Seven Questions for Chelsea Handler

The comedian on ending her talk show, the art of interviewing and why 24 hours behind bars was more than enough

Photo by Melissa Holt

Photo by Melissa Holt

You’re performing here the second weekend in June. Did you lose some kind of awful bet to be doing a late-spring show instead of coming in the fall when it’s 30 degrees cooler?

No, I just added the dates at the end of my tour. The tour was supposed to end in Atlantic City. Then after we booked it, I was like, “Oh, I forgot to do Vegas.” My friends always love to come to Vegas. We probably won’t be spending a ton of time outside.

Your new book, Uganda Be Kidding Me, is an account of your travels through Africa. How was the booze there?

It wasn’t great when we got there, but it was fine when we left. We trained everybody on the continent of Africa how to make a proper margarita. Anybody who goes on safari now and gets a decent drink, you have me to thank. You can write me a thank-you letter.

Now that Chelsea Lately is set to end in August, how do you feel about the show as a whole, and how are you approaching the end run of episodes?

It’s kind of the end of an era for me, but obviously I’ll be doing other things. I’ll probably be making an announcement in a month what that is. I’m excited about [the show ending], but it’s not a big fanfare goodbye like Leno or Letterman, obviously, because I’m not retiring. I’m going to go do something else, but I just haven’t made public what that is yet.

 Were you caught by surprise with all the speculation that you were going to take over for Craig Ferguson on The Late Late Show?

Yeah, because it was all speculation. None of the things people were writing about me were at all true. Nothing was. I wasn’t even contemplating doing any other jobs. I was never in discussions for any other job, except for the one I want to do. We’ve been kind of brainstorming and collaborating with other people whom I want to work with. I knew what direction I wanted to go in.

I want to take some time off, which I’ll be doing—I’m going to take three to six months off. My [stand-up] special is going to air in October, and other than that, I’ll be on TV a couple of times next year. I figured it was a time for a break—for me and for everyone from me.

Earlier this year, you went gangster in a CNN interview with Piers Morgan. What has hosting a talk show taught you about being a good interviewer?

You have to be a good listener. I think that’s the most important thing. Any question you have is most likely going to be a question thousands of other people also are interested in hearing the answer to. Listening is first and foremost the most important thing. That’s the one thing Piers wasn’t able to do.

Having honed those skills, would it be difficult to leave them behind if interviewing isn’t going to be a part of what you do next?

I’m always going to be interviewing people. That’s something I really enjoy. I’m going to be doing it in a different capacity than I’m doing now, I’m sure. But it’s not something you leave behind. It’s like having a conversation with any person. I’m always interested in the details. When someone relates a story to me and they say, “Oh, they broke up,” I’ll be like, “Why did they break up?” She says, “Oh, I don’t know, I didn’t ask.” “What do you mean you didn’t ask?”

I’m interested in people I have no interest in, and the interpersonal workings of every relationship. I’m just a really super curious person. I can’t read a book and not understand a paragraph without rereading it 15 times until I do understand it. If I don’t know a word, I have to look it up immediately. A certain kind of person needs an answer to every question they have.

After Laura Prepon played you on Are You There, Chelsea?, do you ever watch her on Orange Is the New Black and wonder how you’d do in prison?

I’ve been to prison, so I know that I wouldn’t do very well—not as well as Laura. I got a DUI when I was 21. They put me in L.A. County Women’s Prison for about 24 hours. I wrote about it in one of my books. It was public information before somebody could out me. That was enough. I’ve never been back since.

So you haven’t scoped out good pruno recipes just in case?

No, I have not.

Uganda Be Kidding Me

Chelsea Handler performs at 8 p.m. June 13-14 in the Chelsea at the Cosmopolitan, $85, 702-698-7000,

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