If you’ve read one of Chelsea Handler’s four best sellers, you know she leaves nothing to the imagination, no matter how humiliating. Handler, whose E! Network show Chelsea Lately is still going strong into its seventh year, continues her quest to be hilariously and brutally honest as a scribe, penning her latest collection of short stories Uganda be Kidding Me. In the book she narrates her adventures abroad, focusing, as always, on the crude, the crass and the cringe-inducing.
She comes to Miami with her stand-up tour to promote the new book as the headliner of the South Beach Comedy Festival. We talked with Handler, or rather she talked and we just laughed — about writing, dating, misbehaving and her ongoing affection for vodka.
Do you get to Miami often?
I was just in Miami before Valentine’s Day. I stayed at the cutest little place called Casa Tua. I had a romantic interlude with a boy.
I don’t know. I didn’t get his name.
Where did you meet him?
He’s foreign. I met him on international soil. We had to meet up in a location that was equidistant from where he lives in Europe and where I am so we decided on Miami. We didn’t leave the hotel room much so I didn’t get out much.
So Miami is your international booty call port?
That’s what I have to do! I have to go overseas where people don’t know my personality because men are so disgusted by me. I have to go places where there’s a language barrier.
No, they’re just afraid. They can’t handle the Chelsea.
Yeah, they are afraid. Not disgusted.
You’ve taken us into your sexual escapades in My Horizontal Life, and introduced us to your god (vodka) in Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea. Now you are taking your literary adventures abroad with your new book Uganda Be Kidding Me?
I love to travel, I’m like a real American idiot. And I bring all my friends and we have these great times so I started writing it down. And I always said if I ever write another book I’m going to write about all my travels. I get to stay at these amazing places because I have this fortunate career. I started writing notes and I told my editors I was writing and they’ve been telling me to write another book for the last four years. I’ve been telling them no because it’s too hard, then I have to go on the stand up tour. And here I am doing it again because I just love myself.
What should we expect from the book Uganda Be Kidding Me?
There’s a lot of going to the bathroom off of safari jeeps in Africa. When I went to Africa I didn’t use the bathroom for 10 days, so then on the way back I went to visit my friends in the Bahamas to readjust and I stayed there for four days and I had a big embarrassing accident and it involved a kayak and that’s all I’ll say. So that’s in the book because I like to put the most humiliating stories in first just so people know that I don’t think that my shit don’t stink.
What’s the best bit of advice you have learned in all your travels?
Tip heavily. I just start out whenever we go somewhere, I start tipping right away. I apologize up front, I tell them this is not going to be pretty, we’re going to be unruly. We’re going to act like Russian men and we’re going to drink like Russian men but we’re all here in good fun, in good spirits and we’re not mean and we’re not going to do anything to hurt anyone but ourselves so here’s money so that you know we’re coming from a good place. And then we just raise hell. I would definitely say I’ve embarrassed my country.
How satisfying is it to know that your fans really read?
Yes, of course. Everybody should be reading books. It depends on what your reading but really as long as you’re reading anything it’s better than reading nothing at all. Or reading US Magazine.
Your books crack us up. What author cracks you up?
David Sedaris is the person I read first where I thought these are disparate essays that are all about his life but not necessarily related to each other. I have stories like that and I had no idea there was an audience for it.
What will the show at the Fillmore be like?
Well, I’m going to be doing stand up, just talking about everything; my personal life, my dating life, how difficult it is to be a celebrity. I was going to write a book called How to Bitch about Being Famous but I thought better of it. It’s not easy, I literally had to go internationally to find boyfriends because no one will date me. It is impossible for someone like me to date in this country because everyone knows who I am and they are so scared. My friend pointed out to me that I don’t know how to flirt. They said shut up, don’t talk, don’t be loud, just sit there and giggle like a geisha. It’s true, I started doing it and now I have boyfriends everywhere. European men are much more tolerant of me. They get it.
You tend to disarm guests on your show Chelsea Lately with your oversharing. Who has given you the most surprising reaction to anything you’ve dished out on the show?
People seem to be shocked by things I say but I’m me, so I’m not that shocked by it and I’m not putting on an act. I’ve been talking like this since I could talk. When I was 3 I was telling my dad he was a loser and needed to get a job. That’s just how I am. Things come out of my mouth before I have time to stop them. So the reaction that you see isn’t necessarily the reaction that I see. People always say “I can’t believe you said that,” and I didn’t even think about it but it’s just so ingrained in me to just be that way but I know for some people it can be off-putting and some people are like “Get her away from me.”
Sometimes celebrities have their PR reps put demands about what can and cannot be said during an interview. What do you do when they get picky with you?
Usually they don’t come on the show or if there’s a sensitive topic that they really don’t want to talk about I will be respectful of that unless it’s something that would be embarrassing for them not to talk about it. But I don’t care. I’m not going to force someone to talk about something when they don’t want to. It’s not that kind of structure. This show is so loose and fun and the most important thing I want people to feel comfortable and have a good time when they come on the show. I think it’s different from late night shows in that way is that everyone looks like they’re having fun the whole time and that’s part of my own goal. But sometimes people get nervous when they’re getting interviewed so you have to be mindful of that and you want to relax them right away so I say “the joke’s on me.” I’m the one who looks like an idiot.
Your sidekick Chuie is a little person. Do little people see you as an antagonist or as a champion?
I would think they would think of me as a champion. I mean, he was a porn star before I rescued him.
You recently participated in the MAKERS conference, a gathering of prominent women leaders. Talk to me about that experience.
I go to those women’s conferences frequently because I think its important for women to be around other women and thinking about ideas. It’s empowering to be in a room with really successful women. It’s mindful, you’re around a lot of bright people and after spending a day on the E! Network, you kind of want to be.
Gloria Steinem was quoted as saying at the conference, “If women could sleep their way to the top, there’d be a lot more women at the top.” Is that a sentiment you can get behind?
Yeah, I guess. Tha
t’s what people used to say when I got my job at E! because I was dating the president of the network but I always said that if I was sleeping with someone to get a job, I’d be sleeping with someone at a better network.
So you are now in publishing, producing, acting, hosting your own show, helping your cohorts get their careers going. Do you like it when people describe what you have as a media empire?
Yeah, I love it. It’s great. It’s not an empire, but I do have a lot of things going on. My goal is to get everyone who is on my show to have their own show, their own book or to have something. It’s nice to be able to shepherd other people’s careers.
Are you a benevolent ruler of your vast empire?
Yes. Well, I’m a bitch with a very big heart. I’m a generous bitch.
When will you start publishing a magazine with your smiling face featured every month?
Oh god, I’ll never do that.
Do you misbehave like Justin Beiber when you get down here to Miami?
I don’t misbehave on that level. If I misbehaved, I do it at Casa Tua in my hotel room.
Do you still pray to the god of vodka?
Yes, I’m a big vodka girl, but I like tequila too. I switch off. I like to drink enough on the weekends so that I don’t drink Monday through Wednesday.