Chelsea Handler of “Chelsea Lately” on E! Cable TV grew up one of six children in Livingston, New Jersey. Her mother was a Mormon and her father a Jewish used-car salesman prone to selling lemons. When he was 21, Chelsea’s older brother Chet fell 80 feet to his death from a cliff while hiking in the Grand Teton Mountains in Wyoming.
The death of Chesea’s brother sort of sucked the air out of the family. Says Handler in a September, 2010 “Rolling Stone” interview (“Dirty, Slutty, Funny” by Erik Hedegaard), “I had a lot of f*****-up s*** from what happened to my brother. After that, I was always trying to get attention, because all of a sudden the attention was completely on the death of my brother, and nobody really paid attention to me, so it totally turned into me trying to get attention. And I’d do it in f****-up ways, like at school lying and saying I was going to be in a movie with Goldie Hawn, weird stuff like that.”
So, at age 19 (Chelsea was born Feb. 25, 1979) she dropped out of community college and moved to Los Angeles, where she soon found herself being fired from a series of waitress jobs because of her big mouth. “I just wanted to be known,” Chelsea told Hedegaard. “I wanted to be famous. It’s really juvenile, yeah, but I wanted people to know who I was and that I was special.” Her waitressing exploits were fodder for her first stand-up act, which took place on a Thursday night at 10 p.m. at the Improv.
Today, Chelsea is scheduled to host the MTV Video Awards at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles on September 12, 2010, only the second time that a woman has hosted the awards. (RoseAnne Barr in 1994 was the first). She has a successful late-night television show, “Chelsea Lately,” on the air since July of 2007. The show averages half-a-million viewers, which is much better than other cable fare. Furthermore, the show has been renewed through 2012.
Chelsea’s boss is her former boyfriend, Ted Harbert, Comcast CEO, who thought up the premise for “Chelsea Lately.” Handler says that the romance with Harbert came to an end when he tried too hard to micromanage her life. “He’d say to my friends, ‘˜It’s too much. She’s under too much pressure. She can’t handle it. I can handle it. You can handle it. This is what I’ve worked for. This is what I want! So, one morning I just got up and said, ‘˜I’m out.’ I’m sure he didn’t think that was nice, but I was pretty happy about it.” Since then, Chelsea has been dating Dave Salmoni, Animal Planet zoologist, and acknowledged, aloud, during a recent “Chelsea Lately” appearance that he was, indeed, “penetrating” her.
Chelsea drives a Jaguar XK and lives in a $35,000 a month rental with her brother Roy, 41, who works as her personal chef. Roy warns that Chelsea is stubborn. “Making fun of people is what she does for a living, and what are you going to say? ‘˜No, Chelsea, you can’t do that’? Try saying ‘˜no’ to her. She doesn’t like that.” (“Rolling Stone,” September, 2010, “Dirty, Slutty, Funny” by Erik Hedegaard).
These days, with three books on the New York Times BestSeller list, a December 2009 “Playboy” pictorial, a successful TV show, a Bravo A-List Award in 2009, columns in both “Cosmopolitan” and the United Kingdom’s “Now,” and a ranking as number forty-eight on the Forbes Celebrity 100, Chelsea has raked in $19 million in the past 12 months. With her books, her stand-up, and her show, she shows no sign of slowing down any time soon.
In the tradition of such bawdy female comediennes as Sophie Tucker, Mae West, Phyllis Diller, Joan Rivers, Bette Midler, RoseAnne Barr and, (more recently), Sarah Silverman, Chelsea lets it all hang out. Her style involves razor wit, bawdy comments, and saying the sorts of things in her act or on her show that Howard Stern has made a career articulating on the radio.
Of her father, with whom she has a complicated relationship, Chelsea said, in “My Horizontal Life: A Collection of One-Night Stands,” [her first and funniest book], “My relationship with my father has been on the proverbial fritz since the time I was 15 and called the police to report him for child molesting. He had never molested me, but I wanted to have a party that weekend and I needed him out of the house.” (“My Horizontal Life: A Collection of One-Night Stands” by Chelsea Handler). She refers to her father in the new “Rolling Stone” interview as “ridiculous,” accusing him of “screwing his 20-year-old black Jamaican cleaning lady a month after my mom passed away.”
Sex is front-and-center in Handler’s books and in her life. She has said, “When I was having sex, and I’ve definitely had a lot of sex, it’s because I was interested in having sex and seeing what different things are out there. Like one of the girls on the show, I’ve known her since I was 20, and we’d go out and be just like 2 fucking sluts. We slept our way through this town. Neither of us would ever want a boyfriend, and guys would just creep us out. We were like, ‘˜Eeewww, get away from me!’ I don’t regret any of the sex I’ve had, because it’s given me a wealth of material. I like to air my dirty laundry. That time was fruitful, but that phase is over. I don’t think I can really do that any more.” She does pride herself on being “good in bed” saying, “Anyway, I think I’m pretty good in bed. Recently, I have been very good. I’ve gotten a lot of compliments.” Chelsea has talked about “some of the best sex I can barely remember” and once said, “I can remember my first one-night stand like it was yesterday. Well, maybe not the first. Or the second — or the fifth. I’ll just begin with what I can remember and not concern myself with order.” (www.goodreads/author/quotes/20357 Chelsea_Handler.)
Handler has been known to tipple, a habit that gave her second book its title: “Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea.” She even has an endorsement deal with her favorite brand of Vodka (Belvedere). One great line regarding her drinking is this one: “I went out with a guy who once told me I didn’t need to drink to make myself more fun to be around. I told him, ‘˜I’m drinking so that you’re more fun to be around.'” (www.goodreads/author/quotes/20357 Chelsea_Handler.)
Chelsea acknowledges of her youth that, “I had a big personality and could make friends, and I got exposed to every kind of situation you could be exposed to. I hung out with the good girls, I hung out with the bad girls, I dated black guys, I dated the captain of the football team. I did everything!” (“Rolling Stone,” September, 2010, “Dirty, Slutty, Funny” by Erik Hedegaard). She also admits that being her boyfriend might be tough, saying, “I seem like a handful, which isn’t attractive to a man. I would give myself a ‘B’ as a girlfriend. I can be a real pain in the ass.” (“Rolling Stone,” September, 2010, “Dirty, Slutty, Funny” by Erik Hedegaard).
With so much success and a commitment to continue the “Chelsea Lately” show through 2012, what does Chelsea Handler want to do next? She has said that she will continue doing stand-up until people quit coming. (I’ll be seeing her do stand-up live in Chicago on September 25th. Check back for the more outrageous remarks on a future Associated Content article.). She also says that, when her contract runs out and she is free to do something else, she’d perhaps like to do a talk show with politicians. Certainly she has aimed some sharp jabs at politicians in the past, like this one: “He laid into me with the same gusto as a right-wing political pundit on the O’Reilly Factor defending President Bush’s right to vacation 6 days out of the week.” (“Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea” by Chelsea Handler).
So far, with the help of a personal trainer she refers to as Pilates Tina, Chelsea Handler has what many other women want: a great rack, nice legs, a pretty face, a razor-sharp wit and the nerve to say things like, “In a statement to the Associated Press earlier in the year, Jamie Lynn Spears said she didn’t have a boyfriend. She said, ‘˜I’m keeping my options open.’ And by options, she meant legs.”
The blowback that inevitably affects acerbic female comics who make critical remarks about others has, so far, not derailed the Chelsea Handler juggernaut, which just keeps steamrolling onward and upward. At one point, all three of her books were one, two and three on the New York Times best-seller list. (“My Horizontal Life: A Collection of One-Night Stands,” “Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea” and “Chelsea, Chelsea, Bang, Bang” for which she recently did a nationwide tour. Read the first book first; it’s better than the second .) Handler admits she’s been lucky and she says, “A lot of people probably think, ‘˜Oh, she’s so f****** lucky.’ And I am. I work hard. But I’m f****** lucky. Obviously.”
As Hedegaard put it in his profile of Ms. Handler for “Rolling Stone:” “It’s the attitude that’s selling, along with a wink and a nod, and it’s made her a hot ticket.” (September, 2010 “Rolling Stone” article “Dirty, Slutty, Funny” by Erik Hedegaard.).
(Sources: www.goodreads.com/author/quotes/20357 Chelsea_Handler; www.wikipedia.com; “My Horizontal Life: A Collection of One-Night Stands,” by Chelsea Handler; “Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea” by Chelsea Handler; “Chelsea, Chelsea, Bang, Bang” by Chelsea Handler; “Rolling Stone,” September, 2010, “Dirty, Slutty, Funny” by Erik Hedegaard.)