Chelsea Handler on Netflix series: 'Enough with the celebrities'
The final episode of Chelsea Lately was a star-studded extravaganza, featuring appearances by Ellen Degeneres, Sandra Bullock, 50 Cent, and Jennifer Aniston—as well as a retrospective dedicated to Chuy, the show’s trusty sidekick. But Chelsea Handler is so ready to quit sharing a network with the Kardashians.
She’s kicking off a multi-tier partnership with Netflix with her first-ever standup special, Uganda Be Kidding Me, on Oct. 10. The deal also includes four new docu-specials in 2015 and a new series to premiere in 2016. While everyone—including Netflix—has been referring to that future series as a “talk show,” Handler seems to be leaning toward a format that’ll be totally different from her gossipy E! show. How so? Let Chelsea explain:
EW: You’ve been very honest for a while about wanting to leave E! Is it a relief that Chelsea Lately is over?
CHELSEA HANDLER: Yeah, I [went out] with a bang, and I’m happy to be done. I feel like I finally graduated from high school. Now I can go to community college.
Was Netflix always your number one choice?
Yeah—if I was going to anywhere. At first I had ideas of taking five years off and going and living in the wilderness—well, not the wilderness, but a 5-star version of the wilderness. But they said, “Well, we can kinda give you time off and not start up for a year.” I was like, “Even better.” It worked out perfectly. They want me to do whatever I feel like doing.
You’ve been doing stand-up consistently for a while now. How is this your first stand-up special?
I don’t know! Jay Leno once told me, “Once you do an hour, you can’t really do those jokes again. Don’t ever burn your material.” I didn’t really need to do a special. I had a show on every night for the last seven years. Enough of me already!
Was it different doing your stand-up knowing it was for a special?
First of all, I woke up that day after having an allergy attack. We had to spend the whole day icing my eye because it was twice the size of the other, like a bee had snuck in my hotel room and had its way with me. It was a disaster! That’s the story of my life. I’m the only person who, if I have a big photo shoot, ends up putting on five pounds before. Hopefully you can’t tell on camera. I haven’t seen it because it’s hard for me to watch myself, but I hear it’s really good.
I know you talk about “dolphin rape” in the special. What is that, and how can we prevent it?
People think dolphins are these wonderful, docile animals, but they’ll rape you. People need to be educated about that. You can Google it. They will pin you down on the floor of the ocean, have their way with you, and then take off and act like they didn’t do anything at all. They’re right up there with cats in my book.
In your early books and standup, you wrote a lot about being in your 20s, working in restaurants and getting wasted. How has your material had to evolve now that your life is so different?
A big part of the show is talking about how ridiculous my lifestyle has become. Before you know it, you have all these people working for you when you’re doing a show every day and you’re on the road and you have people who are doing the most simple things for you. I went to go get gas in my car one weekend because I was like, “I have to go to a gas station, this is getting ridiculous, I haven’t been to a gas station in years.” My assistant just looked at me and went, “All right.” First of all, I have a Tesla and I didn’t even know that’s an electric car. I mean, I know it’s an electric car, but I never put two and two together that it didn’t need gas. People say, “Oh, you can’t talk about how out of touch with reality you are,” but I’m like, “I have to! That’s what’s happened.” I hate the idea of pretending that’s not what my life is. That a lie, and obviously I’m not lying about much. My heart’s in the right place, I just can’t really execute anything properly.
In addition to Uganda Be Kidding Me and your upcoming series, you’re also doing docu-specials for Netflix. What will those be like?
I just want to do fish-out-of-water stuff. I’m going to do stuff that I don’t know a lot about, and go and ask the questions people are too embarrassed to ask that I have no problem asking. It’s going to be like, “Chelsea Does Silicon Valley.” I’ll go figure out how apps are made, and how streaming works and how the internet works and see how those guys are living and how often they have sex with actual other people, which is close to never. And then “Chelsea Does the NBA Draft.” Or “Chelsea Does DC.” It’ll always be subject matter where I’m not really well-versed. It’s more interesting to me to find out stuff like that, and I think that people that are fans of mine want to move on and grow up anyway, in a fun way. It’s enough with the celebrities—you can’t pay me to care.
Now, everyone’s calling your 2016 Netflix show a “talk show”—but is it really going to be in that format?
I think I’m going to deliver three shows a week. We’re just figuring out if we want to do them Monday, Wednesday, and Friday and they come available at a certain time, or if all three episodes become available on Monday and they’re three different subject matters. We’re meeting people and hiring people and figuring out exactly what that is. I don’t mind doing a weekly wrap-up, but I don’t want to do [the talk show format] three times a week. I want to dive with sharks, you know? I want to take HGH and see what it does to my body, and then I wanna go to Gaza and ask, “WHAT’S THE F—ING PROBLEM WITH YOU GUYS?! WHY IS THIS SUCH A FUCKING DISASTER?” I want to do heavy things, light things. I’m deathly afraid of snakes—I’d like to do snake immersion cognitive behavioral therapy and have to go with somebody, like a professional snake handler, and deal with it. I want to do all ends of the spectrum. We have to focus on how we want to dial that in. We have tons of ideas and I have my team that I’ve been with for a while, and we’re going to add on to that. I’m looking forward to it.
Everyone wants to know: When your Netflix series starts up, will your sidekick Chuy come with you?
No! Chuy to Netflix? I don’t know why anyone would even think that. Chuy’s not coming to Netflix. This is a different show, a different chapter. Everyone on [Chelsea Lately] was very, very fortunate that they were on TV at all, never mind for seven years. [Laughs] Myself included.