“Are there any black people here?” Chelsea Handler asks as she pans the audience, one minute into Uganda Be Kidding Me Live. “Smile, so I can see you.” Mildly offended? Morally upright readers, stop reading now—you’re strongly advised to skip Netflix’s new, horribly funny stand-up comedy special.
Unleashed by the constraints of late night cable, Handler’s fearless, flippant humor reaches new levels of debauchery in her Netflix debut, a 70-minute taping of the Chicago stop on her Uganda Be Kidding Me book tour. (When Handler’s agent first heard the title, she said no way: “Uganda’s not funny.” Handler vowed, “It will be when I f—ing get there!”)
We know who won that argument: In the hands of a comedian as irreverent yet likable as Handler, Uganda is hilarious (“I’ve always wanted to know where rappers come from.”) So are… strident lesbians (and their “lesbian vagina-out walk”), Jews (and their “Jew, Jew, Jew & Associates” law firms), concentration camp tours (“I don’t think I’m in the mood for that”) and AIDS (too awful to quote)—yep, it’s all fair game.
But Handler gets away with it: Her easygoing charisma somehow softens her sharp tongue, and she skewers herself more than anyone. The stories that the author/talk show host spills from her book are at once ridiculous and relatable—like her squatting-in-a-hole tour of Africa. (Graphic photos included.)
With the Chelsea Lately host’s ingenious combo of nonchalance and pluck, Handler makes viewers feel as if she’s a particularly perverted best friend confessing her drunken escapades from last night. There’s the time she woke up to find wet panties, an iPhone, and a Caesar salad in her microwave. Then there’s this tipsy tweet: “Do you think it’s okay to drink while you’re pregnant if you’re giving the baby up for adoption?”
Though the routine is shamelessly vulgar—Handler employs a truly impressive variety of scatological terms—every profanity feels judiciously placed: every s— joke necessary, each vagina-musing warranted, every last “you f—ing bitch” deserved.
Handler also obliterates any lingering notions that guys are funnier at talking about sex than girls, and she casually nails an epic takedown of men in the act. And Handler’s penchant for calling it like she sees it brings an unforced air of feminism to some bits—like her refreshing diatribe on the lengths to which women are expected to go to, ahem, groom themselves. “Laser hair removal is the most undignified thing you can do as a woman,” she declares (having succumbed to the trend). Her outrage at the news that guys’ preferences have shifted is our gain: “What am I supposed to do, get plugs?”
By the end of the hour and 10 minutes of consistently entertaining standup and a riotously funny finale, Handler has proven herself fabulously suited to the platform. If we’re lucky, Uganda is just a preview of the depraved hilarity to come from her Netflix talk show in 2016.