Chelsea Handler Is a Work Force
With a Netflix stand-up special, a Daily Show guest-hosting gig and an upcoming live show, Chelsea Handler is keeping busy.
Fear of Covid didn't slow Chelsea Handler down one lick. "I was safe, but I wasn't paranoid," she says. "I just kind of hopscotched around the country." The most important destination was Nashville, where she shot her Netflix special Revolution.
In the seventy-five-minute show, Handler shares the joys of being childless and single (especially during quarantine), the difficulties of raising rescue dogs, the desperate notion of adult-onset incestuous lesbianism and the audacity of a sibling contemplating his legacy right in front of her.
"Your legacy is that you're my fucking brother!" she says in the show.
Such observations are the kind of edgy but relatable material upon which Handler has built her career. "After the last few years, I wanted to go back to my original self. I wanted to leave out all the divisiveness and the politics and just give people something to laugh their asses off about."
She achieves that goal by being brutally honest. "I'm totally forthcoming about my experiences. The reason why I have fans at all is because I'm delivering up whatever I'm going through," she says.
Nothing is off-limits — not one-night stands, not Ayahuasca, not "farm-to-table gynecology" (whatever that is), not the time she tried to swallow a pill meant to be inserted somewhere else and not her former relationships. Asked about scrutiny of her recent breakup with comedian Jo Koy, she says, "I mean, I deserve it."
Handler admits there is one demographic she sometimes has trouble reaching. "For the most part, straight white men are dragged there by their daughters or wives or girlfriends," she says. "They're getting a lesson to listen up."
Earlier this year Handler got plenty of people to listen up when she guest-hosted Comedy Central's The Daily Show — and has been transparent about wanting the permanent gig. "I'm in the mood to work," she says. (Her Netflix talk show, Chelsea, ended in 2017.)
Now she's touring a new live show. "It's called Little Big Bitch, and it's about my childhood adventures and the fact that when I was three, I was thirty," she says. The youngest of six — and strongwilled from the get-go — Handler brags about her babysitting skills. "I was putting a fourteen-year-old in timeouts when I was ten."
Her most telling memory, though, was when she flew for the first time and realized coach just wasn't for her. Handler saved enough money to buy a first-class ticket the next time. "When I boarded that plane at thirteen with my mother and my two brothers, I saw my seat and said, 'This is me. See you bitches at the end of the flight.' I had a mouth on me from the moment I could talk."
The interview for this story was completed before the start of the WGA strike on May 2.
This article originally appeared in emmy magazine issue #5, 2023.