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Chelsea Handler talks late night legacy, Boston show, and more

Posted by Matthew Juul  February 27, 2014 01:18 PM

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Comedian Chelsea Handler has become a household name during the past few years because of her wildly successful late-night talk show, "Chelsea Lately." The E! network star, who will perform at the Wang Theatre on March 7, spoke by phone with recently about her upcoming performance, as well as her career in comedy. Check out what Handler had to say about women in comedy, her new book, and more. I was watching a Youtube clip of you from 2001 where you were ripping on romantic films. Iím guessing you didnít spend your Valentineís Day watching a sappy love movie?

Chelsea Handler: No. I went to Belize for Valentineís Day with a lover and had a lot of sex. Thatís what I did this Valentineís Day. So I was a sappy romantic. Well, it wasnít that romantic Ė it was just a lot of sex. Well you also had Billy Ray Cyrus serenade you on your Valentineís Day episode of ďChelsea Lately.Ē How was that?

Handler: Yeah, well thatís as close as I want him to get to me. Is there anything more absurd than his remix to ďAchy Breaky Heart?Ē

Handler: No, no. And I saw him in Mileyís behind-the-scene, like unplugged that she did with Madonna, and I met him and he came over and was like, ďYou know what I would love? I would love to come on your show and sing my new remix. Itís the 20th anniversary of ĎAchy Breaky Heart.íĒ And Iím like, well then do it! Are you kidding? I would love that, too! The only person who could trump that is David Hasselhoff, and heís already sang to me once. Speaking of stars, your show is known for poking fun at anyone and everyone in the entertainment industry. What are your thoughts on peopleís obsession with celebrities?

Handler: Well, I mean, itís fun to kind of watch people deconstruct a little bit, I guess. If youíre watching reality shows all day long, or youíre reading gossip magazines all day long, it gets really boring. And like anything else, if you over do it and youíre too interested, it can get really boring. Like I was really interested in Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes splitting up, and after two weeks Iím like, I really donít care or give a [expletive] what the hell happened. A lot of celebrities seem to always be making headlines for doing something questionable or stupid. Do you think this is intentional for some stars?

Handler: I donít think people are intentionally trying to be made fun of. I think most people are like a lot of these people on television and are really stupid. So, things that they say are caught on camera so theyíre providing fodder without really realizing it. Theyíre just having their own personalities, which happen to be really, really dumb. Now that you have become a star in your own right, do you sympathize with these celebrities at all?

Handler: Yeah, but I mean, you know, if youíre getting into this business, itís because you want to be recognized for whatever youíre doing. So, to a certain degree obviously, you like the attention or want the attention. Courting the attention and getting the attention are two very different things. There are people who set up photo opportunities for themselves and then there are people that get constantly followed by the paparazzi. Itís kind of tricky. Luckily, I donít because I have no secrets. Everything I say in my show is kind of real. My personal life is out there. Iím not hiding anything. Everyone knows I like to party. Everybody knows everything that I do. So I donít have the same problem. But I also like to keep my mouth shut unless Iím on my television show or Iím being interviewed. What inspired you to get into comedy and the entertainment industry?

Handler: I just wanted to be able to buy my family homes and take them on amazing vacations and I wanted to be able to see the world. I figured the best way to do that would be to become hugely successful. I didnít know how I was going to do it or what the game plan was, but it kind of all just started working out for me. So I just stuck to it. I mean, I work really hard, but I play really hard and I just like my lifestyle. So, everything I do is to support my lifestyle. Speaking of your awesome lifestyle, your new book, ďUganda Be Kidding Me,Ē details your recent trip to Africa.

Handler: I know! I planned all of these trips and Iím like, this isnít fair. The reason I got to go on all these amazing trips is because I have such amazing fans and everybody that gets to support this career that I have. So Iím like, I should probably give back by writing a book about my travels. And then, as soon as I started writing it, I thought, ďOh no. Why the hell did I do this again? I canít write another book.Ē So, here it is. Itís done. And now Iím going on tour again, something I also said Iíd never do again. So, weíll see. My plan is to retire by the time Iím 40 though. Weíll see if that happens. Do you enjoy performing on stage to the day-in and day-out grind of your late-night show?

Handler: Iíve been performing for so many years and Iíve been doing stand up since I was 21. I took the last two years off because I went on two tours back to back, which is the last two books. The last tour I did, I was just running ragged. We were flying out every weekend from city to city doing a ton of book signings. And then you do a show, then you do a book signing, then you do another show, then you do another book signing. So, I think this time, what I am really trying to focus on is enjoying every city. I want to go in and enjoy the show. Not think of it like Iím tired, you know? I really appreciate the fact that people are paying money to see me. I want to know that when I get on stage. I want to remember that, you know? I want to have that good, fun feeling when youíre excited about your material.

And since itís been such a long time, I have so much new material that Iím excited to go do that. Iím a little nervous, but Iím a little excited. Going to cities like Boston, where Iíve performed so many times, itís obviously fun and the fans there are crazy. I love that! I read that your staff onďChelsea LatelyĒ is around 50 percent female, which is vastly different from most other late-night shows. Do you think female comics donít get the respect or notoriety they deserve?

Handler: People used to say, ďWhatís it like to be the first woman in late night? Whatís that like?Ē And I would say itís not a big deal, you know? I donít think of it that way, I just think of it like having another show and doing my job and having a fun time. I donít really feel like Iím competing with the guys. But, the showís been on for seven years now and I am the only female in late night. My goal is to have more females in late night because there are articles about the guys all the time. Iím always a mention or something. Then I thought about and was like, no, by now there should be more women. Itís just me. Itís been me for seven years. If I can get another girl on the air with a late-night talk show, that would be my ultimate goal. And then she can replace me and I can go party in Barcelona. Thatíd be a great way to retire and leave your legacy.

Handler: Yeah, no kidding! Speaking of the landscape of late night, Jimmy Fallon is hosting ďThe Tonight ShowĒ now. Do you think weíll ever see a woman host that show?

Handler: I donít think itís about hosting that show. Heís not leaving anytime soon. Itís about hosting any late night show. There are six or seven big ones that are on the air. There should be a woman hosting any of them. There should be more women hosting. Itís not just about ďThe Tonight Show.Ē The media landscape has changed so much and cable is not more important than either network, so I think thatís the thing. Itís not about the position, itís just about having more people on air doing their thing. When youíre considering using a new joke thatís crass or possibly offensive, do you have a line that you set for yourself that you wonít cross?

Handler: I never really have a line. If it doesnít feel good to me to say it, then I donít say it. Thereís a lot of things where I feel that itís too mean. People would never believe that, behind the scenes, I actually edit things out that my writers pitch to me. I donít want to call children fat or I donít want to call people fat, unless theyíre Honey Boo-Booís mother, unless theyíre really, really fat, unless theyíre an idiot or an [expletive] or really deserve it. I think the line, it changes all the time, depends on what kind of mood youíre in. If youíre feeling a little frisky and donít care that day, youíre going to go off and make fun of Tori Spelling. And other times, I hear about Tori Spelling and her break-up with Dean McDermott and I think, God, I feel bad for her, you know? Her whole life sheís been made fun of, letís not make fun of her today. So it depends what time of the month it is. For comedy fans out there that may not be familiar with your work, what can they expect from your show when it comes to Boston?

Handler: Thereís going to be lots of nudity. Iím not having midgets with me anymore because I think thatís passť. And Chuy [Bravo] could very well have passed away by then. What else will there be? Thereís going to be a lot of me talking about how hard it is to be a celebrity and have anonymous sex. Thatís much harder than people may think. People think, ďOh my God! You must be able to sleep with anyone.Ē Do you know how hard it is for me to have sex with somebody without them being worried that Iím going to talk about them on my show?

Handler will perform at the Wang Theatre on March 7. Are you going? note: Tori Spelling and Dean McDermott have not confirmed an official split. Read the latest update on the celebrity couple from US Weekly.

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Stephanie Callahan is a native Bostonian who loves cooking, traveling, spa treatments, and being on the ocean.

Meghan Colloton is a Bostonian who loves traveling, channeling her inner Julia Child, and trying weird things -- from food to bungee jumping.

Milva DiDomizio is a New England native who's fond of cooking, singing, and Boston's arts and culture scene.

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Emily Wright is a native Cape Codder who enjoys exercising, baking, and the occasional guilty pleasure action movie.


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