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PopEntertainment.com > Features Interviews F to J > Chelsea Handler

CHELSEA HANDLER

GOING HORIZONTAL

BY JAY S. JACOBS

Copyright © 2005 PopEntertainment.com All rights reserved. Posted: July 24, 2005.

If Chelsea Handler isn't careful, her career may infringe on her time and opportunities to have trysts.  The pretty New Jersey native has been quite busy making a splash in the world of stand-up comedy, doing sold-out gigs all over the US.  She is one of the stars of the Oxygen Network comedy series Girls Behaving Badly.  She also has a recurring gig as a special correspondent for The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. 

Now she has written her first book.  My Horizontal Life: A Collection of One-Night Stands (Bloomsbury USA) is just what it sounds like; Handler's funny tour of the modern sexual minefield.  Using her life as a guide, she spins hilarious yarns about past meaningless affairs, whether good, bad or ugly.  Wonderfully tongue-in-cheek, she gives you a whirlwind ride of virile midgets, gay gynecologists, male strippers, closeted leather junkies and uptight roommates.

Chelsea was on vacation, but she took a little time to phone us about the book and her career.

How did you originally get into stand-up comedy?

I moved out to LA when I was about nineteen to become a famous actress.  I realized that there was a lot more competition than I had bargained for.  You know, with the perfect girls.  There were girls that were prettier and skinnier and all Ė the whole thing.  I was like, well, shoot; I better do something other than try and become an actress.  I wanted to do something to kind of set myself apart from everybody.  I figured Iíve always had a big mouth, so stand-up would be a good idea, although I was petrified.  Itís not an easy thing to get up in front of complete strangers and just try to be funny.  So, I think I had about 50 margaritas before my first set.  The Improv on Melrose was the first time Iíd ever done stand-up.  I sent a tape in of me doing stand-up in my living room about waitressing, because that was the only experience I had.  I had been waiting tables for about two-three years in LA.  They called me back and said, ďWe love your tape.  Come down and do a set on Thursday night.Ē  I did it and Iíve been doing it ever since. 

How did you get into Girls Behaving Badly?

Girls Behaving Badly Ė they actually had seen me doing stand-up and asked me to come in and audition for them.  It was kind of the perfect first big job for me, because itís all improv and itís all on your toes.  You never really know whatís going to happen in any situation.  Thatís my thing Ė I almost prefer improv rather than scripted stuff, because itís so much fun to be in the moment and you can say anything.  Well, not anything.  Sometimes I have to be told to keep it clean.  (laughs)  But, itís a pretty much free-for-all.  Itís real fun, when youíre in the moment and youíre in these crazy situations trying to convince people to do ridiculous and ludicrous things.  So it was a perfect fit for me.  We just wrapped our fourth season.  It ended up opening a lot of other doors.  It also helps with your stand-up, too.

Was that how you caught the eyes of the Tonight Show and started being a correspondent for them? 

The Tonight Show actually saw me at the Aspen Comedy Festival.  They booked me to do stand-up on the Tonight Show.  The people were familiar with Girls Behaving Badly and they thought this would be a great way to have [me] come on every couple of weeks.  Because if you do stand-up, you go on maybe every three or four months.  If youíre lucky.   Itís great because itís all improv too.  With the correspondence pieces Iím doing, you go out and you interview people on the street and itís very in the moment.  Itís very improvisational.  Itís really, really a good gig, all the way around.  Plus, they serve you cocktails at the Jay Leno show, which they do not do on Girls Behaving Badly

Well, thatís something right thereÖ

Thatís a BIG bonus.

Do you come up with the ideas for the pieces, or do they suggest them to you?

We kind of talk about it together.  They come up with things that are happening around the country.  Basically, their theme is to be a fish out of water.  Put me in situations that I would never, ever be in naturally.  The last one just did was covering a square dancing convention on Oregon.  That airs this Wednesday night. 

The last one I saw was when you went to the line waiting for Star WarsÖ

Right, that was very fun.

Youíre doing some serious multitasking right now Ė you have the stand-up, the TV appearances, the book and now a book tour.  How hectic is your life right now?

The last six weeks have been pretty insane.  Itís been the busiest time of my life, so far.  Iím grateful for it, because Iíve been working for it for so long.  The book tour has just been amazing.  Iíve been going to cities that I never normally would go to.  Iím able to incorporate my stand-up.  Iím able to go do stand-up and then do book signings after.  Most authors just do book signings at Borders and Barnes & Noble.  Luckily, I can go and do a club in front of 400-500 people, as opposed to a Borders, where sometimes only 15 or 20 people show up.  So itís a huge advantage to have the stand-up.  I never, ever dreamt of being a stand-up comedian.  By doing it, itís opened up so many doors for me.  Itís been just an amazing experience.  Itís something Iíll never stop doing.  Well, I mean, hopefully when Iím not that cute anymore, I won't put anybody else through that torture, but... (laughs) now itís okay.  Thereís nothing attractive about a 75-year-old up on stage telling jokes, especially a woman.  Iíll have to stop at some point. 

Well, Phyllis Diller still does it, doesnít she?

Actually, somebody just gave me her CD.  Thatís funny you say that.

The book is very funny, but does it feel a little weird letting people in on some very personal experiences?

Yeah, I mean itís obviouslyÖ probably postponed anybody proposing to me any time soon.  But, I just wanted to write a bookÖ  Like I was writing the book and there were definitely some chapters I thought twice about putting in there.  Because I thought I donít want to just write this book and make me look funny or make me look cool or like I just get guys Ė whoever I want.  I wanted to put the most humiliating things that have happened to me, because I wanted it to be an honest book and I didnít want to be tooting my own horn.  I wanted it to be very self-deprecating, because thatís how I am.  Very self-deprecating.  The stories were all storiesÖ you know there are stories that arenít in there.  Iíve gotten calls from guys that arenít in the book, going, ďwhy arenít we in the book?Ē  Itís like, listen, this isnít a free-for-all.  I have had plenty of experiences.  I wanted it to be, above all, a funny book, because Iím interested in reading funny books and I didnít want it to be one of those romantic play-by-play books that you read about lovemaking.  Thatís not interesting to me.  I wanted to do something that I would be interested in reading.    

When guys have a lot of one-night-stands it is considered a badge of honor, but itís not the same for women who usually hide it when they do it.  Why do you think itís such a double-standard?

I donít know.  I think thatís changing a lot.  I think thereís a stigma that goes along withÖ You know, the funny thing is that men think that when they have sex with a woman on the first night, that oh, well, sheís not marriage material.  Or maybe thatís not the type of girl I want to go out with again.  What guys donít understand is that weíre doing the same thing.  If weíre having sex with you on the first night, weíre probably not that interested in seeing you again either. 

My experience has been that when women donít want to see me again, they usually donít want to sleep with me, either.  So I must be doing something wrongÖ

(Chelsea laughs.)

Because youíve written a book that is greatly about sex, do people suddenly treat you like youíre Loveline or Dr. Ruth and come to you with all these sex questions?

Yeah, itís funny.  I mean, a couple of the events Iíve been doing on my book tour, Iíve been to like eight different cities in the US and Iíve been getting a lot of questions.  A lot of times, if itís a speaking engagement, when itís not at a stand-up club like I had an event at Henry Bendels in New York, when itís a speaking engagement I had all these girls asking me what to do.  One girl was fooling around with her boss, and she didnít know what to do.  Another girl had a one-night-stand with one of her best friends and was asking advice.  Then, my sister was sitting in the background going, ďOh, my gosh.  This is so funny that youíre giving people advice.Ē  (laughs)  It is not meant for an advice book at all.  I donít feel like Iím anybodyís role model.  God forbid.  If Iím youíre role model, then youíve got bigger problems.  I didnít want it to be like that.  I just wanted to share some of my stories.  I just wanted it to be about the stories that happened to me, and share them.  If anything, itís like, okay, Iíve had all these one-night-stands so that nobody else has to go through what I went through.  (laughs again)     

I know you said you are in New Jersey now.  Are you visiting home?

Yeah, we just had our family summer vacation in Marthaís Vineyard.  Iím back in New Jersey today and fly back to LA tomorrow.   

How has your family reacted to the way they were portrayed in the book?

They all have very good senses of humor.  Weíve all grown up with each other, and theyíve known me my whole life.  Theyíre not really surprised by anything I do.  People are always asking, ďWell, what do your parents say?Ē  My parents think itís hilarious.  My sisters couldnít be any more different than they are from me.  They are very quiet and conservative.  My father thinks itís so funny that Iím so out there and just have no qualms about letting all my dirty laundry hang out.  He thinks itís great.  Heís like, ďGood for you.  Good for you for being a woman and not being timid about it.Ē  I think he feels also that I can get away with a lot more because itís a funny book, and in my stand-up, when I talk about men and one-night-stands; itís all in a funny tilt.  Itís not serious.  I think that he likes that aspect of it, because heís a very funny person.  He likes the fact that I can take a humiliating experience and make it funny.

One chapter I really enjoyed was the one where you went home for your sisterís wedding, because it is kind of rare for women writers to acknowledge that they really arenít having a good time at a wedding.  Why do you think that weddings are of such mythic importance to many women?

I know what you mean.  Everything has gotten so carried away.  Itís so about the attention put on the bride.  Itís not just a wedding anymore, itís the year leading up to the wedding.  The big bachelorette weekend, then itís the wedding showers, of course and then itís the speeches at the wedding.  It seems to have lost some of its sheen.  I feel like, if youíre getting married, youíre so blessed to have found somebody that you like so much, someone that you can spend your life with Ė donít push it.  (laughs)  Donít go register for your own gifts.  Buy us gifts.  Weíre still single.  Go buy me a ceiling fan or a bottle of vodka.  Whatever.  I feel like itís gotten very carried away.  When I get married, if I canít afford to pay for everyone to come out there to the wedding, then Iím not going toÖ  Iím not going to do it until I can do it the right way, until I have the money to do it.  Because everybody who goes to these weddings ends up bitching about it.  It totally backfires.  I donít want to get married having people at my wedding talking about me behind my back.  Going, "Can you believe we spent this money or that money."  No, I want everybody to be happy to be there.  Thatís why every year I have a huge birthday party and I make sure everything is included.  I donít want anyone complaining.  I donít want any gifts.  No gifts.  Just come and booze it up with me.  Thatís all I care about.  Good quality alcohol time.  

What would upset your father more, if you brought home the midget or brought home George W. Bush?

Ummm, I donít know.  Would the midget be black or white?  (laughs)

It doesnít matter.  Okay, why not blackÖ

I think heíd be more upset by the midget.  Even though heís not a Bush supporter, I feel like he may be a little bit closeted about his support for the Republican Party.  Heíd never admit it to any of us, butÖ   He definitely didnít vote for him.  I know that.  I donít think he voted for anybody.  I think he just stays out of it.  But thereís definitely a gray area with him, because he wonít come out and Bush-bash, like, you know, a lot of other people will.  Iím very suspicious.  (laughs) 

I noticed that you had a tendency to refer to a lot of the guys by nicknames Ė the midget, the Turtle, Thunder.  Were you protecting the innocent or just forgetting the names?

No.  I mean I did have a lot of nicknames.  I did definitely have to change names.   I changed everybodyís name except for my ex-boyfriend Peter, who personally requested I use his real name.  I changed all the names.  Legally, I had to.  I mean, some of these people I havenít spoken to since.  Most of them.  So you canít have them coming back and suing you and saying very clearly, obviously you were describing me.  You have to kind of do that legally.  But the nicknames Ė Turtle, Dumb Dumb; all those nicknames are true. 

I think one of my exes may have roomed with Dumb Dumb (the nickname Chelsea gave to a former roommate).  How do two such different people end up living together and how did you keep from going crazy? 

I think eventually I did go crazy.  I think we both went crazy.  We were the odd couple.  We were so different.  We met waitressing at a restaurant.  We had a very sisterly relationship.  Weíd fight like cats and dogs and the next minute be like, okay, letís go to dinner or go to the movies.  It was very sisterly like that.  We could be yelling and screaming at each other and the next minute weíd be talking like nothing happened.  I felt kind of like she was this little inexperienced person and I tried to help her with her social life and bring her out.  So sheíd come see me perform all the time at the Improv or wherever I was performing.  We got on well for a period of time.  It wore out, obviously, because we are so different.  And we arenít related.  So at some point, you have to be like, okay, this is not working out.  Itís ridiculous.  But it was a fun experience.  She gave me a lot of material. 

Were there any experiences that were just too weird or embarrassing to write about?

No, I think I put the weirdest and most embarrassing stories in there.  There is definitely a couple that I didnít get to put in and Iíll probably put in the next book.  But I wanted it to be the most outrageous stories.  

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Photo Credits:
#1 © 2005 Jenni Blong. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Press.  All rights reserved.
#2 © 2005 Jenni Blong. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Press.  All rights reserved.
#3 © 2005 Jenni Blong. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Press.  All rights reserved.
#4 © 2005 Jenni Blong. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Press.  All rights reserved.
#5 © 2005 Jenni Blong. Courtesy of Bloomsbury Press.  All rights reserved.

Copyright © 2005 PopEntertainment.com All rights reserved. Posted: July 24, 2005.

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Copyright © 2005 PopEntertainment.com All rights reserved. Posted: July 24, 2005.