By Erin Strecker
August 06, 2013 at 04:17 AM EDT
Melissa Holt/E! Entertainment

Chalk it up to the benefit of lowered expectations: Lindsay Lohan guest-hosted Chelsea Lately last night, and it was one of her best television appearance in the past few years.

Of course, that’s not saying much. But compared to her Matt Lauer interview/Saturday Night Live hosting gig in March 2012, where it seemed like nerves got the best of her, the actress looked healthy, landed a few good punchlines and, most encouragingly for Lohan fans, appeared genuinely happy to be in front of a camera that wasn’t tracking her movements in and out of a courthouse.

There was a little nervous laughter and stuttering during her opening monologue, which featured Lohan thanking the various people who’ve kept the tabloids in business while Lohan had been away on a “Court-ordered vacation in Malibu” the past 90 days, a.k.a. Anthony Weiner, Kanye, Justin Bieber and the royal baby (played by Chelsea sidekick Chuy, obviously). “How come when Kanye acts like an idiot he gets a gold record, but when I act like an idiot I get a police record?” a game Lohan asked the audience.

When the show returned from commercial break, Lohan joined comics Brad Wollack, Fortune Feimster, and Jen Kirkman at the table to riff on the news of the day. And while obviously her lines were mostly scripted, she still delivered them with aplomb, and seemed to really be having a good time – particularly with her crack about One Direction-er Harry Styles possibly having a bisexual relationship with a dj. “Been there!” she quipped.

One of the high point of Lohan’s appearance was – as is typical for her – self-deprecating jokes. In addition to laughing at the comics’ remarks about her own public issues (“Justin Bieber has been on tour longer than you’ve been in rehab”), Lohan landed her own jokes about her problems with alcohol. While commenting about gay-rights activists who dumped vodka to protest Russia’s new policies, Lohan remarked, “Waste of good vodka,” before explaining she was allergic. “[I can’t drink vodka.] I wind up in rehab or jail,” she said with a laugh, before seriously adding, “Rightfully so.”

But while Lohan going the self-deprecating route has become expected, the appearance is noteworthy for her candid goofiness. During a segment about a viral video that had a girl singing into a curling iron before grabbing it like a hairbrush and burning her hand, Lohan sympathized. “It’s so true!” she explained as she acted it out. But fans shouldn’t expect to see anything similar on Lohan’s Twitter. “I would never selfie video myself curling my hair! That’s a ‘delete’ moment!”  she explained with a laugh. It wasn’t a hysterical or game-changing joke. But for Lohan sympathizers who are constantly on the lookout for the likable, promising young actress of 2004, her ability to joke around and still be kind of charmingly relatable was the strongest evidence in quite a while that maybe, below the substance abuse issues and the 24/7 drama, that lady still exists.

The enthusiastic audience at Chelsea Lately was clearly hoping so.

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