Hollywood’s enduring red menace Kathy Griffin revels in picking fights with A-list celebrities and controversial politicians — but now she’s in the fight of her life against cancer.
The 60-year-old was in surgery Monday to remove a tumor from her lung, two weeks after she got the shocking diagnosis — made even more surprising because she has never smoked.
The veteran standup comic — and infamously proud Emmy and Grammy winner — broke the news in a detailed post on social media this morning, writing: “The doctors are very optimistic as it is stage one and contained to my left lung.”
Adding that she didn’t think she’d need chemotherapy or radiation after the operation, she said, “I should be up and running as usual in a month or less.”
In a bombshell interview with ABC’s “Nightline” secretly recorded last week and set to broadcast Monday night, Griffin recalled how she felt upon first hearing her cancer news.
“I was definitely in shock,” she told interviewer Juju Chang. “I’m still a little bit in shock. Not a denial, but…once a day, I’ll just turn to, like, nobody next to me and go, ‘Can you believe this s–t? Is this a bitch or what?’”
It wasn’t her only battle this year. Griffin also revealed that amid her fiery feud with Donald Trump, she became addicted to pills and had thoughts of suicide — even going as far to write a note last year.
When reached for comment by The Post Monday, reps for Griffin said she was in surgery and there won’t be “more updates until she gets out.”
Certainly, Griffin’s illness — which comes around 20 months after her January 2020 wedding to longtime partner, Randy Bick — is a setback for the often outrageous celebrity whose life and career have been a series of highs and lows.
Here, The Post looks back at the firebrand’s ups and downs.
She survived childhood sex abuse
Griffin, who was raised with four siblings in a Chicago suburb, was sexually abused from the age of 7 by her oldest brother, Kenny, then 30, who later descended into drug addiction before passing away. She called him out for his behavior in front of her family when she reached her 20s and he admitted his crimes.
Later, she said she was “afraid of him until the moment he died” and, possibly as a consequence of her ordeal, she developed a binge eating disorder. In her best-selling 2009 autobiography, “Official Book Club Selection,” Griffin revealed she “still suffers from [food issues]” but has learned to “deal with them.”
Her showbiz journey had humble beginnings
She was still in high school when she started out as an extra in a Midwestern TV commercial before performing throughout the 1980s on the LA standup comedy circuit and in The Groundlings improv troupe. Then, in the early ’90s, she established her acting career with small roles in shows like “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and the 1992 Madonna mockumentary, “Medusa: Dare To Be Truthful.”
She even made a brief appearance as a witness to a hit-and-run in the 1994 Quentin Tarantino flick “Pulp Fiction.” But her career was boosted with two appearances on “Seinfeld” in 1996 and 1998 and a four-year stint on the NBC sitcom “Suddenly Susan,” where she played magazine restaurant critic Vicki Groener opposite Brooke Shields’ title character.
Griffin hit the big time with Bravo’s ‘My Life on the D-List’
Despite its self-deprecating title, the reality TV series chronicling her chaotic ladder-climbing lifestyle earned the comedian a higher position in the notoriously fickle Hollywood pecking order. It successfully ran between 2005 and 2010 and earned Emmy nominations for outstanding reality program for every one of its six seasons. Griffin’s star burned especially bright when her show won the coveted award in both 2007 and 2008.
Her 2007 acceptance speech drew the ire of religious groups after the outspoken winner took to the stage and quipped: “A lot of people come up here and thank Jesus for this award. I want you to know that no one has less to do with this than Jesus.” She went further, adding: “He didn’t help me a bit … Suck it, Jesus, this award is my god now.” Then, between 2008 and 2013, her stand-up comedy albums were nominated six consecutive years for the Grammy Awards, resulting in a 2013 win for “Calm Down Gurrl.”
She suffered some flops
Griffin’s late-night talk show “Kathy” was launched on Bravo with great fanfare in 2012, but the series was canceled 12 months later after just two seasons.
The failure hit Griffin hard.
Six years after the plug was pulled, in a 2019 interview with People magazine, the redhead blasted Bravo host/producer Andy Cohen, who was an executive at the network at the time of the chat show. She said: “Andy Cohen treated me like a dog. He was, like, one of the worst bosses I ever had,” alleging that “he has not been very kind.” Cohen clapped back, saying she had “made up a lot of things” about him.
Meanwhile, another short-lived gig was Griffin’s appointment in 2015 to the panel of E’s “The Fashion Police.” She was hired as the comic replacement for the late Joan Rivers. Remarkably, she quit after filming just seven episodes.
The implication was that her co-hosts, including rail-thin Giuliana Rancic, were guilty of body shaming. In a statement posted to Twitter, Griffin admitted she was “no saint,” but added, “I do not want to use my comedy to contribute to a culture of unattainable perfectionism and intolerance towards difference.”
She thrives on feuds
Not surprisingly, for someone who built her career lampooning celebrities, Griffin has had more than her share of bust-ups and they’ve frequently resulted in offense being taken by her targets. Over the years, she has insisted she’s been banned from various talk shows because of her no-holds-barred humor.
But some of those claims don’t hold up to scrutiny. She blamed the end of her four-month stint in 2007 as co-host of “The View” on “a ban” imposed by daring to spill details about the show on a TV comedy special. She was since “unbanned” with guest appearances in 2009 and 2010, but soon returned to the blacklist in 2013 after making a crack about Howard Stern wanting to have sex with ABC doyenne Barbara Walters.
Other injustices claimed by the comedian include being told by producers of “Ellen” that they “cannot have her trashing celebrities.” She was also scolded for a joke delivered on E! in 2005 about then-11-year-old Dakota Fanning. “We did hear a rumor that little Dakota Fanning entered rehab today, and we wish her the best,” she said while covering the Golden Globes, prompting an apology from the network.
In more recent skirmishes with politicians, she confronted Republican congresswoman Michele Bachmann in 2010 about her view that homosexuality is “environmental.” Longtime LGBTQ advocate Griffin asked her: “Were you born a bigot or did you just grow into it?” Meanwhile, she has long feuded with one-time vice president candidate Sarah Palin, who branded her “a bully” in 2011.
Her career took a nosedive after a sick stunt aimed at President Trump
Griffin’s biggest controversy happened in 2017 after graphic photos appeared of her holding a severed, bloodied head, which was an unmistakable likeness that belonged to Donald Trump. Although she issued an apology on social media and during a tearful press conference — “The image is too disturbing,” she said. “I understand how it offends people…I beg for your forgiveness.” — the damage was done.
She was investigated by the US Secret Service and Trump came for her guns blazing. He said his son, Barron, had been particularly disturbed by the photo and Griffin “should be ashamed of herself.” Within a week, she lost her advertising deal with Squatty Potty and, worse, was fired from her job as co-host of CNN’s New Year’s Eve show alongside Anderson Cooper.
She was especially stung by the lack of support from Cooper, with whom she’d had good chemistry. The newsman said in a May 2017 tweet that he was “appalled” by Griffin’s photo shoot, adding “it is clearly disgusting and completely inappropriate.” His one-time colleague told People magazine that she didn’t expect him to ever extend an olive branch, saying: “I don’t think he has really any interest in it,” she said. “And, like I said, after going through something like this, I’m, like, done chasing people.”
There was a knock-on effect to Griffin’s career, finding her struggle to find work. Most of her gigs dried up and she admitted “begging” for a speaking role in the TV series “You” in 2020. Now, reflecting on the Trump furor during her “Nightline” interview, Griffin said she received death threats that also targeted her family.
“I mean, legit death threats with everything from online, which is the Google pictures of the house, the address,” she told ABC. “They tracked my sister down when she was dying of cancer in the hospital.”
Three years later, however, proving she wasn’t crushed by the experience, Griffin retweeted the severed head photo in November 2020 when Trump was defeated. The year before that overt act of defiance, she released “Kathy Griffin: A Hell of a Story,” a documentary about her struggle to keep her live comedy career alive amid the crushing, cancelleing controversy, to substantial acclaim on the festival circuit and Amazon Prime.
She came close to suicide
On top of the revelation about her cancer diagnosis on “Nightline,” Griffin spoke of a devastating addiction to pills — amphetamines, Ambien and then painkillers — in the wake of the Trump drama.
“I thought: ‘Well, I don’t even drink…big deal,’” she said. “‘I take a couple of pills now and again, who doesn’t?’”
Shockingly, just last year, in the throes of her habit, she thought about ending her life.
“I started to think about suicide more and more…and it became almost an obsessive thought. I started really convincing myself it was a good idea,” Griffin said. “I got my living revocable trust in order. I had all my ducks in a row, I wrote the note — the whole thing.”
Mercifully, her husband and doctor helped her get treatment and she began her recovery. “The detox was nasty,” she told Chang. “I mean, it was months. I mean the tremors…and the flop sweat, and I was so unsteady.”
Griffin said that, despite staying sober for just over a year and getting back to work on a TV show after months of unemployment — well-documented on Twitter — she will always consider herself an “addict.”