Bozell Column: Kathy Griffin's Unfunny Jesus Jokes
Nearly everyone with a television can make jokes about TV awards shows, especially the speech-making. How many times have people made the hoariest jokes about thanking the "little people," or mimicking Sally Field’s Oscar speech: "You like me! You really like me!" But Kathy Griffin, the comedienne with the self-satirizing "My Life on the D-List" show on that D-list network Bravo, took the ritual to a new low when she won an Emmy for Outstanding Reality Program.
She mocked Jesus Christ.
"A lot of people come up here and thank Jesus for this award," she declared. "I want you to know that no one had less to do with this award than Jesus. So, all I can say is, 'suck it, Jesus.' This award is my god now." The audience reaction? Reporters noted laughter in the crowd. Griffin certainly knew Hollywood die-hards would be pounding the tables over that one.
It’s certainly a ritual for entertainers to thank God or Jesus when they win awards. Some of them are very sincere, like gospel singers at the Grammy Awards. Others have looked more than a little ridiculous, such as during the Vibe Magazine Awards in 2005 when several rappers took home awards for "songs" with nasty lyrics about shooting people -- and then thanked God.
Griffin could have mocked the ritual without mocking Jesus and millions of Christians. But she had to shock, to say "Suck it" and suggest she’d rather worship her Emmy award like it was a pagan goddess. Was she sorry? No. Reuters reported she was "unrepentant" when asked about the speech backstage. In fact, she was well pleased with herself. "I hope I offended some people. I didn't want to win the Emmy for nothing." Griffin’s official website giddily declared her line "will go down as one of the best quotes in Emmy history."
The public doesn’t think so and Hollywood knows it.
The cable channel E! announced they would scrub the remark from their taped broadcast of the Creative Arts Emmy awards. (It wasn’t part of the more prominent Emmy show that aired on Fox.) Some media outlets also scrubbed the actual remarks from their news stories. Associated Press reporter Lynn Elber would only explain Griffin made "an off-color remark about Christ." Some TV outlets, like MSNBC, also scrubbed the line in their retelling of the story. Good for them.
That wasn’t as strange as Reuters, which began its dispatch with the words "Comic Kathy Griffin's ‘offensive’ remarks about Jesus" will be edited out. Employing quote marks around a word is meant as a warning light that something isn’t necessarily so. An insult against Jesus Christ isn’t necessarily "offensive," according to this wire service.
Reuters, you may remember, also doesn’t believe the 9/11 murderers were necessarily "terrorists."
Kathy Griffin has this kind of double standard, too. Many irreverent performers aren’t equal-opportunity besmirchers. Griffin appeared clutching her Emmy on the Ellen DeGeneres talk show a day after the furor broke, and when DeGeneres suggested it can be tough on the other side of the joke, as she was the butt of a lot of jokes when she declared she was gay, Griffin turned dead serious and insisted: "Not mine. Not mine." Griffin would never mock a gay person. But Jesus and Christians? Bombs away.
Griffin explained that she had rules about her targets, and one was "I don’t make fun of people who have a sense of humor about themselves." So, in this case, with one enormously broad brush, Kathy Griffin has decided that the vast majority of Christians are incapable of taking a joke. But there is funny, and there is insulting. Griffin doesn’t have a clue of the difference.
The funny thing is that for someone who doesn’t like religious phonies, Griffin is the biggest phony of them all. In a scabrous interview with a gay newspaper in Houston, Griffin called herself a "complete militant atheist" and complained "we have to listen to everybody's ‘God this’ and ‘Jesus that.’" She told that interviewer she fell away from the "stupid" Catholic church in high school in the 1970s. But then Reuters quoted one spin-control attempt issued by her publicist after her Emmy insult: "Am I the only Catholic left with a sense of humor?" And guess what she wore on her necklace on the Ellen show? A visible golden cross.