Kathy Griffin Speaks Out On The Wage Gap In Comedy

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"I can’t even remember a time when I wasn’t in a situation where my male counterparts didn’t make more money than I did." Those are some powerful words to absorb, from one of the most powerful women in the world of comedy, Kathy Griffin.

In a candid and bracing conversation with Variety, Griffin didn't hold back from addressing the massive wage gap between her and the men in her field. In case being a woman in comedy didn't already appear tough enough (it seems that funny women everywhere still face skepticism as to whether they can, in fact, be funny), there's also the enormous disparity in pay to consider.

For example, when Griffin was recently asked to be a presenter when Eddie Murphy received his Mark Twain Prize, not only was she the only woman in the room, she noticed one other glaring thing. "I was surrounded by Chris Rock (makes more money than me), Dave Chappelle (makes more money than me) and George Lopez (makes more money than me)."

Griffin notes that just because women like Amy Schumer are making great strides, the struggle is hardly over for all women in comedy. "If you’re a woman and you think your agency is going to have your back, think again," Griffin said bluntly."I’ve never been in a situation where I had a Lorne Michaels or a Judd Apatow have my back. Or a studio. Or a network. I’ve been doing this shit on my own forever. And I’m 55. I’ve never been paid what the guys get. No, it’s not getting better for me. It might be getting better for Jennifer Lawrence. But I’m not 25 and a movie star."

In fact, Griffin said she's struggled for equality throughout the entirety of her decades-spanning career. As she told Variety, "I'm someone who has been very open about asking for raises and trying to get equal pay. You’re just simply told, 'No.' It’s brutal. I guess I became aware of it on my first paid job. When I was on a sitcom in the ’90s, Suddenly Susan, I made the second-lowest salary on the cast. Judd Nelson, who I liked, made four times what I made, and he ended up getting fired. And I went on to get two Emmys, a Grammy, three television shows with my name in the title, and a New York Times best-seller."

While Griffin said that she loves what she does and has a "work ethic that’s bordering on unhealthy," it's still discouraging, if not horribly unsurprising to see how much B.S. a successful, talented, and hard-working woman has to put up with in Hollywood. Griffin recalls having to more or less knock down the door of the head of Warner Bros. TV in the '90s to get the pay she deserved — and when she did get a raise, it was still less than her male co-stars. (She faced similar pushback in trying to get a well-earned raise for her work on the series My Life on the D List, and was ultimately denied one.)

Griffin, like Joan Rivers before her, prides herself on being a self-made celebrity who has toured and worked relentlessly. Yet despite having legions of devoted fans, she still has to struggle to get what's rightfully hers. (Speaking of Rivers, Griffin also pointed out, "I’m very aware there hasn’t been a female on network late-night since Joan Rivers in 1987. All those network executives can say they believe in equality all they want. Look at your fucking DVR.")

What's unfortunate about this is that Griffin's incredible, eye-opening confessions may cause her even more trouble in the end. As she aptly put it to Variety, "I think it’s part of the male industrial complex to keep women quiet about what their salaries are. If the guys make more, I guarantee you they are told to shut up and not tell the girls... When you’re me, this isn’t a comedy situation. But I still have to do it with a wink and my tongue in my cheek. If I go there as a ballsy chick, it turns guys off."

Of course, Griffin has more than enough leverage to get what she has worked hard for after all these years. ("If I’m trying to get equal pay, I take my fucking awards and accomplishments, and I bring them to the table.") But the fact that she has to show off her accolades, and plead for equal pay in the press proves that Hollywood still has a lot of catching up to do — and a lot of wrongs that need to be righted.

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