Beverly Hills, CA (October 17, 2019) – PEN America announced today that award-winning comedian, writer, and television personality Kathy Griffin, award-winning actress, author, and singer Chrissy Metz, and award-winning actress Susan Kelechi Watson will join the star-studded line-up of PEN America’s 2019 LitFest Gala.  Griffin will be on hand to present attorney Theodore J. Boutrous, Jr. with the PEN America Distinguished Leadership Award, while Metz will honor her friend and collaborator Diane Warren with the Artistic Expression Award.  Metz and Warren will also perform their hit song “I’m Standing With You” from Metz’s recent film Breakthrough.  Watson will present the Award for Screenplay Excellence to “A Beautiful Day In The Neighborhood” writers Micah Fitzerman-Blue and Noah Harpster.

As previously announced, filmmaker Ava DuVernay will receive the Voice of Influence Award and the writing and creative team behind Netflix’s series “Unbelievable” –Showrunner/Writer/Director/Executive Producer Susannah Grant, Writer/Executive Producer Michael Chabon, Writer/Executive Producer Ayelet Waldman, and Executive Producer Sarah Timberman (on behalf of Timberman-Beverly Productions) – will receive the Award for Television ExcellenceLeVar Burton will deliver a tribute to the legendary Toni Morrison at the ceremony, which will take place on November 1, 2019, at the Beverly Wilshire.

PEN America also announced the 2019 Literary Hosts, an extraordinary group of writers, poets, and journalists, including Neel Patel, Charles Yu, Lynne Thompson, Alex Espinoza, Julissa Arce, Edan Lepucki, Michelle Tea, Susan Straight, Jean Guerrero, Kim Masters, Stephanie Danler, Randa Jarrar, Larissa FastHorse, Nina Revoyr, Robin Coste Lewis, and PEN America President Jennifer Egan.

“We could not be more excited to have Kathy Griffin and Chrissy Metz joining our LitFest Gala lineup this year. These incredible women have both used their voices to fight for causes they believe in, and we are honored to have them with us to help recognize the work of Ted and Diane, and to add some humor and music to the ceremony,” said Michelle Franke, executive director of PEN America’s Los Angeles office. “And, as always, we could not present the LitFest Gala without support from our incredible Literary Hosts. These writers and journalists have helped to shape PEN America into the organization that it is today.”

Now in its 29th year, PEN America’s LitFest Gala is a celebration of free expression and the literary arts. Featuring impassioned tributes, conversation, and levity, the event brings together an esteemed audience of authors, screenwriters, producers, showrunners, executives, philanthropists, actors, and devotees of the written word who share a commitment to defending creative freedom and expression in Los Angeles and around the world. Money raised from the Gala fuels advocacy for writers, journalists, and artists threatened or imprisoned worldwide; landmark research addressing critical free speech issues; and the advancement of literary excellence and cross-cultural exchanges, including the World Voices Festival of International Literature, PEN America’s Literary Awards, and fellowship and grants programs. Recently honored luminaries and participants include Ai Weiwei, Marti Noxon & Gillian Flynn, Barry Jenkins, Roxane Gay, Isabel Allende, Jose Antonio Vargas, Margaret Atwood, Janet Mock, Norman Lear, Guillermo del Toro, Amber Tamblyn, Aisha Tyler, Amy Poehler, and Cecile Richards.

Kathy Griffin is a two-time Emmy and Grammy award-winning comedian, and a towering figure on television, on tour, and in publishing.  She is known globally for her universally recognized brand of “pull no punches” comedy.  In 2019, Kathy completed her “Laugh Your Head Off” World Tour, which featured sold-out performances across the globe including North America, Europe, Australia, and Singapore.  This worldwide exposure led to her first docu-comedy feature film, Kathy Griffin: A Hell of a Story, which debuted in over 700 theaters nationwide on July 31, 2019.  The film has been featured in numerous film festivals, receiving critical acclaim.  A Hell of a Story is now available for digital download on Apple, Amazon, and wherever movies are sold around the world.

Kathy’s unrivaled style of humor and prolific comedy pedigree makes her one of television’s go-to hosts for premier live events. Kathy drew huge worldwide audiences to CNN’s New Year’s Eve special, which she co-produced and co-hosted with Anderson Cooper for 10 years.  Kathy co-hosted The Billboard Music Awards LIVE three years in a row, the 41st annual Daytime Emmy Awards LIVE, and AARP’s Movies for Grownups Gala. Griffin’s sure-fire hosting success led to her own live late-night talk show, Kathy.  Griffin won two Primetime Emmy Awards for her hit reality series, Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List, which aired for six years on Bravo. It was nominated every single year of its run. The show also won the GLAAD Media Award for Best Reality Program.

Griffin’s influence can also be found in publishing. Her boisterous and revealing memoir, Official Book Club Selection: A Memoir According to Kathy Griffin, debuted at #1 on the New York Times Best Seller list. Griffin’s much-anticipated second book, Kathy Griffin’s Celebrity Run-Ins: My A-Z Index, was also a New York Times Best Seller. Griffin has been prominently featured on the covers of The Hollywood Reporter, Adweek, and The Advocate, as well as in-depth profiles in Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, New York Magazine and Forbes.

In addition to performing, writing, and producing, Ms. Griffin is a renowned speaker and has taken her empowering messages of equality through activism and humor all over the country. Ms. Griffin’s passionate advocacy for women, the LGBT community, and other disenfranchised groups have been displayed through numerous candid and intimate conversations with award-winning journalists and moderators from the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, the Hudson Union Society, 92Y, Oxford Union, as well as tech giants Google, AOL, Yahoo! and Buzzfeed.

From penning The New York Times best-selling books to filling the country’s biggest concert halls on her comedy tours, Griffin has cemented herself as one of the most powerful figures in comedy and a warrior for the First Amendment. Unfiltered, unafraid, and utterly hilarious, she is a must-see for any stand-up comedy fan.

Emmy and two-time Golden Globe nominee Chrissy Metz stars on the award-winning NBC series This Is Us, winner of the 2018 and 2019 SAG Award for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series and People’s Choice Award for “Favorite New TV Drama.”  Chrissy recently starred as Joyce Smith in the hit 20th Century Fox faith-based film, BREAKTHROUGH. She also performs “I’m Standing With You” on the Breakthrough soundtrack, written by 10-time Academy Award nominee Diane Warren. Chrissy performed this song at the 2019 ACM Awards. Chrissy is currently working on her debut country album.
 
Chrissy recently released her memoir, THIS IS ME, which debuted at #1 on The New York Times Bestseller List. People magazine named her to its “Ones to Watch” and “50 Most Beautiful” lists.

Susan Kelechi Watson stars as Beth Pearson in the critically acclaimed NBC drama “This Is Us,” which has earned Emmy Award nominations in 2017 and 2018 for Outstanding Drama Series.  Watson was also nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for the 2018 NAACP Image Awards, and she earned consecutive Screen Actors Guild Awards for Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series in 2018 and 2019.  The series was selected as one of AFI’s 10 Best Television Programs of 2016, 2017 and 2018.

She has appeared in numerous television series including a recurring role in three seasons of HBO’s “Louie” as the title character’s ex-wife Janet, as well as NBC’s “The Blacklist” and HBO’s “Divorce.” Watson’s film credits include period drama Peter and John, starring Jacqueline Bisset, and the indie Small, Beautifully Moving Parts. Susan served as executive producer of Rashaad Ernesto Green’s film Premature, which premiered at Sundance in January.

She currently serves on the board of Drama Club, an organization that uses theater to mentor incarcerated youths in New York City. Started in 2013, Drama Club’s mission is to provide theater and positive mentor relationships to youth throughout each step of their journey through the criminal justice system. Watson is also a proud Epic NEXT youth development mentor with the Epic Theatre Ensemble, a professional theater company with a mission to promote vital civic discourse and social change through drama. She co-created and continues to lead Epic NEXT’s Annual New Play Festival that showcases original plays about social justice issues as written, directed, and performed by Epic NEXT students.

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 PEN America stands at the intersection of literature and human rights to protect open expression in the United States and worldwide. Its mission is to unite writers and their allies to celebrate creative expression and defend the liberties that make it possible.

 For more information on the PEN America’s 2019 LitFest Gala, please visit https://pen.org/litfest-gala/

CONTACTS:
Elyse Weissman
SLATE PR
elyse@slate-pr.com

Stephen Fee
PEN America, Director of Communications
sfee@pen.org

Tracey Kardash
PEN America, Deputy Director of Development
tkardash@pen.org