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Philadelphia Style Magazine — Chelsea Handler Interview

Funny Girl Chelsea Handler cracks up the male-dominated world of late-night TV.

Interview by Peter Proko

Photograph by Timothy White/courtesy of E! Networks.
Styling by Amy Meyer. Hair and makeup by Rachel Bartolotta.

PHILADELPHIA STYLE: You’re originally from New Jersey. How much does your upbringing on the East Coast influence your comedy?

CHELSEA HANDLER: Probably a lot—that, combined with my family. I think the East Coast mentality is a lot different than the West Coast mentality, so when you get to live in one of those places and then move to the other, that’s when your comedy really comes alive. You see the contrast.

PS: Did your formative teen years involve trips down the Shore and dreams of Bruce Springsteen and Bon Jovi?

CH: Funnily enough they did not. My parents were lucky enough to have a house on Martha’s Vineyard, so I went there every summer since I was born. By the time I was a teenager, I was begging them, “Please, all my friends are going to the Jersey Shore, I want to go to the Shore, screw the Vineyard.”

My parents were like, “You don’t even know what you’re talking about; you don’t want to go to the Jersey Shore when you can go to Martha’s Vineyard.” I was like, “Yes, I do!”

So I didn’t go to the Jersey Shore for the first time until I was 18 years old. I had a boyfriend who had a summer house down there, so I spent a fair amount of time [down the Shore]. I pretty much made up for all the summers of not being there in one summer, which I may still be recovering from.

PS: You’re a stand-up comedian, an author, a TV host and writer. How challenging is it to balance all your endeavors?

CH: It’s fun. It’s really busy right now. I’m just trying to finish up what is hopefully my last book—I don’t think I’ll ever write another book again. I didn’t have to write the others while I had a full-time job, so the combination of the two isn’t pretty. I spend every free moment I have writing.

They need to be compartmentalized and I am generally a really lazy person, so this has been a real shot in the ass. I mean I work a lot, but I don’t consider myself to be someone who works really hard. I’m definitely working harder than I would like to be if I had planned my life out a little more strategically.

PS: You’re known for blasting celebs on Chelsea Lately. Have you ever run into someone in person and had your on-screen commentary present an awkward situation in real life?

CH: I think the people I talk about are generally so stupid [that] they don’t even know I’m saying bad things about them. I’ve run into Paris Hilton and she’s like, “Oh, I love your show.” And I’m like, “You can’t love my show if you can hear.”

PS: Who is the easiest target these days?

CH: There are always the easy targets like the Lindsays and Britneys; Britney has sort of kept a lower profile. But you know there’s people like Jon Gosselin and whatever his name is or, I’m sorry, her name. I get confused about which one is the girl.

It gets boring after a while and you want to take a break. I stopped talking about Heidi [Montag] and Spencer [Pratt] because I don’t want them to be talked about because they like it too much.

Denise Richards was a good target for a while, but that got old. The Kardashians—there seems to be a real appetite for them, which is unexplainable. (Laughs) It changes all the time, and luckily there are so many losers out there that we stay busy.

PS: Is there a point where you cross the line into just being mean and you want to take back something you’ve said on-air?

CH: The good thing about the show is that it’s live to tape, so if there was anything I feel really bad about I can say something when they edit it. But it doesn’t happen a lot. I’m pretty clear about what I want to say and pretty clear that it’s the opinion I have in my head. There are times [the writers and I] will say, That’s too mean, or, That’s too harsh… I don’t want to get on anybody for being fat or a baby for being ugly, because babies have no control over what they look like.

PS: Recently Joan Rivers took a shot at you and said that you weren’t funny. Do you regard her as a pioneer for female comedians, or are you a Joan Rivers hater?

CH: I really don’t think a lot about Joan Rivers. I know she called me to [ask if I would] do her [Comedy Central] roast and I said no because I didn’t feel like it, so maybe she was mad about that. I don’t really know. But she looks great!

PS: Is it rewarding to be the first woman since Joan to enter the late-night TV world?

CH:We’re having a great time! I really don’t think of it as this serious television show. Everyone is like, You are the only woman in late-night, and I guess that’s true, but I think of our show more as junior high, and their shows are high school. Our ratings are great for cable, and we don’t have to take the job so seriously.

It’s a good thing I have going, and I’m very grateful for it and that I get to make money making fun of people. It’s basically like going back to high school, but this time I get to be the popular girl… which wasn’t the case the first time around, so it’s enjoyable.

PS: Your dating life has been the subject of news lately, including reports that you and your boyfriend had split, but just recently you rebuffed those rumors and said you were still together. Do you feel a bit like Jennifer Aniston trying to defend yourself to the tabloids?

CH: I was pretty surprised by that. My boyfriend and I just moved into a new place, so if he’s living in a hotel, someone should tell him. I wouldn’t mind if he stayed in a hotel for a couple of days.

I’m serious—after this remodel, we could use a little break. But no, I’m not sure how that came to fruition. I was very interested in that people were so interested. I guess it makes me feel really supported if I have a real breakup. (Laughs) Obviously I know they will be on my side.

PS: This past year you ranked number 91 on Maxim’s “Hot 100” list. Was it exciting that you ranked two spots ahead of Michelle Obama or a disappointment to finish 10 spots behind Heidi Montag?

CH: I think that the Maxim 100 List is one of the dumbest lists available to mankind, so I don’t really care about being ranked on that. I have more feelings about the transgender community and their goals for the next three days than I do about Maxim magazine.

PS: Your assistant Chuy Bravo has become a star in his own right. How did your relationship come about, and how has it developed now that he has a name of his own?

CH: Chuy is a hot mess; his life is pretty ridiculous. He has more dates and dinners… I saw him driving around the other day with three blondes in the backseat and he pretended like he didn’t know who I was, so things are going fine for him.

PS: What’s your creative approach to writing material, and how do you stay out in front of other female comedians?

CH: The most important thing about being a comic is not to pay attention to what other comics are doing, because I think you could end up mimicking someone by accident, especially with books. I read a ton, but I don’t read any funny books while I’m writing mine because I want it to be different and independent from anything that’s out there.

I think if you are trying to be ahead of the curve, you miss by a long shot. You just have to be who you are and say what you feel and what comes naturally, because if you are faking your point of view, people can smell that from a mile away. So my big thing [is to] just be truthful to how I feel even when I like someone. If you hate people all the time, that’s not really funny, either.

PS: If you could set up your dream roundtable for the show, who would be on it and why?

CH: Well, David Hasselhoff, for obvious reasons. Probably Paula Abdul and someone really loud and obnoxious… maybe John Mayer.

PS: You and John Mayer have been battling a bit lately, haven’t you?

CH: I hear he’s very curious as to why I dislike him, but I explained it to him before, so I don’t know why he’s still questioning it.

PS: How dangerous are celebrities who Twitter?

CH: I don’t Twitter [about] him; he Twitters [about] me. I’ve talked to him in person and told him that he should stick to what he does, and that if I came out with an album it would be really annoying, right? So he should stick to music, not [try his hand at] comedy.

PS: If you weren’t a comedian, how would the world know Chelsea Handler?

CH: I’d probably be laying tiles somewhere on one of the Greek islands, so I don’t think people would know me, because I’d have a mustache and look like a hairy old Greek man. Which is basically what I want to come back as in my next life.

PS: What’s one of the strangest compliments or requests you’ve received from a fan?

CH: I financed someone’s teeth once. I was making fun of people’s teeth and I got this letter from this woman who said some people can’t afford to pay for their own teeth. So I told her to send me her teeth; that means you have none and I’ll totally help you buy some. And so I did, and she kept calling back and wanting more money and more money and it ended up costing me, like, $25,000. I was like, “Listen, if you don’t have your teeth in by $25,000, I’m sorry, I really can’t help you anymore because I feel like I went above and beyond.”

PS: If you could describe your life right now in five words, what would you say?

CH: My life is pretty fantastic

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December 2, 2009 - Posted by | Chelsea Handler, Humor? | ,

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