Handler? I Hardly Know Her!
Tonight, Chelsea Handler, the star of E!’s Chelsea Lately, takes on two Dallas venues with her stand-up-slash-book tour, during which she's pimping Are You There Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea. I got a call from the no-holds-barred comic and heard about her obsession with the small and fat, her passion for responsible audiences and, most important, how to get a fine pair of upper arms.
It was a loud conversation, and I laughed out loud more than once -- which I really wasn’t expecting from a phoner during her to-and-fro. The brassy hostess put me in a good mood, and, unfortunately, made me want to fatten up my niece with secret treats. Proceed with caution. --Merritt Martin
So where are you now?
In my car.
No, I mean, are you on tour or just jumping …
No, we’re doing shows this week. I fly out to Dallas Friday and then Houston on Saturday.
In each city are you doing both book and a live a show?
Yeah, I’m doing book signings and then a seater, and then I do a book signing at the seater after also.
I was trying to decide which parts of the book to ask you about because there are so many. I think Kimmy [a little person who co-starred with Handler in a Girls Behaving Badly skit] is definitely a highlight, to the point where I needed to stay up to finish the chapter.
Oh, I love that! Thank you.
I noticed that you said that instead of having a little person fetish, you have more of a “healthy obsession” with little people. Where do you think that came from?
You know, I think, I just like little fat things. Like fat babies. I love little chunky fat babies. I have a niece that’s, like, really fat, and she’s, like, 5 and starting to thin out, and I’m, like, freaking out about it. My sister’s like, “You have to accept the fact that she’s not going to have a chunky tushy for the rest of her life.” I’m like, “Why can’t we stunt her growth?!” So I’m constantly slipping her chocolate to keep her fat and chunky. I just like little fat things. I think they’re cute, and I want to hug them.
My niece is becoming more of a string bean now, like, she’s getting really tall. And it’s disturbing because she only has the Buddha belly when she eats.
Yeah! That’s why you have to constantly feed them.
It’s disconcerting, because they’re supposed to be round.
My sister’s like, “You always play favorites whoever’s the fattest.” And I’m like, “I know.” And she goes, “But when they grow up they’re not going to be fat; they all thin out.” And I’m like, “Well, that’s something we need to look into! Like, of course my favorites are the ones that you can snuggle with.
Is this the same sister that reported you to the FBI? [Another highlight in the new book]
No, that’s the other sister. She has a baby too now. And her daughter, well, her daughter’s like 3, so she’s not really a baby anymore, but she’s a real hot mess. I have six nieces and nephews, so …
OK, big family. How do you think that enables you to deal with other celebrities, working relationships, etc.
Well, obviously I come from a big family, so it’s really … I’m always used to having a lot of people around, I like having a lot of people around, you know? I’m, like, one of those people ... like, I won’t have kids, ’cause if I have one I’m gonna want to have six. So, any environment where there’s a lot of people -- even my show, you know, at the top of the show, when there’s like three people on round table, I love that, because it’s just like a group. And that’s kind of what I’m used to. I think people who come from big families either crave isolation and no one else, or they constantly crave a big group.
You mentioned your show [Chelsea Lately]. Where did you meet Chuey?
No, you didn’t. Yeah. [Laughs] Actually, I told them to find me a little person for first show, The Chelsea Handler Show, and they said, “Oh yeah, we got someone!,” ’cause I was interviewing for an assistant. And they brought him in, and I just gave him a couple of equations real quick. I’m like, “Two times two,” and he said, “18.” And I figured, “You’re hired.”
Well, your chemistry is obviously very natural. Yeah, I mean, we love each other in real life too.
In Are You There Vodka?, part of your dedication is to him. As much as you joke and as much as he’s a part of the show, he must mean so much to you. Oh, yeah! I’m very, very protective over my Chuey. I love him very much.
Is he sensitive about being on the show, the attention? No! He loves it! Are you kidding? This is the time of his life. I can’t keep my hands off of him, and he loves it. He comes in every day to my office when he gets to work at noon. And he gives me a big kiss, and then we hug for, like, 30 seconds, and then stands there and lingers, and then he says, “I love you, Miss Chelsea. Thank you so much for everything.”
It obviously makes your day to just talk about him. Oh, totally. I mean, you can’t … Even if I’m in a shitty mood or a crappy mood at work, like shit’s not going right or somebody screwed something up, I see his face, and [I’m] just like, “Awwwwww.” No, I shouldn’t say his face, I should say, you see his body, and then you’re like, “Oh yeah, yeah, yeah.”
Has there been any more controversy since the initial letters complaining about the term “nugget”?
No! I actually haven’t! Haven’t gotten anything from them.
You’re obviously meaning it in an endearing way.
What can people expect from your live show in comparison to Chelsea Lately?
Well, the stand-up is a lot less about celebrities. It’s a lot more about my personal life and observational stuff. I mean, you can only talk so much about Paris, Britney and Lindsey Lohan, you know? I’ve been doing stand-up for over 10 years. That’s what I really love to do, and that’s how I started. I love it, so I think I’ll always do it as long as people still want to see me perform, I’ll be performing for a while.
Obviously you were an entertainer from a young age. Was it nerve-wracking to get up there the first time? Did you do an open-mike?
I sent in a video to the Improv in Los Angeles of me doing stand-up in my living room, and I was just literally telling jokes about waitressing, ’cause that’s what I did when I moved out here. And I waited tables for about five years, and people kept saying, “Oh, you should do stand-up. You should. You’re loud. You’re funny to some people.” So I was like OK. And then I’m like, “That’s the scariest thought ever.”
So I literally had about 18 margaritas one night and went on stage. I sent the video in to the Improv, and they said, “You should do a set. We want to see you do a set.” And I had never done anything, obviously, except telling funny stories or whatever, so I packed the room with all my friends, had a bunch of margaritas and had a great set. And had about a year of great sets, and then I had a year of bombing miserably, and then you pick yourself up again and you start to get really good at it. And now, now I love it. The only problem is trying to constantly come up with new stuff that keeps fresh, because, you know, you get bored with it if it’s the same stuff. There’s bit that you love to do, but you constantly have to sprinkle in new material to get yourself pumped up about doing it.
Otherwise that energy drops, and it’s old hat.
Yeah. It’s boring and the audience knows when you’re bored and if you’re bored, everyone’s bored.
Do you practice a set?
No, I go up almost every weekend, especially now with the book out, I’ve been on a book tour for the last couple. The book came out last week, but I started doing seaters again. I took like two months off because I was kinda burnt out. I was doing stand-up every weekend, and so now I’m just starting back up again and, you know, I had some time to write some new stuff. Your practice is basically on stage.
What about chemistry with an audience? I ask this because last time you were here you just nailed this lady, and it was hysterical.
In Dallas? Wait, what happened?
My friend and I were terrified that you’d call us out for some reason or another during your set. We were there in the front row and had no idea what to expect. I just remember this woman had these giant hoop earrings that we’d already made fun of, and she was really loud and kept talking, and you eventually just laid into her and it was awesome. The crowd ate it up. We were so irritated with her for distracting from the show.
Oh, absolutely, because you’re not paying to hear some fucking stranger yell shit. Well, that’s good!
So is that something you learn to do? I would assume dealing with siblings helps you learn to deal with a heckler.
Yeah, I mean, once you’re at a place where people are spending $30, $40 a ticket to see you, you’re pissed off for them if somebody ruins their fucking show. You know what I mean? You’re pissed off for the people that are in your audience. It’s disrespectful, and when you’re coming from that angle, you’re not going to be wronged -- you’re going to be vindicated. I mean, that’s a little bit of a dramatic word for such a stupid situation, but, you know, people need to be told to shut up, and I have a lot of fans that are really drunk and stupid and they don’t know how to ...I should rephrase that.
They get stupid when they’re drunk, and they drink a lot. I mean, I drink a lot. But here’s the problem: You can’t drink a lot if you can’t handle your alcohol ,and you can’t yell shit out in the middle of somebody’s show. It’s disgusting. So, I feel very passionately about that. and I feel very passionately about being able to hold your alcohol. I’m all for people having a good time, but if you’re slurring or screaming, you don’t get to drink any more.
Well, it was the first time I’d seen anyone handle a heckler in a live situation, and you did it so well.
Thank you. I mean, believe me, I’ve been to so many shows where girls can’t help themselves. And I understand they get, you know, they start drinking, it’s their night out with their friends and they just can’t stop talking back -- you know, finishing jokes or, you know, they interrupt your jokes by screaming something it’s like, “Oh, my God, you guys!” And their friends are like, “Shut up, shut up, shut up!” They can’t even get their own friends to calm down, you know, and it’s so mortifying. ’Cause I have friends like that that you can’t take out in public. We all do.
After much discussion in the office, we decided I had to ask you this last question. We want to know how do you keep your arms so toned?
Oh, my God! Are you serious?! Oh, my God, I love that! That is so funny, my boyfriend said to me last night, he goes, “God, you’re arms are lookin’ real good.” I go, “We have a widescreen so I always feel like a major beefcake. I’m always like, “Take off the fucking widescreen! I look like an Oompa Loompa!” So I honestly can’t even tell how they actually look, but thank you very much. I love that.
Um, I work out with my trainer. He’s black and he’s mean and I don’t really like him that much, so that’s how that works. Listen, here’s a secret: You do 15 push-ups a day. You just make yourself fucking do it, and once you get off your knees -- if you do it for a week, you’ll be able to do it off your knees. Just bust out 15 push-ups a day; you will honestly see a difference in 10 days. All you have to do is 15 wide, wide arm push-ups. Where you go down and you have them wide. It’s hard to do; use your knees at first. And you’ll see your triceps pop out in, like, a week or 10 days.
Thanks! That’s definitely doable. There’s hope for us all.
Yes! [Laughs.] Thank you.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss Observer's biggest stories.
- Planned Parenthood Sues Texas Over Medicaid Cash
Fri., Nov. 27, 2:00pm
Fri., Nov. 27, 5:30pm
Fri., Nov. 27, 7:30pm
Fri., Nov. 27, 8:00pm
- Dallas Mayor Is More Scared of Gun-Toting White Guys Than Syrians, Which Is Smart
- The Cowboys' Domestic Violence Troubles Didn't Begin with Greg Hardy. Just Ask Nate...