Why Kathy Griffin says she can’t return to reality TV after scandal (Exclusive)

Kathy Griffin would seemingly love to be back on “the D-list,” or more accurately, My Life on the D-List.

“I can't get a television series, even though I have eight [Emmy] nominations and two wins,” the 57-year-old comedian tells ET. “And nobody will let me do a [stand-up] special at this time, even though I hold a Guinness World Book of Records for the most televised stand-up specials of any comedian, male or female, living or dead.”

The comedian produced and starred in six seasons Bravo’s Emmy-winning My Life on the D-List, as well as an astounding 18 stand-up comedy specials and a self-titled talk show for the network, from 2004 to 2013. But now, she says she can’t get Bravo or any network to pick up a new series or special, and it’s all due to that disturbing photo she took last year, holding a ketchup-covered Halloween mask resembling President Donald Trump. The photo shoot turned Griffin into the target of a months-long federal investigation and, she says, nearly ended her career.

“I was on the no-fly list,” she notes. “I was on the Interpol list. I was detained at every airport. All the stuff.”

“There were a couple of days -- I always say I was broken for two days,” she shares. “Like, you know, I famously said, 'He broke me.' For two days! Then I got up and started writing and working and plotting. And then I realized nobody had my back, so I was completely on my own.”

Griffin says her “backup plan” was to turn the reality TV cameras back on and document what she calls the “historic specter” of the aftermath of the photo and the Trump family’s public responses against her. Donald Trump Jr. famously went on Good Morning America and said, “To run and claim ‘victimhood?’ She deserves whatever’s coming to her.”

“While I was sort of in hiding and away, I was still writing,” Griffin recalls. “I was taking meetings at my house, and even that was a learning process.”

Griffin says she took meeting after meeting with female development executives from major networks and productions companies who all seemed keen on putting a project in the works, but when those executives went back to their male bosses, whom Griffin describes as “old white dinosaurs that have been telling me for 25 years that I'm too ugly, I'm too old,” she says the deals fell apart.

“I think it's important that women understand only men can decide what goes on the air now,” she claims. “While I think it's great that there's an African American woman [Channing Dungey] who is the head of development at ABC, trust me -- she had to get the OK [to cancel Roseanne] from [Walt Disney Company CEO] Bob Iger, and Bob Iger would never say, 'Oh, just do what you feel.'”

Griffin admits she has a lot of self-filmed footage from the last year, most of it “hard to watch,” but she’s not sure it will ever see the light of day.

“Nobody was interested,” she reiterates. “Nobody. Not one person. But I still feel like the docuseries could've been good because, obviously, I know how to do unscripted, and I know how to produce it. And I just love that Leah Remini show, Scientology and the Aftermath, and so I thought, Oh! She's figured out a way to take a serious topic and make it accessible for everybody. So, look, if that happens in the future? Anything can happen.”

For now, Griffin is laser-focused on her return to touring. She’ll perform for the first time in the U.S. in a year -- to a sold-out crowd -- later this month in San Francisco, kicking off the American leg of her Laugh Your Head Off world tour.

“I'm just so glad to be able to, at least, stand on stage,” she shares. “It's just so important to me that younger comics, younger LGBT folks, younger people of color, younger Hispanic folks, anyone … can look at this old bird and go, all right, she's still standing!”

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