Chelsea Handler is a master of dry wit and stone faced sarcasm. She will toss out a humorous quip, disguise it as truth, and wait for you to laugh before fessing up to the joke. She doesn’t waver or beg forgiveness for her remarks because she doesn’t have to. Chelsea segues through comedic bits with the confidence of knowing who she really is, and therefore, not particularly caring if you do.
Who she is, is a highly spirited, yet good hearted Jewish girl from suburban New Jersey who moved to Los Angeles for a little adventure and the vague hope of a show business career. She got both in spades!
Fans of the E! Network first got a glimpse of Chelsea Handler on E!’s “101 series” (think “101 Worst Celebrity Breakups” or “101 Best Celebrity Makeovers”) where she always offered the most deliciously ironic comments on every celebrity scandal she was asked to give her opinion on. And when you ask Chelsea Handler’s opinion, take a deep breathe, because nine times out of ten you’ll be knocked off balance.
Now with her late night talk show, Chelsea Lately, Chelsea Handler is in top form combining her talents for improvisation, orchestrated politically incorrect comedic bits and telling the truth like no one else can.
PR.com (Allison Kugel): I was just watching your online series, In The Motherhood, with Jenny McCarthy and Leah Remini on MSN.com. I happened to come across it and I watched three episodes back to back. They were hilarious! How did that online series come to be?
Chelsea Handler: I did the first season last year. Leah [Remini] had called and asked me if I wanted to play a mother with her, and I said “of course.” It was really fun and this year they got Jenny McCarthy to add to the cast. We’ve been having a blast, the three of us. It’s really easy work. I just cut out a couple weekends and do it. It’s really good for young moms, or any mother in general.
PR.com: What do you think about motherhood from doing this show?
Chelsea Handler: Uh… I think my tubes tied themselves.
PR.com: (Laughs) Yeah it’s a little frightening.
Chelsea Handler: I don’t think I’m having any babies.
PR.com: On your E! show, Chelsea Lately, how far in advance do you film each episode? Do you shoot each evening’s show that afternoon?
Chelsea Handler: Yeah, we shoot every day at around 3:30 and then it airs at night.
PR.com: Are you relieved that the writer’s strike is over?
Chelsea Handler: Our show was not affected by the strike because it’s a non-union show, so we were fine. But yeah, of course I’m very glad the strike is over for all those people who now have a job again.
PR.com: When it comes to talk shows like yours, or any late night talk show, why do writers play such an important part when there’s a comedian there? For instance with you, you’re a comedienne so if you’re used to doing your own material wouldn’t a talk show be the best place to write and perform your own material?
Chelsea Handler: Our show is set up a little differently then those shows because it is more improvisational on my part. In an interview, obviously you don’t know what somebody’s going to say, and in a roundtable [discussion] there are other people involved, so it’s not just me. It’s more of a producer/writing job. We all come together in the morning and talk about what topics we want to talk about; who got a DUI, who got arrested, who did this or that and if it’s worth talking about. If it’s somebody who’s going into rehab for the very first time, I don’t really feel like that’s something to be made fun of. If they’re going in for the third time, then absolutely, let’s start making fun of them! That’s kind of our policy. So it’s not like so much is written in the room. It’s more idea based. I think the field pieces that we do are probably more brainstormed and have more writing involved; if Chuy and I want to go trampolining or skydiving. And since it’s such a short, fast show it is more me just coming up with stuff on my own. I think those shows (referring to The Tonight Show with Jay Leno and that genre) are different because their monologues are so long. That does take a lot of people to fill up that kind of space.
PR.com: Where did you find Chuy? He’s not exactly your conventional looking talk show sidekick.
Chelsea Handler: ChocolateSingles.com.
PR.com: Are you serious? (Duh! I’ve never been very good with sarcasm.)
Chelsea Handler: No (laughs).
PR.com: Because you mentioned that website in your first book…
Chelsea Handler: I know. It’s one of my favorite things to mention. No, on my first show I was hiring an assistant and I said, “Get me a little person,” ‘cause I love little people. So they brought him in for a series of interviews with a bunch of other people, to be potential assistants. I just loved him, obviously. I hired him on the spot. Especially after I found out that he couldn’t add or spell. That’s usually something I’m looking for in an assistant.
PR.com: What’s your fetish for little people?
Chelsea Handler: I just think they’re cute. I like the fat ones though, not the skinny ones. I just think they’re like little oompa loompas. I love them.
PR.com: Is Chuy in on the joke that, that’s part of what makes it so funny that he’s your sidekick?
Chelsea Handler: Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah! He gets it. He gets it when I molest him everyday.
PR.com: Let’s talk about tabloid journalism. I know that you, just like I do, you always have to read the tabloids to see what’s going on for your show. I do buy US Weekly, but it’s starting to bug me a little bit, especially now that things are so out of hand with sites like TMZ.com. What do you think of the ethics of the paparazzi and of tabloid journalism?
Chelsea Handler: I think it’s pretty bad. It’s kind of disgusting. But, the only way that I can do my show and have a sense of humor about it is the fact that we’re making fun of everything that everyone is taking so seriously. If we can’t laugh at ourselves for the attention that’s paid to celebrities and what’s going on everyday, then we’re really in a sad state of affairs. If you walk down the supermarket isle there’s like fifteen magazines you could buy, and it’s gross. It’s such mind pollution. I think that’s what the biggest thing was when I started doing the show. They said, “We want a show that’s five nights a week. We want it timely so that it’s all the entertainment news.” I said I would be happy to do that only if I could make fun of everything that we care so much about. Because it’s so stupid! And they were like, “Absolutely. That’s a great take on it.” There’s so many shows you turn on and they are seriously reporting that Lindsay Lohan shaved her legs.
PR.com: No one has ever made this connection and I don’t know what you’ll think about this, but it wasn’t lost on me that tabloid culture grew ten fold after 9/11.
Chelsea Handler: Absolutely.
PR.com: I’m wondering if maybe it’s some sort of escapism that everyone was craving afterwards. Before 9/11 we always had Star Magazine and The Enquirer. Then post 9/11, US Weekly changed into a tabloid and then all of these other ones starting popping up and things just got way out of control. I think there’s a connection there.
Chelsea Handler: I’ve heard something like that before and I think that’s absolutely right. When you have that kind of national tragedy people want to bury their head in the sand. They don’t want to think about it. There’s only so much you can take. It’s like the elections. How much can you listen to? There’s so much red tape and it goes on and on forever. [9/11] was so devastating and you want to turn around and watch a cartoon. You want to be like, “Ok, I need to laugh! I need to think of something that’s light.” I totally understand that and I’m sure that it’s directly connected to why it’s gotten so out of hand.
PR.com: For mental and emotional health, comedy is pretty important, because think about a world if we didn’t have that outlet.
Chelsea Handler: I like to laugh. I love going to work everyday and making fun of stupid situations, so that brings me joy. The people that have a sense of humor about themselves are always the people that you don’t go after. So it’s an interesting dynamic.
PR.com: What happened with the format of your original show on E!, The Chelsea Handler Show? How did that morph into Chelsea Lately?
Chelsea Lately: [The E! Network] wanted elements of that show, but they wanted something we could give entertainment news on, and something that would be a comedy show where we would be talking about stuff that was [current day]. With that show it was so many field segments that it was impossible to do on a daily basis. So we kept the parts of that show that I liked, and then made it into something that was a daily show. This show is much easier to do and much more fast paced.
PR.com: Is Chelsea Lately also much more, creatively, what you wanted to do?
Chelsea Handler: I had a really good time doing the other show, but this show is much more me, and I get to be myself.
PR.com: What made you decide to be so open about your life in your first book ("My Horizontal Life")? I read it last night and it was hysterical, but I couldn’t believe how candid you chose to be. Why did you decide to put everything out there… your sex life, drinking and even using drugs?
Chelsea Handler: Because I just feel like it’s not such a big deal once you kind of bury the lead. I think it’s important just to be honest about who you are. It’s better than being dishonest. There are so many girls that lie and say, “I would never do this or that. I would never sleep with a guy on the first date.” Then you find out they slept with an entire baseball team. Just be honest! It’s not that big of a deal. It’s just sex and having fun in your twenties. I wrote it because I was kind of sick of people always pretending they don’t do this, or they don’t do that. I’m sure there’s plenty of girls who are far from how I am in the book, and how I was in my twenties, but I think if you have a sense of humor about yourself it’s much more endearing and engaging then somebody who doesn’t. I just put it all out there and hoped for the best.
PR.com: Well, there are no skeletons in your closet anymore!
Chelsea Handler: Yeah. Nobody can ever say to me, “You didn’t tell me that.” Uh… yeah I did.
PR.com: (Laughs) What’s your love affair with vodka? Your second book is called Are You There Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea. School me on what’s so great about vodka, because every cocktail you mention in your first book had vodka in it…
Chelsea Handler: I just love it. We have a very, very good relationship. He’s never let me down and I’ve never let him down. It doesn’t make you sick. I had some bad experiences with different alcohols when I was younger. And it’s just a nice smooth drink. I don’t like beer, it’s too heavy. And [vodka] has the least amount of sugar, so it’s also a healthy treat (laughs).
PR.com: Good sales pitch. You know how you talk in your first book about not trusting people who don’t drink? Well that’s me (laughs). I’m a teetotaler. I don’t like alcohol. I don’t like the taste of it, and it just doesn’t do it for me.
Chelsea Handler: I hate the taste of non-alcoholic stuff. And I don’t get when people drink non-alcoholic beer. Why would you drink non-alcoholic beer? What’s the point? Alcohol is definitely an acquired taste, but if you’re gonna drink it, you’re drinking it for a reason (laughs). I do like the taste of vodka, but it did take awhile. I didn’t like it right away.
PR.com: By the way, you’re probably the only person in history who has used drugs with her gynecologist (Chelsea’s first book, “My Horizontal Life” chronicles this little anecdote).
Chelsea Handler: Uh yeah, probably. That sounds about right. But once you write a book like that, you find out that you’re not the only person who’s done a lot of things! A lot of people come out of the closet and go, “Oh My Gosh! I did the exact same thing.”
PR.com: Did you get some crazy emails or some crazy fan mail after that book came out?
Chelsea Handler: Oh yeah, I still do. And people come up to me all the time and go, “I read your book and I did the same thing. You have to hear my story. Mine’s even crazier than yours!”
PR.com: Because you’re so candid on your show and you’ll just tell it like it is, do you have any celebrities who are pissed off at you? Have you heard second hand that someone wants to kick your ass?
Chelsea Handler: Sometimes publicists call and say, “She made fun of our client.” And it’s like, yeah, that’s what happens. Larry Birkhead (the father of Anna Nicole Smith’s daughter, Dannielynn) called our offices and said he demanded an apology because we made fun of Dannielynn. I’m like, “No, we didn’t make fun of Dannielynn. We made fun of you for being a ridiculous parent and parading her around.” That’s a big difference. Then I announced it on the show. So hopefully we won’t hear from him again.
Chelsea Handler: I try very hard not to be just outright mean. Sometimes I’m sure that I am. If I’m making fun of Lance Armstrong for having one unit, I can’t be the first person doing it, so I can’t see how he can get really upset about it.
PR.com: Who do you think deserves to be a target?
Chelsea Handler: Paris, Lindsay, Britney… although now with Britney the story is getting kind of sad. You don’t want to even bother anymore, because you hope she gets better. Lindsay’s pretty stupid, Paris also. Paris is always saying something that you have to talk about because she sounds like such an idiot. I love the Eddie Murphy story, with his wife, because it was just such a juicy story. You can tell that there are so many skeletons in his closet.
PR.com: What’s going on with your relationship with Ted Harbert (the CEO of the E! Network) and when did you guys start dating?
Chelsea Handler: Hmmm… is today Valentine’s Day? I've got to go get a card or something. We started dating a year and a half ago. He’s actually better with dates then I am. We live together and we’re good. We’ll probably be dating for a long time. I can’t really date anybody else, because he’s really sweet and he does a lot for me. I don’t know who else is going to be that nice to me.
PR.com: How did he approach you, since you were already working at E!?
Chelsea Handler: We knew each other from the show. I didn’t know him very well but he would come around. He was the president of the network, so you don’t really know him that well. You’re just like, “Oh, here comes the president. Try not to say anything wrong.” At our last wrap party for the first show he was like, “Do you want to go for a drink sometime?” And I’m like, “With who?” and he goes, “With me!” I was like, ok he’s flirting with me. Then, I probably laughed because I got very nervous and acted like a third grader. But, we did end up going for a drink and I think we’ve probably been drinking together ever since (laughs).
PR.com: Are people intimidated by you at the E! offices, because they know you’re the boss’s girlfriend?
Chelsea Handler: I don’t work there luckily, so who knows what they think. I’m sure some people hate that, but, whatever. I don’t really concern myself with that. That’s totally not who I am or how I would ever behave.
PR.com: What do you think is up with the phenomenon of people who are famous for being famous?
Chelsea Handler: It’s pretty gross. It’s kind of like a double edged sword. If you look at Paris Hilton, she’s famous for being famous, but then she’s trying to prove to us that she does other things, which she can’t do. The movie sucks, the perfumes are awful, her shoe business is stupid. It’s like, ok why don’t you just go back to being famous for nothing. But, then people are going to attack her for not doing anything. People who don’t want to be famous are much more interesting. I find those people much more compelling and much more dynamic.
PR.com: Tell me about the new book that you have coming out, Are You There Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea…
Chelsea Handler: It’s all a bunch of true stories from my childhood. There’s a lot more about my childhood, and a lot more about my family then the first book. And there’s not really any one night stands. There’s a couple dating stories that are pretty funny. There’s one about dating a redhead, which obviously you shouldn’t be doing unless you don’t get nauseous when you see a mound of red public hair. There’s another story about me opening up my own babysitting ring when I was twelve. My parents didn’t have any money saved for me for college because I was the youngest of six, so I decided to open up my own babysitting ring when I was twelve. I ended up babysitting for kids that were fourteen and fifteen.
Chelsea Lately airs weeknights on the E! Network. Check www.eonline.com/on/shows/chelsea for times.
“Are You There Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea” is available April 22, 2008 through www.simonsays.com/content/destination.cfm?tab=3&pid=585007