Kathy Griffin Couldn’t Resist Messing With Penn Badgley on You

“You know me, I can’t resist the opportunity to mess with a hot guy.”

Guglielmino/Getty Images)

In a season filled with twists and turns at every corner, perhaps one of the biggest surprises of You comes when a cameo appearance is made by none other than comedic legend Kathy Griffin.

Sure, Joe Goldberg may be killing people left and right, but did you ever think that when season two of this series dropped on Netflix, you’d see Kathy Griffin playing, well, Kathy Griffin?

She’s had bit parts in the most eccentric places—offering to help Marsellus Wallace in Pulp Fiction, demanding the real Slim Shady please stand up in Eminem’s music video—but her appearance on You holds more significance for the comedian than one might initially suspect. Griffin, who has made few television and film appearances since her controversial 2017 joke photo (in which she held up a severed prop head created to look like Donald Trump), is essentially still blacklisted from Hollywood—yet here she was, playing herself, and delivering a eulogy in a cemetery for an obnoxiously skeevy comedian named Henderson (“Hendy,” for short) who was murdered by series antihero Goldberg.

Of course, the irreverent rabble-rouser couldn’t tell anyone she was going to appear on the second season of the dangerously addictive and astronomically popular Netflix series in a scene opposite Penn Badgley, lest she spoil the surprise, but very few seem to have reached out to the comic herself to find out why—and how—she made her role happen

Hi Kathy, how are you?

Well, Brooke, you have to guard this call very closely because if Penn Badgley hears that you are allowed to talk to me and he’s not—because Brooke, he’s so deeply in love with me. I hate to call myself a home-wrecker since I’m a senior newlywed, but he was so adorable. I also love reading all of the comments that are like, ‘OMG I want him to kill me too, he’s so hot.’

What do you think about people online thirsting over a serial killer?

As a longtime feminist, I just want to remind the young women of the world that it might sound fun to have Joe try to kill you because he’s hot, and I highly recommend that anyone would enjoy spending time with Penn Badgley, who, to my knowledge, has not killed anyone. Although that may hurt the ratings. [Laughs.] I think it’s hilarious. You have to realize, I’m coming off two-and-a-half years of, like, Trump robots saying, ‘Go back to ISIS.’ So it’s a joy for me to be reading gay guys and women just talking about how hot he is. I also like when all the comments are negotiating because they think that Joe is a real person. Some of of them are like, ‘He’s so hot, I don’t care if he kills me.’ Then, some are like, ‘He’s so hot that I would at least date him once, but I would see the red flags,’ and then you get some really twisted ones that are like, ‘He’s really hot so I’d like to see, like, a webcam of his relationship, but I wouldn’t want to be in it because he’d kill me.’ I’m just getting such a kick out of all the reactions. I guess it’s a consensus. If you have to be murdered by a boyfriend, I guess you’d want to be the ‘you’ in You.

How did you get cast in your role?

Oh, honey, I’m so glad you asked. Once again—I hate to keep going back to it, but it’s all people ask me about—ever since my Trump photo over two-and-a-half years ago, I’m still completely blacklisted. No TV network—and if you don’t believe me, you can call the head of every network and every agency, and I’m banned from CNN for life after I was fired for no good reason. But I got two Emmys, I got a Grammy, I’m in the Guinness Book of World Records for the most televised stand-up comedy specials of any comedian, female, living or dead. I was on magazine covers, and yet, as I say in my film, Kathy Griffin: A Hell of A Story,

now available in 62 countries—for which, by the way, I have not gotten a penny—but it is available on Amazon Prime, Vimeo on Demand, and Apple iTunes, it’s just an odd thing for me to have finished my tour and not get any work. I don’t even have an agent. So, I’m going to be honest. I started DM’ing on Twitter. I must have DM’d 20 showrunners.


Yeah. I’m not going to give you names, because people are allowed to make their own decisions, but I straight up DM’d Greg Berlanti and I just said, ‘Hi, this is the comedian, Kathy Griffin. I’ve been in the LGBT community for so long as an ally.’ I think I may have said something like, ‘I can’t believe if we’ve met or we haven’t. Congratulations on having the most television shows of anyone currently, what an amazing accomplishment.’ I just said, ‘Look, I’m going to come out and say it: I need you to give me five lines on anything.’ There are millions of people around the world [who] read Breitbart and Fox News and they’re all keeping the party going thinking that I broke the law or violated the First Amendment. My favorite is people who think I actually did decapitate Donald Trump. And yet, he survived it. I DM’d all of them, and two people responded, but Greg actually called me and was so sweet. It was so incredible and I want to give him this compliment. He called me up. He didn’t have to, he could’ve just said, ‘Alright, here’s a couple lines. Quit bitchin’.’ But he called me up and said, ‘You know, Kathy, you’ve been an ally for us for so many decades, I can’t remember when you weren’t an ally, and honestly, I’m the one who should be apologizing. I should’ve thought of this sooner.’ I said, ‘Well I’ve got to warn you, I’m blacklisted at Netflix and HBO and NBCUniversal.’ So, he mentioned You and I was like, ‘Oh my god, that would be incredible.’

Were you a fan of the show before?

I had watched every episode. Every minute. When he mentioned it I was like, ‘Homina, homina, homina!’ He said he would write a part that is small enough where it’s not going to raise flags with executives, and wouldn’t be such a big part that anyone would step in and say they’re not cool with it. I said, ‘Well, I appreciate that. I’d love if you wrote 10 episodes for me but I don’t think Netflix is gonna let it fly, so whatever you could do would be massive for the people who’ve grown up with me, whether it’s from my specials or Suddenly Susan or my MTV show or Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List, or my talk show or other people’s shows that I’ve been on.’ I just need some little thing to remind people that I’m still the Kathy you guys know, and I’m still hopefully funny and outrageous. This incident that I’ve been through is not fun and I don’t think anyone should be blacklisted, certainly not for making fun of the president, much less being investigated by the Secret Service and the U.S. Attorney’s Office. It just meant the world that he made that happen. He just sent me the lines and told me where to go.

So you showed up at Hollywood Forever Cemetery in Los Angeles to film the scene…

I’ll be honest, I’m still kind of on edge. There are still a lot of places where I don’t feel safe. I get confronted by people on the street, still, or in airports. But it was amazing. I walked onto the set at the Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Oh my god, I didn’t know that’s, like, the cool place where all the kids go and I guess they watch old-time movies there! Or they watch scary movies. I couldn’t tell anybody because it’s all about the spoilers, right? I only brought my assistant who also knew the show. I walk on the set—and I’m going to sound like an asshole, so I apologize—all these young actresses come up to me. And these actresses are no joke. That show is a fucking hard show. They work long hours and these are young people, and it’s single-camera. There was a female director, a female writer. The young actresses come up to me and have tears in their eyes, and I’m like, ‘Hi, I’m Kathy Griffin,’ and they’re like, ‘Ms. Griffin you’re so great!’ And I’m like, ‘Oh, you don’t think I’m in ISIS?’ And they were like, ‘No!’ As the day went on, it was just the opposite of what I’ve been experiencing for the last couple of years. It was the polar opposite. I got to take pictures with everybody and couldn’t release them until months later.

What was it like the first time you met Penn?

We were at the table read, and you know, I’m just so impressed by this team. Very female-driven, very young, everybody’s super talented and going to the table read giving it 100 percent, not phoning it in. Penn had been shooting already, and you know me, I can’t resist the opportunity to mess with a hot guy.

How’d you mess with this hot guy, then?

He was working so hard that he comes to the table read with his lunch. He’s cramming a lunch in because they’re doing two episodes at once or something crazy. He sits down at the table read, and—have you seen the whole thing?

Yes, every episode!

They let me improvise a little bit! Greg was like, ‘Let’s do a take as written and let’s do a couple where you get to improvise a little,’ and I was like, ‘That’s my dream come true!’ They left some of my stuff in and I was so flattered. Anyway, we’re at the table read and Penn is eating and reading, and he’s reading with his primary love interest. I’m kind of in my head, because they’re not going to reveal anything about season two to me at this point and I’m already thinking, ‘How did they move Joe to L.A.?’ And I didn’t know which episode it was, and when it comes time for my line, I say it, and Penn looks up and goes, ‘Oh my god!’ And I go, ‘I know, how the fuck did you get a legend like me on your shit show?’ He goes, ‘I don’t know!’ and got up and hugged me. He was such a sweetheart. He was a doll. We took fun, silly pictures. The whole cast was so wonderful and it was a great day and I loved hearing their stories and telling them my old-timey Hollywood stories and teasing them. I was blown away by everyone’s professionalism and talent. I just can’t thank Greg enough for being the one to hopefully break the door down a little bit and be like, ‘She’s harmless, she’s still the same Kathy that generates a lot of revenue.’

What was the significance of you being able to play yourself in this show?

The reason that was so significant is that it signaled to me that Greg was able to message, ‘I am not afraid of Kathy Griffin. I’m not going to cast her in this and some people will recognize her and some people will think it’s Reba.’ [Laughs.] I’m playing myself. I thought that was a cool way for him to go, ‘I’m Greg Berlanti, I’ve got more TV shows than anybody, and I’m putting my stamp of approval on Kathy Griffin for who she is.’ The other reaction [to the show] I love is all of these people wanting me to do their eulogies now. [Laughs.]

Have you ever given a eulogy before, in real life?

Oh, of course! Absolutely. I’m from a long line of Irish Catholic drunks, and we’re known for our wakes and our funerals being completely inappropriate, so you know, I know all the wrong things to say at weddings and funerals. [Laughs.] I’m your go-to!

The second season of You heavily satirizes L.A. culture. You’ve lived in L.A. for a long time and are close friends with some people who really embody contemporary L.A., like the Kardashians and Jenners for example. Which element of the satire did you find the most spot-on?

Oh my god, like three of the characters look like the Kardashians! First of all, I’m a loving and bitter Chicagoan. So even though I’ve technically lived in Los Angeles more than I’ve lived in Chicago, I still think of myself as a Chicagoan. The one good thing about L.A. is that L.A. as a city lets you make fun of it. I know I’m anthropomorphizing a city, but you know, I have a lot of experience with famous people and knowing which ones are okay with you and which ones aren’t. As a city, frankly, it’s kind of a perfect target. It’s a very spread-out city, we have our own kind of civic pride in Los Angeles, but it’s very different than Chicago or New York, or even Houston, or places like that, which have more centralized areas. I always tell my friends from Illinois, you don’t understand, Los Angeles and California are like a different planet if you’re not from here. I think it was really integral and smart of Greg to write so much of that into the season. Living in L.A. can really mess with your head, so I like how they integrated Joe being up to his old tricks, like, a nice walk on the beach isn’t going to solve any of his problems!

As a fan of the show, was there anything in this season that you were particularly shocked or surprised to see?

One moment at the table read that was really fun, because I was like, I don’t know if these kids know who I am, the one spoiler—and this is why I want a little bit of a prize because even I can keep a secret if I have to—I about fell out. I’m looking around at the cast and I’m like, wait a minute—I don’t see one character from last season. Then I see the freaking redhead! Candace! So I wait for my moment at the table read. I’m like the new kid, I need a few lines, I’m lucky to be there. The first time that actress speaks up and says her line, I stop the whole table read and go, ‘Wait a minute, you’re alive?!’ And we all laugh and I go, ‘Holy shit! How did you get back in the scene!’ They were all laughing and telling me they couldn’t say. [Laughs.] That was the moment where even I was on set going, ‘What?! Holy shit, I think that’s fucking Candace.’ And my mind was playing tricks on me. I’m walking around and thinking, ‘That can’t be her.’ It wasn’t until the table read when I see her name that I thought, I’ve got to shine a light on that. I don’t want to say I killed, because that’s what Joe does, but we comics also say, ‘I killed.’

Speaking of other comics—in the show, you play a comic giving a eulogy for another dead comic. Are there any up-and-coming performers that you enjoy or think could follow your irreverent spirit?

I’ve already discussed that Aubrey Plaza will be delivering my eulogy. If she wants, she can maybe have a little weed. She should be her Aubrey Plaza self. I don’t want it to be expected. I would not want it to be typical. There are many, many young comedians that I would be honored — but you should know, in the comedy world, we’re dark people. We are dark and unhealthy people. And it’s very common for comics to sit around and talk about shit like this. I’ve already pre-arranged this, I believe it’s in my living will and trust. Unless Aubrey’s on location, then I have a list of people that would be Plan B, I just don’t want to say it because they’re all sensitive. [Laughs.]

And speaking of the Kardashians, Kris Jenner and Kourtney Kardashian threw their annual Christmas Eve party, which you said on Instagram doubled as an engagement party for you and Randy Bick, unbeknownst to them, of course. Was your New Year’s wedding planned, or did you both just decide last-minute to call up Lily Tomlin and have her officiate the ceremony?

It was planned. I mean, it was both, in that we only reached out to Lily a month ago. We’re going to throw up the entire 13-minute ceremony on YouTube and my socials, and I’ll tell you why. I think for both Randy and I, there’s some obvious significance of New Year’s Eve, and having it be something really positive. We’d been dating for eight years and living together for three-and-a-half, so we’ve of course been discussing it on and off for years. Randy felt really strongly, too, about it being a new decade. We had been put through so much, I mean primarily the Trump photo but that sort of has tentacles as well. He’s really been my ride or die. When we started discussing getting married, he wanted New Year’s Eve, but technically New Year’s Day because he wanted the new decade. The fun parts were that I personally —oh god, I shouldn’t be saying this to your magazine, of all magazines, but I feel like it was so real. At one point in the video I have to leave because I was sweating so bad. Sweating like a whore in church. It’s all just adorable and funny and real. I’m kind of a big believer in, it’s okay to not have a million-dollar wedding. I just think that’s part and parcel of a lot of things that cause a lot of younger people anxiety. I don’t know about you, but I know a lot of my friends that have had a lot of angst and gone into debt for their weddings. I thought, you know what, it’s okay to have a small ceremony that’s as meaningful as you want it to be. I just wanted to put it out there in a way to go like, okay, I admit it. I have a big, fancy house in Bel Air. I worked hard for it. But it’s okay to do a wedding or do a union—obviously, I was an advocate for same sex marriage and the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell for decades—I just think sometimes people can get wrapped up in the fuss and the cost and the planning. You can never please everybody. I just think that’s great, and it’s also great to do something medium, and it’s also great to do something in your home with loved ones and puppies.

That sounds like such a sweet video.

Well, don’t watch it with Penn Badgley, he’s going to be sobbing! He’s only human, girl! Now, I’m off the market.

Well, I guess he is too, technically, right?

Honey, the way he looked at me, it was like [there was] no other woman in the world. I was his ‘You’ without the killing part. By the way, he’s going to be like, ‘Kathy who? Oh, I think I remember. She was a day player, right?’ [Laughs.]

Related: Penn Badgley Knows Viewers Like You‘s Murderous Joe More Than Gossip Girl‘s Dan Humphrey