In its second departure in as many weeks, E!'s Fashion Police has lost Kathy Griffin. The comedian announced Thursday on Twitter that she is leaving the show just seven episodes after stepping into Joan Rivers' role — for a great reason.
As the 54-year-old self-described "freedom-loving female and gay rights activist" tweeted, "There is plenty to make fun of in pop culture without bringing people's bodies into it. ... I do not want to use my comedy to contribute to a culture of unattainable perfectionism and intolerance towards difference."
The media's body-shaming fetish: Fashion Police is infamous for "ruthlessly" body-shaming celebrities when they stray a hair shy of perfection. It is this outdated cult of perfectionism — which Griffin refers to as the "creative direction of the show" — that she no longer wants to contribute to.
Griffin elaborated on her intentions for joining the show in an interview with the Chicago Sun-Times' Splash magazine: "My goal would be to bring the comedic sensibility of any show I enter or take over into a more modern way of thinking ... and laughing. The show wanted to do a running segment called 'Whore Score.' Um, no thanks. I think we can do better."
Comedy is all about context: Griffin is no stranger to controversial or politically incorrect comedy. She understands the potential for accusations of hypocrisy, telling Splash, "Look, God knows my — how shall I say — repertoire over all these years on TV and live touring has used some language I wouldn't use today, but people just aren't into that stuff anymore, and I get it."
Times are certainly changing, and the humor that flew in Rivers' era often no longer lands today. As Emily Nussbaum wrote in her New Yorker profile of Griffin's predecessor on the show, "For many decades jokes about female bodies were Rivers' specialty." Rivers was, according to Nussbaum, "a survivor of a sexist era: a victim, a rebel and, finally, an enforcer."
In stepping away from Fashion Police, Griffin is breaking with that legacy. But the larger point of Griffin's tweet is that context makes — or breaks — comedy. "My brand of humor, while unrepentant and unafraid, is all about CONTEXT," she stressed.
Indeed, a comedian is defined by her ability to craft a joke devised by her knowledge of culture (in order to poke fun at it), her faculty of language, her knowledge and awareness of her current audience and her performative style of delivery.
"Name-calling and alliteration with no comedic context," Griffin says, "is simply the lowest hanging fruit."
And, frankly, it's just not funny.
It's one thing to satirize and lampoon clothing, it's a whole other thing to insult and body-shame people. By calling out the media's snarky sexism toward women's bodies and relinquishing a job made famous by one of her idols, Griffin is putting her feminism, and respect for other human beings, first.
Correction: March 13, 2015