By Geoff Boucher
Updated January 01, 2013 at 09:16 PM EST

How low can she go? That was the question for CNN viewers early Tuesday morning as they watched comedian Kathy Griffin drop to her knees and plant a smooch on Anderson Cooper’s pants zipper during the live New Year’s Eve broadcast from Times Square in New York.

CNN has made a New Year’s Eve tradition of matching the bottled-up Cooper with the uncorked Griffin, who is essentially an imported disaster to keep things interesting for the breaking news pro. Griffin stripped down to her bra during last year’s broadcast, for instance, a searing memory that had Cooper twitching with anxiety as soon as this year’s edition began at 10 pm on Monday. “I’m sweating already,” admitted the man who has covered atrocities in Rwanda, bedlam in Lebanon and calamity in Louisiana. Griffin didn’t calm him with her response, which hinted at her future target: “I’m going to tickle your sac.” Shortly after midnight, Griffin casually lowered herself to Cooper’s crotch and delivered a kiss that was audible to the television audience.

To add a touch of the surreal to the seamy stunt, Griffin’s maneuver was apparently inspired by a report by a CNN correspondent in Eastport, Maine, who was explaining with a weird gusto the briny local tradition of kissing a giant sardine on the final night of the year.

With all the chum in the water, Griffin wasn’t about to let her victim off the hook and the broadcast devolved into a strange dance in confined quarters – it was like Life of Pi but this tiger was wearing lipstick. “You’re scaring me,” Cooper said in a flat voice of a victim who can’t process the horror in front of them. He added: “This is getting to be the night bad things happen.” That may be the perfect soundbite to promote next year’s broadcast or, come to think of it, an efficient catchphrase for any holiday with spiked punch.

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