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Mrs. Kathy Goes to Washington

Even for Kathy Griffin, sometimes a good cause trumps all.

When you’re producing a show for a hilarious redhead who loves to push the boundaries, there are few challenges more trying than attempting to get her meetings with actual members of Congress. For one thing, they tend to be rather busy making laws or filibustering so that no laws get made, so their schedules are not always free. Second, they have this pesky habit of trying to keep their reputations clean, so on-camera interviews with comedians are not high on the agenda. But Kathy was determined, so with her can-do spirit – we did.

First off, I’ve got to give props to the team at the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) who worked tirelessly to make those meetings happen. When Kathy sprang it on them that she was going to take up the cause of repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell by coming to Washington, they were thrilled…in much the same way that one is thrilled when your best friend announces that he’s coming for a visit and staying with you for a whole month – you’re excited, happy... and filled with dread. But the HRC loved Kathy, and the cause is top on their agenda, so they jumped in with full force. Still, I couldn’t help but notice the slightest hint of regret on their faces when Kathy’s jokes started bombing with Barney Frank.

Kathy knew that Barney Frank was gay, and I think she assumed that meant he had a sense of humor, or more accurately, her sense of humor. It took a few jokes not landing to realize that Congressman Frank was short on patience and time, so she got to the point. But the 45 seconds it took for him to warm up to Kathy seemed like an eternity. Once he realized that she knew her stuff and that she was serious about the cause, he was in. 

Jared Polis was on the opposite end of the spectrum. The junior Congressman is both a fan of Kathy’s and a fan of pop culture. He is very comfortable being an out gay man in Congress, impressively so, and his staff could have doubled for the staff at the Abbey. We edited Kathy’s visit with him for comedy, but his knowledge on the details of the repeal effort was impressive.

Our last stop was Majority Whip James Clyburn. He is a known civil rights advocate who dates back to the era of Dr. King. In his grand, historic office within the Capitol Building, we quietly waited for him to come up from the floor of Congress. There was an indicator light on the wall that dated from the invention of electricity that showed when the vote was in progress. After Congress was finished voting on National Labradoodle day or whatever, he arrived. As he took his seat, it was clear that he was not going to be jostled by a few jokes -- even ones about his whip or Kathy’s unrequited love for him. He was cordial and encouraging, but noncommittal on the timing of the repeal, much to Kathy’s frustration. Still, his sexy Barry White voice did leave an impression on her.

As we walked back through the halls of Congress, seeing the various names on the office doors, I could see Kathy’s mind racing. “What if I just pop in on…?” Luckily, helping the DADT cause trumped the urge to create a great, comedic PR stunt, and we all managed to make it back to out and back to the hotel without a scene. (We stayed at The Mayflower, by the way – the hotel made famous by New York Governor Eliot Spitzer and his paid lady friend.)

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