’s new tour. It’s billed as a celebration that the comedian is “cancer free, able to fly and funnier than ever.”

“Dear God in heaven, it’s been six long years since I have been on tour and performed for my fans,” Griffin announced it. “I cannot wait to hit the stage and see you in your hometown. I’m going EVERYWHERE, people — the real America! I’m not messing around. I’ve been through hell, we’ve all been through hell! Now let’s have a good laugh about it.”

The tour kicked off in February and was recently extended to include a stop at Carnegie Hall in October, which will break the late Joan Rivers’ record for shows at the venue headlined by a solo female comedian. Before then she’ll head to Florida, playing The Parker in Fort Lauderdale May 15, the Straz Center for the Performing Arts in Tampa May 16 and The Plaza Live in Orlando May 17.

Watermark spoke with Griffin by phone and email ahead of time about what fans can expect.

WATERMARK: How did your new tour come about?

Kathy Griffin: The name of the tour, “My Life on the PTSD-List” kind of wrote itself. I actually was diagnosed with complex PTSD so naturally, I have been looking for the humor in that crazy ass situation itself. I make fun of myself and all of my treatments quite a bit. But don’t worry, there are plenty of celebrity gossip stories to tell and I’m going to be telling them.

What’s your writing process like?

Extremely improvisational. You’re not going to believe this, but I still use a pen and a notebook. I’ve been doing it this way since I started and it’s the only way I know how to work. I write down a few bullet points and then I improvise from there on the spot, no show is the same.

What’s it like being back on the road?

This is going to sound corny but it feels like I’m home. They say that your work is not supposed to be your identity, but that isn’t the case for me. Being a stand-up is who I am and I’m loving every minute of this.
You’re still dealing with protests. Why are critics so obsessed with you?

The MAGA people can’t quit me. They are far more obsessive with my controversial Trump photo than I ever was. In fact, MAGA people still post that photo daily. At this point, it’s just something I just kind of reference but believe it or not, I don’t even reference Trump in this new show. There are so many other things to talk about!

You’ve been candid about streaming services, networks and venues not wanting to work with you in the past. Are you starting to see a change?

Since I am in the middle of a 40-city tour, the answer is Thank Goodness YES! Money talks and BS walks so I am hoping that the fact that I am selling tickets so well will lead to a special on a network or streaming service. It’s time!
Your Carnegie Hall show sold out in a day. How did that feel?

Like a middle finger to Donald Trump. In fact, I have a joke that every ticket someone buys to my show is a middle finger to Donald Trump. I am fortunate enough to be playing Carnegie again in October (for the 6th time all by myself!) and am still pinching myself.

What would you say to 2017 Kathy now?

Don’t apologize. I honestly should have just stood by that photo and not fallen for the propaganda machine surrounding it. I mean the White House itself was pushing out a message internationally that I was a card-carrying member of ISIS. I mean, come on. A 57-year-old redhead? Not exactly their type.

You’ve dealt with so much in the last few years. Do you have any advice for dealing with trauma?

Look for the humor, then when you can’t find it keep looking. After that, look again. It’s somewhere in there. I promise the humor will show up if you are open to it. Laughter really is the best medicine.

Why are you excited to come to Florida and what can audiences expect?

Do you want to hear something funny? I have done more shows in Florida than in any other state. What can I tell you? Florida loves me even though it makes my hair frizz. And also, I will be making fun of you Floridians right to your faces. I hope you understand that Florida is viewed as a separate country at this point. If I have to drive by Trump 2020 signs to get to my shows then damnit I will. I love the Florida audience.

Do you have any good “Florida man” stories?

I start all of my shows with local material that I have copiously researched. Florida never disappoints — there are so many Florida man stories I can barely keep up. And by the way, don’t act like Florida women are innocent.

Florida has passed a number of high-profile, anti-LGBTQ+ laws in recent years. What message do you have for your fans in the community here?

Vote, vote, vote. And make sure you vote down ballot. I know it’s a hassle, but find an LGBTQIA+ website that you trust and puts out voter guides, follow their advice. Vote for those who have an interest in the community and vote down ballot. You have to get out there and vote.

We’re in an election year again. What other message do you have for voters?

You don’t have to love Joe Biden to vote for him. He isn’t going to be your husband or your brother but the choice is simply between Joe Biden and fascism. And let me tell you, you can kiss gay marriage goodbye if there is a second Trump administration. And that will only be the beginning.

It really matters — try and get your friends who may not be involved to go to the polls and vote all the way down ballot, or else the gay community is going to lose their civil rights as fast as lightning.

What else do you want fans to know?

I don’t know exactly what I’m going to say on stage as much as they don’t know. I change the show up every night, it’s like a ride we are taking together. Just show up with an open heart and an open mind and know that I won’t be holding back. We’re going to have a great time!

For more information about Kathy Griffin’s work, visit KathyGriffin.com. “My Life on the PTSD-List” will play at the Straz Center for the Performing Arts May 16, located at 1010 N. Macinnes Pl. in Tampa, and May 17 at The Plaza Live in Orlando, located at 425 N. Bumby Ave. Learn more and purchase tickets at StrazCenter.org and PlazaLiveOrlando.org.

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