I Came. I Saw. Iraq.

The real reason Kathy Griffin went to Iraq? Read on.

(Which is different than "I saw Iraq. I came." Which did not happen. Because, like I said -- that place is a s**t-hole.)

So I went to Iraq to visit the troops, and it was absolutely one of the most incredible experiences of my life. But it almost didn't happen. I had to do a lot of begging to be allowed to go. The army kept saying, "Yes, you can go," and then they'd call and say "You can't go because it's too dangerous." Then they'd say, "You can't go to Iraq, but you can perform for the troops stationed in Germany or Djibouti." And I was like: Screw that!

First of all, anybody can go visit the troops in Germany. It's easier to do that than it is to get tickets to the World Cup. And, as for Djibouti, I am not going someplace that I can't spell. No offense, Djibouti. In fact, I think Djibouti would be a good place for Angelina Jolie to have her next kid. But for me, it was Iraq or nothing. Fortunately, it all worked out.

Although I didn't even really know I was going until just a couple days before. Then I had to deal with the people at Bravo who didn't want to pay for insurance for me. They basically ended up getting me this insurance that was worse than an HMO plan. It was like, we'll insure you if you're killed, but if you almost die, you're on your own. I think I would have had better coverage if I was an insurgent. I looked at their policy, and it's very thorough.

HURRY UP AND KUWAIT

So I get to Kuwait, and even though I've been traveling for about 147 hours, we don't even have time to nap or shower -- or order Kuwaiti pay-per-view movies in the hotel -- because we had to go to the base to get ready for the show.

And by "get ready for" I mean "beg people to come to." We literally went door-to-door like Amway sales people to tell everyone about the show. Basically, we bothered the Army. And it's not like it's a small base. That place is huge. It's got a Pizza Hut AND a McDonald's. It's just one giant Halliburton playground.

PERFORMANCE ANXIETY

Okay, first of all, I'm really grateful to Keri Turner and Michael McDonald for coming to entertain the troops with me, but I have to say, I'm still really bitter that Stuart killed and I didn't. I just can't believe that the armed forces care more about a seven-year-old character than my seven-year-old Nicole Kidman jokes. And he just did the voice -- he didn't even have the rouge or the wig!

But that didn't bother these army people one bit. The whole time we were there, people would pass Michael and me, and scream, "HEY LOOK IT'S STEWART!... and the girl from News Radio." But besides the lack of recognition, the hardest part about performing for the troops was that I just had no idea what to expect. And I'm not just talking about the fact that they weren't up-to-date on pop culture. We also found out that the soldiers didn't like to make fun of their superiors as much as we thought they would. So great -- no pop culture and no making fun of people... there goes 90% of my act. Which is why I decided early on to rely on the other 10% -- swearing like a truck driver. The army put a lot of language restrictions on me, but I said f**k 'em. These soldiers have seen real bombs -- I doubt they're gonna get offended if I drop a few F-bombs.

But the truth is, the entire time I was over there, I was getting material. The second the plane landed, it was like, "Hey look at that crappy food" and "Whoa, who the hell are those crazy looking people?" And that's material. And I knew that the more time I spent there, the more material I'd get. And the more comfortable I got with the troops, the more I'd figure out how far I could push the envelope with them.

I have to say, the thing I loved most about performing for the soldiers was that they are so much cooler about making fun of themselves than celebrities. Everyone in Hollywood takes themself so seriously, and they get all worked up if you make fun of them. The troops get bummed out if you DON'T make fun of them. And you don't want to bum out soldiers. They have guns.

SLEEPOVER AT SADDAM'S

I have to say that Saddam's palace was less than fantastic. I mean sure, it was a great place to stay, and it had running water -- which is a hot commodity over there -- but the whole time you keep saying to yourself, "I can't believe I'm in Saddam's goddamn palace!" And then you feel bad for saying "Goddamn" while Allah is staring at you. But you get used to it.

The army is really into maintaining Saddam's palace -- they haven't even redecorated it, and it's still got all this totally tacky stuff everywhere, like Sears and Roebuck bedding and a dining table for 30, and gold desks with these super fancy knobs, and the army hasn't removed a thing. (I did though -- Just a few towels. It's a bad habit. I'm working on it.)

And yeah, there was a rocket attack the night I was at the palace, and yeah, I did think it was just a door slamming... but that hasn't stopped me from being overly proud and frequently using the phrase, "I survived my first rocket attack." I definitely think I should get some sort of certificate to acknowledge my bravery. Or at least a Purple Heart. I'm going to have Jessica call the army to make sure that happens. Or maybe she can just text them...

ON A SERIOUS NOTE... ...I just want to talk for one second about Sgt. Adkins, the wounded soldier I met in Tikrit who had just survived a mortar attack that took the life of his fiance. Meeting Sgt. Adkins was something that I will never, ever forget. I think about him every day, and wonder how he's doing, and if he returned to duty, and I just want him to be safe and to know that there are lots and lots of people in America who are grateful for the sacrifice he's making on behalf of this country.

Look people, I know this wasn't the funniest episode of the show that's ever aired, but I am so proud of it, and I hope that you enjoyed it even though it's not a laugh-a-minute. Although I guess I should be honest with you all about the real reason I went to Iraq -- I just wanted something to throw around the next time I see Anderson Cooper at a dinner party. I've never been to a dinner party with Andy Cooper. I'm not in the same circles as Andy Cooper. But I will do anything to impress him, and maybe the fact that I went on this trip will actually get me invited to an Andy Cooper party. If not -- I move onto Amanpour.

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Kathy Does The Garden

Executive Producer Danny Salles marvels at Kathy's process before performing at MSG.

While shooting this episode, I had the chance to watch Kathy prepare for and perform a big stand-up show at Madison Square Garden. All I can tell you is that Kathy’s process is unbelievable. I don’t mean unbelievable as in great, I mean unbelievable as in I can’t believe that someone, anyone can do what she does. It’s remarkable.

Imagine for a moment that you were going to perform for 4,000 people with nothing but a microphone and a bottle of water to back you up. No orchestra, no musical numbers, no lead-in act, no sketches. Just you. Terrifying, right? I know that Kathy has been at this for a while, but I still thought that the day of a big concert was going to filled with anxiety. I envisioned her furiously writing out her set, practicing her stories in the mirror or using Tom and Tiffany as a practice audience. Nope. Here’s what I saw…

On the day of the concert, we followed Kathy around with cameras for a day of hijinks on the D-List. Two hours before concert time, she asked for a bit of downtime to go back to the hotel to change. Then, at 7 p.m., she was driven to the theater where she met with her booking agent in her dressing room to review her upcoming tour as she was having her make-up touched up. At some point, she scanned a list of story bits — which I swear was shorter than a grocery list — as the audience started to fill the house.

Then Kathy walked upstairs to the wings of the stage – our cameras trailing her – but giving her breathing room. I was still expecting a “holy s---” moment out of her when she would realize that she was about to play the Garden – but it never came. Instead, she started joking around with tour manager Tom and just glanced at her list, as a video of classic Kathy moments played for the sold out crowd on a movie screen. Then a Lady Gaga tune blasted the crowd and she started dancing around backstage like Muhammad Ali in a fight. She was playfully joking around as a voice announced, “Ladies and Gentlemen, here she is, the hilarious Kathy Griffin!” Then Kathy inflated with excitement like a Macy’s Thanksgiving Day balloon (a balloon in size 0 black Chanel) and danced onto the stage, giving the applauding crowd the finger with glee. She then proceeded to talk and entertain seamlessly for over two hours. 

I snuck around to watch from the front of house. Kathy wasn’t just telling stories from her repertoire. It was new material. So new, in fact, that she was telling stories about what happened earlier that day. All day she was collecting stories, working them out in her head, and now she was telling them for the first time in front of 4,000 people. That takes balls. Crazy talent and balls. She’s weaving new material in with the old – going off on tangents, then coming back to finish another story – all without a hitch. I realize at this point that I’m gushing, but I’ve never seen anything like it.

When the concert ended, Kathy high-tailed it out of the theater and headed for some comfort food with Team Griffin, where she relaxed like an athlete after an event – reviewing the highlights of the show and blowing off steam. I was tired just watching her, knowing that she was going on again tomorrow night, with more new material that was probably brewing right now as she was joking over pie.

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