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Chelsea Handler adept at juggling 'Chelsea Lately,' standup act, book deals

Chelsea Handler, pictured in her Los Angeles office, has a new show in the works for E!, <i>After Lately,</i> which will be mostly improvised.

New York Times

Chelsea Handler, pictured in her Los Angeles office, has a new show in the works for E!, After Lately, which will be mostly improvised.

Chelsea Handler's life is moving so fast, even the rumors about her can't keep up.

When we talked last week, the 35-year-old comic was busy denying she was dating superstar rapper 50 Cent. ("We had a business meeting," said the comic, who once joked about hosting the MTV Video Music Awards to pick up black men.) This week, she's shrugging off a Twitter war with fellow comic Nick "Mr. Mariah Carey" Cannon, after asking who would be providing the comedy on his new standup comedy tour.

Mostly, the controversy just proves Handler's success in tap dancing on the hot buttons of sex, celebrity, comedy, race and debauchery. Already, there are three explicitly confessional books on the New York Times' bestseller list, including March's Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang; a raucous, often-criticized stint hosting this year's MTV VMAs, featuring a cameo from a just-outta-rehab Lindsay Lohan; and a full slate of comedy concerts that helped push her earnings up to $19 million in one 12-month period, according to Forbes magazine.

No wonder it took months to schedule a telephone audience with the Queen of Late Night. When life is coming at you this fast, sometimes the toughest thing to do is slow down and talk about it.

You got mixed reviews for hosting the VMAs. How do you feel about it?

I had a blast. I'm used to getting mixed reviews, so that doesn't ever bother me. It's like, you get scared and it ends up being a big hit or a bestseller, so you can't listen to that. You just have to know a lot of people will hate you, and that means you're doing something right.

Some critics say you're popular because you're sexy, not funny.

What I hear most often is, "Is it hard to be pretty and funny?" No, that's not hard. In some sense, it's much easier.

I have a show that, like, no one's ever had before, where you have an interview and a round table and you make fun of all the tabloid fodder. I wrote a book about one-night stands. It's been on the bestseller list for like 100 weeks; that's ridiculous. Nobody would ever give a girl advice, "You should go write a book about sex and all the one-night stands you had. That'll be a huge hit." Yeah, so you can kind of make your own rules and do whatever you want, and I'm having a really good time doing it.

What do you talk about onstage?

That's much more about my personal life: my boyfriends, my ex-boyfriends, my family, my friends, you know, people that I can't stand, Russians, cats, whatever.

How did Russians get in the middle of this?

'Cause I saw one at Starbucks one morning and I didn't like him at all, so now they're a whole big part of my standup.

Don't make fun of the Chinese or that'll be, like, an entire continent hating you.

No, you gotta make fun of everybody. I'm a Jewish woman; I make more fun of myself than pretty much anybody, so I just talk about what's going on in my life, you know. It's very honest and very stupid, but it's a fun show. Sometimes I take my shoes off and just do it barefoot.

Do you have a game plan for your career?

The next book out is going to be called Lies That Chelsea Handler Told Me, and everyone's contributing stories, all my friends and co-workers and everything about ways that I've screwed them over the years. We have another show that just got picked up for next year called After Lately, and it's basically like a … kind of like Curb Your Enthusiasm, (a mostly improvised program) about what goes on after the show.

So do you see yourself more as the next Ryan Seacrest or the next Oprah Winfrey?

I definitely don't see myself as the next Ryan Seacrest because I'm straight, and I don't see myself as the next Oprah Winfrey because I'm white. So, maybe a combination of the two.

One other thing. There's a rumor you actually had sex in a joke tape made to look like you accidentally recorded over an audition video (after this interview, the New York Post reported Handler wouldn't sign off on a third party releasing the tape, scotching a deal for public sale). What's the scoop?

Oh, there's no sex tape. That's ridiculous. It's a joke that I might have done years ago and if I had the tape, I'd air it on my own show but I can't find it. (Laughter.) That's why they haven't released it because they've been talking about it for like a year now.

Does the fact that we're talking about your fake sex tapes mean you've really arrived?

It's pretty stupid. But people are pretty stupid.

Chelsea Handler

She appears at 8 and 11 p.m. Saturday at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts, 1010 N MacInnes Place, Tampa. At press time, tickets were available only for the 11 p.m. show, $62.50-$92.50. (813) 229-7827.

Chelsea Handler adept at juggling 'Chelsea Lately,' standup act, book deals 10/20/10 [Last modified: Thursday, October 21, 2010 2:12pm]
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