Comedian Chelsea Handler delivers comedy with a dose of therapy

Chelsea Handler brings her "Vaccinated and Horny Tour" to San Diego on Sept. 5.
Chelsea Handler brings her “Vaccinated and Horny Tour” to San Diego on Sept. 5.
(Courtesy of Chelsea Handler)

Chelsea Handler’s San Diego show is sold out, but you can catch her introspective comedy in a variety of ways


Some people say that life is too short, but comedian Chelsea Handler declares that it’s too long.

She blames annoying people for making her existence tedious:

Like folks who say “anyways.”

“It’s not a word.”

And room service attendants who serve chicken fingers with a knife and fork.

“It’s shaming.”

Then, there are the guys who show up for a date wearing flip flops with jewelry, order an ahi tuna sandwich for breakfast and ask her to name her top 10 favorite bands.

These are all observations that cause Handler to cringe and her fan base to laugh, and the kinds of subjects she tackles on her “Vaccinated and Horny Tour.”

For those who will miss her sold-out Sunday show at Humphreys Concerts by the Bay, there’s also her HBO Max special, “Evolution,” her new book, “Life Will be the Death of Me … and You Too!” and her weekly advice podcast, “Dear Chelsea,” distributed by the iHeart Radio Podcast Network.

Handler prepared material for The HBO Max special by performing her stand-up comedy in small clubs on the East Coast.

“The special was just over an hour and I had to economize my time,” Handler says.

“So, a lot of what was left out was repurposed in the new show I’m currently touring with. I talk a lot about my dogs and their interest in getting a restraining order against me. They think my housekeeper is their adoptive mother and I’m just an au pair who roams through the house every couple of weeks.”

‘An honest, authentic way’

Comedy is a serious business, a mostly-male art form often inspired by tragedy or a sense of outrage. Early notable female comedians such as Lucille Ball, Joan Rivers and Roseanne Barr got laughs with self-deprecating humor or narratives about husbands and family life.

But Handler is one of the contemporary female comics who explores a wider realm of topics and mediums. She is bawdy and unrestrained about women’s sexuality, racism, drugs and social issues. More than once, she has had to submit a public apology for remarks that crossed the political correctness line.

While that hasn’t made a difference in her success, it makes writing comedy — a medium that can expose social and political inconsistencies with humor — more challenging.

“We aren’t allowed to say what we want,” Handler says. “It’s whatever. I don’t subscribe to the theory of we can’t say anything. You can say a lot and be very clever about it, so why not try?”

This image released by HBO Max shows Chelsea Hander during her comedy special "Chelsea Handler: Evolution."
(Associated Press)

Handler has made a career of trying. She has worked as a producer, a talk show host (“Chelsea Lately”), a sitcom actress (“Are You There, Chelsea?”) and a stand-up comedian with numerous specials to her credit. She’s authored a half dozen books, most on the New York Times best-seller list.

“I’m really into language and reading,” says Handler, who is currently perusing author Jory Fleming’s “How to Be Human: An Autistic Man’s Guide to Life” and “Bestiary” by K-Ming Chang.(She’s also is writing the forward for Shelly Tygielski’s “Sit Down to Rise Up: How Radical Self-Care Can Change the World.”)

“I probably read more than people would think,” Handler says. “I’m fascinated by words and language. That’s why I like to communicate in so many different mediums. I like to talk. I like to write. I like to perform. It all works for me and I feel like when you recognize what you are good at doing, then you have to focus on doing that in an honest, authentic way.”

Earlier this year, Handler launched the advice podcast “Dear Chelsea” with co-host Brandon Marlo, who is also Handler’s calm and collected personal assistant. Together, they offer advice to callers who submit online questions. She said one of the more interesting calls they got was from a transgender man who struggled with smoking marijuana on a daily basis.

“I said, ‘I’ll take a 30-day break from weed with you in solidarity,’” Handler says. “He did it and came out to his family. His whole life opened up. Once he stopped, he had clarity and that kind of conversation is very moving and inspiring.”

‘Fiercely independent’

One of the themes in Handler’s comedic work is her decision to see a therapist, and she poignantly details her experience in her new book and in some of her comedy routines.

Handler, one of six siblings, was born to a Mormon mother and Jewish father. When she was 9 years old, her 22-year-old brother, Chet, died in a hiking accident — a tragic loss that impacted her family life. Handler’s mother died 22 years later, from complications due to cancer.

In her book, “Life Will Be the Death of Me,” Handler details, with the help of her therapist, the steps she took to understand that her fear of loss and unresolved grief kept her from experiencing intimacy.

Though she remains single and still dating, Handler, now 46, states that she is “fiercely independent” and that she “likes that status.”

“Listen,” she says. “I have never been more confident in my decision-making skills of remaining childless and alone. I’m very grateful for my strategic choices, made on the off chance that I would be living through a global pandemic. I’m not stuck at home, either home-schooling kids or plotting the murder of my husband. Talk about seeing the future and knowing what would work for me. I don’t want to toot my own horn, but … beep, beep.”

Chelsea Handler: “Vaccinated and Horny Tour”

When: 7:30 p.m. Sunday

Where: Humphreys Concerts By the Bay, 2241 Shelter Island Drive, Shelter Island

Tickets: Sold out


Manna is a freelance writer.