Interview: Chelsea Handler

Chelsea Handler

Chelsea Handler is an outspoken American stand-up comedian and talk show host. She turned to comedy aged 21 when she had to give a talk having been charged with DUI (driving under the influence). She got so many laughs she was advised to try it professionally. In 2007 she launched her show on the E! network, Chelsea Lately, and over the years her irreverent approach has become compulsive viewing for lovers of celebrity. Guests have included Justin Bieber, Gwyneth Paltrow and the Kardashians. Earlier this year however she announced that she was quitting the show and it has just confirmed that she will be making programmes for Netflix. She also made the headlines in March this year after having an on-air spat with Piers Morgan, calling him “a terrible interviewer”. Handler makes her UK stand-up debut at the Palladium on July 12. Tickets via, 0844 844 0444. This is a longer version of an article that originally appeared in the Guardian. I interviewed Handler over the phone. It was 10am in LA where she was and she sounded smart, bright and breezy if a little business-like. 


A clip on your website shows you enjoying a drink during your current tour. 

CH: I didn’t drink at the beginning. I had to get my act down, it’s a whole new hour for me. I hadn’t done stand-up in about three years so I was more than a little nervous. But once you get it going in your head you can start having more cocktails. Alcohol has been very good to me so I like to return the favour. I used to have s sponsorship deal with a brand, but I didn’t think it was a good idea to be loyal to one vodka. They are like men. 


Your live show is based on your book of travel stories, Uganda Be Kidding Me. you watch baboons having sex in Africa, you get drunk and confess that you used to think Switzerland and Swaziland were the same place. Is it all true?

CH: I wanted to put together a travelogue about the ridiculousness of my life and the fact that I’m just a girl from New Jersey who really doesn’t have any business travelling at all but I plop myself in different countries and then proceed to make people think that Americans are idiots. All the stories are true though some of the names have been changed. But some of them haven’t. I forgot to change some and they are not speaking to me right now but that’s not a problem, sometimes friendships need a break. The live show is very married to my slide shows. There are a lot of photos in there that normal people wouldn’t show to their audience. But that’s how I make my bread and butter.


Will you be bringing your dogs to the UK?

CH: Not unless they decide to charter their own private plane. But I miss them all the time. I was never an animal person, when I went to Africa I said ‘Oh God there are so many animals here.’ My friend said, ‘Well, you are on safari’… I live with my friend Shelley. She’s a lesbian, I own her. I purchased her at a lesbian auction. She has a boxer and I have a dog that’s half-German shepherd and half-Chow. 


Your mother was a German Mormon and your father was an American Jew. Do you think that affected the way you turned out? did it make you feel different?

CH: No, I felt different not because of that but because my parents were ridiculous. I don’t think anyone feels like they belong, that’s how you go through life. feeling like an outcast, most people do. I turned to humour for a lot of reasons, but I do like attention. Roseanne has a similar background. I’ve spoken to her about it. She has a nut farm now so whatever she did is working out perfectly.


So it’s official. After scurrilous rumours that you were talking about leaving E! as a negotiating tactic you are definitely quitting. 

CH: It wasn’t a negotiating tactic. That’s not how I operate. Newspapers do not report things accurately. I read a quote about myself the other day which said I want to do more mindful television, I want to interview "invaders". I actually said "innovators". Really, I want to interview Mussolini? What did they mean?

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