Comedienne Chelsea Handler, fresh from an appearance as hostess of the MTV Video Awards, played the Chicago Theater (Chicago, IL) on Saturday, September 25, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. to a sold-out crowd that paid $75 (average) per ticket and with enough demand that a second 10 p.m. show was added. (Chelsea mentioned that she wished she could go out drinking after the first 7:00 p.m. show, but that she had to perform an encore performance.) [In a recent “Rolling Stone” September interview it was revealed that she had made $19 million over the past 12 months.]
Lead-in act for Ms. Handler was comic Sarah Colona, who performed an acceptable stand-up routine, attired in blue jeans, a sleeveless black top and killer black high heels. When Ms. Colona finished, Handler emerged, attired in black pants, a black-and-white top and outrageously high red shoes. As she teetered around the stage, her blonde hair pulled back in a pony tail with a black headband, Chelsea mentioned having just appeared in Nashville, where many black patrons wanted Chelsea’s books signed with names spelled in unusual ways, like “Baileigh.” “If you have any questions, you can axe me later,” said Handler, while making fun of the creativity of African American names such as “Le4sh’.”
Handler has probably been feeling the heat from a variety of groups, lately, as she is one in a long line of female insult comics who make fun of others. Usually, this does not go down well. Inevitably, the targets of such humor will complain. This isn’t unique to Handler. The females who have established this genre began as far back as Sophie Tucker and Mae West in burlesque and continued through comediennes like Phyllis Diller, Totie Fields, Joan Rivers, RoseAnne Barr, Kathy Griffith, and Sarah Silverman. Now, courtesy of the ex-boyfriend who showcased Handler’s sarcastic shenanigans, we have “Chelsea Lately” on television with Chelsea’s Mexican midget sidekick Chewie and Chelsea Handler in person and in books. When a bit came up about Chewie’s appearance in a porno flick early in his career, Handler said, “He’s a Mexican midget. What did you want him to do for a living?”
Handler mentioned getting heat from Asian groups (the Asian Coalition) and others, who expected her to apologize for some of her remarks. Said Handler, “I’m not apologizing to anyone about anything ever. I’m retarded.” (The crowd applauded). She gave high marks to black audiences for being able to laugh at themselves the most easily.
Next up was a riff about female grooming, noting that, if one has one’s pubic hair permanently removed using lasers and a more natural look comes back in style, “What am I supposed to do? Get p**** plugs?” [Much of Handler’s material is raunchy and deals with sex, as do her three best-selling books.]
She was particularly hard on the ex-boyfriend, Ted Harbert, President of the “E!” Entertainment network. Others taking fire? Russians, Angelina Jolie (Pax: “Why is our family turning into a Benetton ad?”), the Los Angeles Zoo (“It’s a terrible zoo. It only has half a giraffe and a mosquito. I took my niece to the Red Lobster and told her we were at the Aquarium.”) and masturbation.
If you’re not cool with the latter, you would not like Ms. Handler’s material, but the crowd, filled with what appeared to be Chelsea thirty-something clones, seemed to think she could do no wrong. Someone kept shouting, “We love you, Chelsea” and she would say “Thank you” and follow that with “Shut the f*** up.”
Speaking about her childhood, Handler noted that, when she was 5 (she is one of 6 children of a Mormon mother and Jewish father) she was expected to wear her 10-year-old sister’s clothes. “Then, I got a Cabbage Patch doll that had no birth certificate. It was black with a cleft palate.”
Handler made no jokes about her older brother Chet’s accidental death at age 21 while hiking in Wyoming, which, she says, changed her life, but she did recycle the bit about redheaded men (she doesn’t like them) that appeared in one of her three best-selling books and you’ll never look at a banana seat on a bicycle quite the same way again. She also stumbled into an almost fatal comic faux pas when a redheaded couple down front who had revealed that they had been married for 38 years was asked if their children were redheads. Handler misheard the response and said, “Your son is blind?” (Turns out they said “blonde.”) [Handler had just been riffing on a blind mountain climber, wondering why a blind person would climb a mountain, since it couldn’t be for the view.]
Most often targeted for the most direct comic barbs was Handler’s boss and former live-in love Ted Harbert (network head of “E” Entertainment), with whom Handler had a four-year live-in relationship. Somehow, I can’t imagine my own husband would be quite so forgiving if I were to relate the intimate details of a bad case of Montezuma’s Revenge he experienced while on a trip to Mexico, as Handler did onstage. Although her television show is renewed through 2012, and reports are that she made $19 million in 12 months (September issue of “Rolling Stone”), hopefully she won’t experience the form of karma that Joan Rivers experienced when she called Johnny Carson to tell him she was accepting an offer to do a late-night TV show that would compete with “The Tonight Show” on NBC. (In the new documentary “Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work,” she reveals that Carson slammed the phone down and never spoke to her again and she was banned from NBC from then until now.)
Other topics were her dislike for cats, her dog (whom she rescued from an animal shelter), her niece Seneca, her older sister who is a practicing Mormon (“talk about a buzz-kill”) and a long-ago sleepover party at the Saperstein house that involved eight 9-year-old girls.
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