'I’m no longer on a network that just wants you to talk about celebrities, so I don’t have to talk about celebrities,' Handler tells EW

By Gillian Telling
Updated January 22, 2016 at 07:07 PM EST
Credit: Brian Bowen Smith/Netflix 
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  • Netflix

After Chelsea Handler’s talk show on E! ended in 2013, the comedian was quickly scooped up by Netflix to produce and star in a new talk show, which will debut this May. (They also signed her on for a four-part docuseries, Chelsea Does, which begins streaming Saturday.) She talked to EW about both the docuseries and what to expect from the talk show, which she says will be anything but standard.

Tell us about Chelsea Does. Why did you want to do a docuseries exploring the topics of drugs, marriage, racism, and technology?

I just wanted to do something different, and I wanted to look at four different things that I’m interested in. I also didn’t just want to start a show right after my last one, that wouldn’t make any sense. I needed to figure out what I wanted to do or say. And I also took a year off and did everything a 75-year-old woman on sabbatical would do, like travel and read books, because I was always on tour and doing stand-up and just needed to refresh.

Have you figured out the concept for the talk show yet?

Yeah, it’s not going to be the same thing every night. It’s going to be on three times a week, and I’m going to implement a lot of the stuff from the docuseries because that turned out really well. There will be a studio portion too, but I want to keep the format loose so it’s fun and different every night.

Is Netflix just giving you total creative freedom?

They’d never done this before, where they’re going to have a live-to-taped show with a personality, so they have their say. We’re doing 90 episodes a year, so it’s different for them. They normally just drop everything at once. It’s great to work with people who are smarter than you. I told them, get me a great director, a great producer, and I’m up for anything. And they did.

So the docuseries was essentially preparation for your talk show?

Yeah, I thought it would be the perfect bridge to the new show. I wanted to have proof that I could examine these topics. It really works well for me — it’s well-rounded and I can talk to regular people and still have fun. I want to get information in a cool fun way. I’m super excited to be able to incorporate these things into the show.

Give us a teaser of something crazy or interesting you’ll show us in the talk show.

Well, today we’re going to a transgender school and meeting these girls and boys who have vocal coaches so they can sound more realistic when they’re in transition. Next week we go to Russia to meet all these girls who start training for gymnastics when they’re like 3 or 4. I’m going with Maria Sharapova. It’s all stuff I find fascinating. I’m no longer on a network that just wants you to talk about celebrities, so I don’t have to talk about celebrities. I’m just excited to be at Netflix. It’s like stage two in my career.

Chelsea Does

2016 TV documentary series
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  • Netflix