Talk- show host Chelsea Handler had a few sharp words for Guy Davis. CHELSEA HANDLER, CHELSEA LATELY
For someone who’s quite forthcoming about their penchant for booze, their history of one-night stands and their disdain for dopey celebrities, Chelsea Handler has done pretty well for herself.
The stand-up comedian and bestselling author is only the second woman on American TV to host a late-night talk show, with her E! Channel program Chelsea Lately continuing to be one of the pay-TV network’s biggest hits.
Handler’s irreverent and uninhibited take on the world of celebrity and pop culture has won her a lot of fans in Australia as well, and she’s returning the favour by travelling here to film four episodes of Chelsea Lately in Sydney in late November.
Before that, however, she provided this insight into who she is, what she’s got going for her and why Australian celebrities are preferable to American and English ones.
You often hear about late-night talk show hosts being inspired by talk show hosts of years gone by. Were you the kind of girl who stayed up late watching such shows and thinking ‘ I’ll do that one day’?
I always watched late-night talk shows and wondered how many people on the staff the host was having sex with. And I dreamed about being one of those girls! I was actually more of a sitcom girl, although I loved talk shows and grew up watching guys like Jay Leno and David Letterman. But a talk show was never really my goal – I just kind of fell into this accidentally. Doing stand-up, I think it comes with the territory – it’s more of a natural progression. Although the whole point of stand-up is ‘ Great, I only work one night a week and I can drink while I’m doing it’. Then all of a sudden, you’re doing a show like mine five nights a week and the drinking has to be cut in half! It’s not really what I set out to do but I welcome it and it’s been a very happy experience.
Given your biting sense of humour, your show could seem like a slightly odd fit for the celebrity-friendly E! Channel.
I think eight minutes is about the maximum amount of time you can actually watch E! It’s one of those channels you can have on in the background and not necessarily pay attention to, which is why I love doing this show – it’s so fast-paced and so mindless that no one, least of all me, can take it seriously. But one of the things I really wanted to do was make fun of the inanity surrounding celebrities, and why people care so much about these people they don’t really know. So what I wanted to do on E! was make fun of the stuff E! finds so important.
Like a lot of the media, it certainly takes celebrity culture pretty seriously.
There are not a lot of shows like this, shows that say Paris Hilton is an idiot or Lindsay Lohan is a mess. Some shows will say that but then they’ll have those people on and be very nice to their face and it all becomes very sycophantic. I don’t want to have people on my show just to have them on my show; I’d rather make fun of them and talk about them the way people talk about them at work. You know, how even though Angelina Jolie does all these good things she may be evil. [ Laughs] People talk like this, so I wanted to get it out there.
And I imagine doing that would have won you your share of friends and enemies.
It’s done both, probably. I’m not really worried about offending that many people because I’m not trying to be friends with the people I make fun of. I’ve had people like that come up to me and say ‘ Oh, I love the show, it’s so funny’, which is ridiculous – if they could hear, they’d realise that I don’t love them! But I think people would rather be on my good side than my bad side at the moment, which is a compliment.
I was a little taken aback to learn that you and Joan Rivers are the only women ever to have hosted late-night talk shows.
Well, technically speaking, Joan Rivers isn’t really female.
Good point. But I still find it surprising that women haven’t made greater inroads in this area.
I think it’s cyclical. There are a lot more successful female comedians these days, such as Tina Fey and Sarah Silverman. But I don’t think comedy, stand-up comedy, is generally a career a lot of women are drawn to. It can be a really rotten lifestyle. You tend to find more men doing it, which equals more success in that area for them. But as with everything, women catch up eventually.
And Australian audiences can catch up with you when you film four shows Down Under this November, right?
Yes, it’s our first time in Australia – there’ll be around 20 of us from the show, a lot of the regulars, and we’re all really looking forward to it. Australia’s like uncharted territory for us, and based on your celebrities you seem to have your act a lot more together than, say, England. And you definitely have more kangaroos.