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Posted by on Jan 2, 2009 in Arts & Entertainment | 3 comments

Kathy Griffin’s X-Rated CNN New Year’s Eve Moment

The glories — and pitfalls — of live TV were on full foot-in-mouth display on New Year’s Eve when comic Kathy Griffith surprised CNN bigwigs, most-likely raised eyebrows with some viewers — and most assuredly triggered exclamations of “Oh no, not THAT LINE AGAIN!!” responses from professional comedians.

She used an anti-heckler line that many news reports insinuate (by omission) that she came up with. Actually, it has been around for as long as late 20th Century comedy club comedians have tritely asked: “So where are you from?” or “I’ll be here all week, tell your friends!” or talked about men who won’t stop for directions…

The New York Post captures the moment perfectly:

Comedienne Kathy Griffin may be doomed to life on CNN’s S-list after answering a heckler with a shrieking, vulgar tirade during the network’s live New Year’s Eve broadcast.

“Screw you,” she told the heckler. “Why don’t you get a job, buddy? You know what? I don’t go to your job and knock the d- – – out of your mouth.”

The raunchy exchange, which occurred well after the ball dropped at midnight, was received with guffaws by the camera crew.

Co-host Anderson Cooper, who spent the night playing the role of straight man to Griffin’s antics, then managed to break for commercial – although by that point, he could barely keep a straight face.

Cooper seemed to become increasingly uncomfortable with Griffin’s off-color remarks, including her request to “get a pap smear from [CNN medical reporter] Dr. Sanjay Gupta,” and her description of former CNN host Glenn Beck as a “heroin addict Mormon.”

And so the vulgarization of what was one lofty BROADCASTING (versus more narrow narrowcasting on cable channels catering to specific age groups instead of to a larger FAMILY audience) continues. Two things on this:

1. Here is the segment (which has the offending word) as it ran, courtesy of YouTube:

2. This line has been around for many many many years. When I went full-time into my present daily incarnation in 1990, it was a line some comedians told me to use in comedy clubs for hecklers. It was also in at least one book of put-down lines that I purchased to use in comedy clubs. There are variations on it. And you can find it on the Internet, including, here, in this collection of juggler anti-heckler lines here, and in this actual guide on how to be a HACK stand up comedian and use hack lines HERE..and more if you have time on your hands with nothing to do (or no life).

Some comedians call this hackery. Others call it using stock lines. In reality, comedians, ventriloquists, jugglers all have certain ad-libs ready to use, to look like they’re…ad-libbing. But there is a CHOICE each entertainer must make.

In this case, Griffin chose to respond with a tiresome old comedy shock line that has been used a zillion (or more) times before. On (inter)national TV.

P.S. If you recall, Bart Simpson’s famous line on Fox’s “The Simpson’s” is “Eat my shorts.” For a reason…

In doing so, she cheapened her “name brand” — and CNN’s as well.

She WAS good with Cooper, so presumably she’ll be on again. Will Griffin and CNN re-think how they will allow themselves to be perceived by viewers who may not approve of a line that can get big yucks in comedy clubs (unless other experienced comedians are around)?

I use some stock jokes in my show and some stock ad-lib lines. But a line used to put down a drunk in a comedy club doesn’t come across as well when it’s seen on national TV against the backdrop of a supposedly family-friendly holiday such as New Year’s Eve on a screen shared by CNN’s corporate on-the-air news symbol, Anderson Cooper.

Here’s a reaction on Twitter..

UPDATE: The Hollywood Reporter’s story is headlined:”Rant on CNN lands Kathy Griffin in hot water.” Key highlights:

Here’s an on-air pairing that will probably never happen again after CNN’s New Year’s Eve telecast: Anderson Cooper and Kathy Griffin.

….The remark had been made as the channel was about to go to commercial, which it did right after, according to a recording of the incident widely available on YouTube.

“We recognize that the comment made by comedian Kathy Griffin during the live broadcast was inappropriate. She did not know she was on the air at the time, and we removed it from the rebroadcast,” said a CNN spokeswoman.

Griffin’s rant was edited out of a rebroadcast early Thursday morning.

CNN did not have a delay on the broadcast. But perhaps it should have, since Griffin is known for a blue act and even on TV has made controversial remarks. One live comment in accepting a 2007 Emmy for “D-List” offended some Christian groups.