After eight years in late night, Chelsea Handler quit Chelsea Lately in August 2014, returned to her standup roots on a global comedy tour and made a film about it, Uganda Be Kidding Me Live, for Netflix.
In the four docs—Chelsea Does Marriage, Chelsea Does Racism, Chelsea Does Silicon Valley and Chelsea Does Drugs—Handler tackles hot-button issues with the candor, irreverence and no-filter humor she brings to her comedy, books and exclusive interviews… like this one.
“I don’t really live in regret. I just always kind of forge ahead and go, ‘OK, let’s make a new memory’ if there was a bad one.”
How are the four documentaries alike, and different?
They are all very different, and it’s been a really amazing experience for me because it’s a lot different than anything I’ve done before. Some were very personal. Some were very mind‑opening. Some were jarring. But it was a great kind of entré into the Netflix world. I don’t really have a problem looking bad or making an idiot of myself. I think it’s important to do that, and I think this is a perfect place to do something like that. I can be myself. I can be fun. I can be introspective. I can be thoughtful about stuff, or I can look like a total jackass, and that’s good television.
What inspired the Silicon Valley episode?
Technology makes me so irate. I was like, “I need to talk to the people because is this is making our lives easier, or is it making it harder?” I talk to CEOS of huge companies, 28-year-old billionaires, people on the upper end of things and investors. People who made it and also people who aren’t successful, who are trying and clamoring. We were trying to get Elon Musk, but I think he’s scared of me. I don’t blame him, actually. I might rip him a new one because my Tesla is acting a little funky.
And the one on racism?
Obviously it’s a situation that’s going on and not just on the black/white front. There’s racism within all different communities all over the world. We were on a reservation with American Indians, talking to them about how they’ve been marginalized.
Drugs—you’ve made no secret of the fact you’ve indulged.
I thought it would be nice to illustrate how irresponsible people are with prescription medication and when combining that with alcohol. I know I’ve done it, and I know a lot of people that do it, and you just don’t think anything dangerous is ever going to happen to you. It starts with a marijuana‑infused dinner with friends where we had a chef and a catering company. By the end of the night, you just see what happens to your brain. I experimented with different pills with a neuroscientist who gave me mental acuity tests and physical tests after Adderall, after Ambien, after Ambien and alcohol, those kinds of things. The drug episode isn’t to glamorize or glorify drugs but to illustrate what’s good and what’s not good and what’s abuse and what’s not abuse, and to be mindful of it.
How about Chelsea Does Marriage?
I’ve never felt compelled to be married, and now that I’m 40, I’m totally open to the possibility even though I have absolutely zero prospects. So I thought we should examine that. And we talked to my family. We talked to my ex‑boyfriends. We talked to people in my life, married couples that have been together for 65 years, people in a threesome. My mom passed away but my dad and brothers and sisters are in it. My dad talks about my mother and about me being married, and says, “Your mother and I always thought you were very difficult to live with.” We’re actually a lot more alike than I probably wish we were.
So you’d consider getting married?
I think I have accomplished a lot of the stuff that I wanted to, and I feel a little bit more secure about what I’m doing professionally, so I’m open to it, because I feel better, I’m into what I’m doing. I feel smart again. I’m reading tons of books. I get to do everything I want, the kind of adult that I wanted to be when I was a little kid.
What were you like as a kid?
Like this but with crappier clothes.
Did you get in trouble in school?
Yes, I got in trouble all the time. I was terrible. After I graduated, a substitute teacher who worked at my high school told my neighbor that also worked there: “I have a Chelsea in my class. You have to take her to your class. I had a Chelsea once, and I never want to meet another Chelsea again!” I was a bad girl.
Have you ever had any regrets over anything you’ve said and done, and wish you could take it back?
Not really, no. I don’t really live in regret. I just always kind of forge ahead and go, “OK, let’s make a new memory” if there was a bad one.
What can we expect from the new talk show?
We’re still talking about it. I’m having meetings all the time, creatively, about what I want to do and what I don’t want to do, what resonates with me—what I love about shows like Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel or 30 for 30 and can bring to the table with my take on things. Doing the documentaries has given me a glimmer of exactly what I love to do, in the situations I like to put myself in, which is a lot of fish out of water stuff, and I feel like that’s a great example to set. Not a lot of people do that on television. I like to think about what I can do, what I want to do, and what I would watch.
What are you proudest of?
Work-wise, the four documentaries. Personally, my greatest accomplishment, I guess is buying my mom’s sister a house—getting to do amazing things for the people that I love.
What’s on your future to-do list?
I don’t know, but you’ve got to always just keep your brain, your juices flowing. Don’t you think?