My phone rings. It supposed to be Chelsea Handler calling from her office in L.A. to talk about her upcoming show in Dallas (March 28 at the Verizon Theatre). It isn't. It's her handler, Elizabeth, yelling over ear-piercing beeps in the background. They're having "some sort of fire drill or something," she tells me. When I finally get Handler on the phone a few minutes later (unscathed), she doesn't sound too shaken up.
"I didn't go outside 'cause I don't take fire drills seriously," she says. "I said, 'If this is how I go, this is how I go.' It's too long of a walk downstairs. I sent the dogs out. That's about it." No one's ever said Handler isn't considerate.
But people might say she's a workaholic, especially since Handler's taken on so many different roles -- host of the show Chelsea Lately on E!, stand up comedian, author of five books and head honcho of her own publishing imprint with Grand Central Publishing (Borderline Amazing/A Chelsea Handler Book). That's not stopping Handler from regressing back to childhood, though. Growing up in a middle class family in New Jersey, Handler was denied bunk beds as a kid. So, naturally, the comedian bought some for her L.A. digs. With a queen size bed on bottom and a double on top, it's adulthood meets elementary. Handler started spending the night in the "bunk bed room" every so often until she finally relented and completely moved in. "I used to be capable," she says. "Now, there are people in my house that I don't even know who work there."
As little as she cares about who's lounging around her house, there are things she cares less about -- namely, this year's Olympics. "Usually I'm really into it," she says. "I was in the airport watching, and I looked at my friend Mary, and I said, 'Do you give a shit about this at all?' And she said no. And I go, 'Why? Why don't we care?' No offense to the people competing, 'cause I know they all trained so hard, but for some reason it's just not cutting it. Maybe 'cause it's in Russia."
One thing that is cutting it is Handler's role as author. Her latest book, Uganda Be Kidding Me, features hilarious travel essays from Handler's adventures around the globe. "Well, I got myself in a situation where I was making a ridiculous amount of money, and I'm just a girl from New Jersey who grew up with just a normal childhood and middle class everything," she says. "And I looked at my parents and thought, this is not how I want to live. I wanna be wealthy. I wanna travel and I wanna go to places. If I go to Disney World, I wanna fly, not take the bus. And I just figured, you know what? I'm gonna do that."
And she did, traveling to Africa, the Olympics and Switzerland, where she tore her ACL skiing. "After a while I was thinking, my life is so great, I'm so lucky. I have so much gratitude for this, to go on these unbelievable vacations, and be this loud, obnoxious American who doesn't deserve to be going anywhere and giving a bad name to Americans all around. And the people who deserve to relive these stories with me are the people who have given me my career, which are my fans.
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"All the stories involve a bunch of my friends, and they all involve me getting myself into situations that I can't get out of. So I thought, oh maybe I should write a different kind of book! A travel book, tell all my travel stories. And then I started writing it, and then I told my editor that I was writing it, and then they gave me a book deal. And then I thought, oh no, I have to finish it." Handler tacked on six more trips to round out her book.
The trip she's most looking forward to now is her stand up tour this year, which supports her new book. Only recently did she realize that four years had passed since her last tour. "Yeah, I like to go on the road and see everybody," she says. "I think it's good, get some interaction with everybody. I'm on TV every night, I don't get to travel [the U.S.]. I spend so much time out of the country now, I didn't realize I hadn't been around the country. 'Cause when you do stand up, you go to every little city you never wanted to. Not all are as fun as Dallas, as you can imagine. You know, when you're stuck in Des Moines, Iowa, you think, I don't wanna come back here! But we get to go to cities like Boston, Chicago, Dallas ... it's just so much fun."
Especially Dallas, a city she has strong ties to. During her first book tour, she met a lesbian couple here and told them that if she ever bought a house in L.A., they'd have to go decorate it. Well, she did buy that L.A. house, and the women followed. That was almost 10 years ago. And while the lesbians have since gone their separate ways, Handler kept custody of one. The two still live together and own dogs together, often arguing over who's the better doggy parent. But that's it. Handler leaves the lesbianing to her friend.
Not that life as a celebrity is all bunk beds and lesbians. Handler has a hard time dating, 'cause guys don't want the attention being with a celebrity brings. She went on a double date vacation to Belize for Valentine's Day, "'cause I'm a romantic," she says. But that's not the only reason. "Men are so scared of me, I have to leave the country to get penetration. It's a real pain in the ass. I have to travel high and low to get some action."