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GUEST BLOG #96: Eric Gould Embraces Chelsea Handler... And Who Can Blame Him?
June 4, 2010  | By Eric Gould

[Bianculli here: Our newest contributor, Eric Gould, is a Chelsea Come Lately -- a recent, but very enthusiastic, discoverer of the comic charms of E! Chelsea Lately talk-show host Chelsea Handler...]


One night a few months back, I got lucky and found Chelsea Lately, Chelsea Handler's weeknight talk show at 11 ET on the E! network. It took just a minute to get hooked by her jaded, world-weary, no-time-for-it-all shtick that was high on smarts, and extremely low on patience.

(OK, acknowledged: Maybe I have been living under a rock to have missed a New York Times number one best-selling author. You don't know the half of it.)

Chelsea-Coture.jpgHandler, an addictive personality disorder and youngest child of a Jewish father and Mormon mother, is from the wrong side of the tracks of well-to-do Livingston, New Jersey -- a unique coincidence of location and parenting where perhaps she had a wealth of material early on, and out sprang the nanosecond timing she wields so easily today.

But since she sometimes trails even TBS's George Lopez in the ratings, perhaps I can be cut some slack for not finding her right away. (That's right, she's trailing a show perhaps even rivaling Arsenio Hall for Worst Talk Show Ever. I can't explain a test pattern losing to him, but there it is.)

My cultural illiteracy aside, Handler's resume is long and impressive, with stints on the Oxygen network, her own sketch comedy show (for two years on E!,) numerous stand-up tours, and three books behind her. I'm currently reading the second, Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea, and the third, Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang. Both are sharp, semi-autobiographical essays on her life, friends and love in Los Angeles. (At least I hope she's making some of it up...)

chelseahandler.jpgThe Chelsea Lately thirty-minute format is perfect for her, which crams two short segments of her behind a desk dishing entertainment news with panelists of fellow comedians, followed by one short interview segment. (She's a generous interviewer, even cutting the cast of The Jersey Shore due respect as legitimate TV stars.) Recent interview guests have been Ed Asner, Justin Bieber and Crispin Glover... as eclectic and interesting a selection as you'll find anywhere.

The show is bracketed by Handler's monologues: sassy fits, liberally peppered with funnier adjectives, and all delivered at a pitch-perfect, rapid-fire pace. The woman's ability to get it all out, flub-free, is impressive. She also has perfectly awkward moments of most certainly scripted repartee with her shrunk-in-a-dryer Ed McMahon, a dwarf and reputed former porn-star, Chuy Bravo.

As in her books, she's a wordsmith of the highest order. For example, she observed recently that "the disparate pieces of my life are coming together like an origami duck," and described Morgan Freeman as "the world-renowned narrator and black-freckled actor."

She's also made her own additions to the Urban Dictionary, such as her female zone now known as the "coslopus," or the presents her dog Chunk leaves on the lawn as "shadoobies."

Chelsea-Handler-blck-dress.jpgPerhaps the only thing funnier than the writing on the show is Chelsea herself. From her jaded take to the camera at the opening monologue, where she seemingly endures ill-selected clothes and inappropriate hairdos, to trading insult for funnier insult with the LA comics on her panel, she's impossible to one-up -- no matter which corner she's backed into.

Like the best of them (Jon Stewart and Bill Maher come to mind), ordinary life and real events are funny enough for Handler. She just reads the topics off the cards, and usually the weary glance to the camera is enough to get the laugh. It's simply the choice of subject that's critical.

Recently, commenting on whether Elin Woods would try to put her marriage back together, she cited the new video game, "Tiger Woods Affair Tour 2010." Handler noted, "I think you pretty much can say the marriage has come to an end if they're making video games about your cheating husband's sex life."


Even better, often, are some of the pre-recorded sketches, most notably the "Employee Reviews," in which she revives her character "The Inappropriate Boss" and scatter-shoots employees with numerous, indelicate questions and comments about their personal and sexual lives, and attempts to set them straight. (She's obviously got experience in this area, and can tear through these without a hitch.)

Other repeating sketches are "Judge Lately," where she parodies Judge Judy, but with rulings of extreme prejudice and irrelevance, and "Staff Book Club," where the staff gathers to discuss a book, but goes wildly off topic.

Handler often brings to mind the early days of Dave Letterman's show, where the out-of-bounds was regular territory and the wit had the sting and insight of the smartest writers. She's got a lot of admirers, mainly her guests, who all sincerely seem to genuinely like her (unlike Letterman now), and it's a credit to her love for people's natural defects and foibles that keeps her lovable, and definitely not mean.

(Although, yes, she does have some favorite targets. OK, forgiven. It's Hollywood. How could you not comment? It's a requisite for being on E!)

Last week in the New Yorker, Nancy Franklin quoted Robert Morton, former producer of the Letterman show, as saying, "When there is a decision to be made about replacing somebody on a big network show, I guarantee Chelsea will be up there on the list." A great job reference from someone who would know better than most.

Let's hope the right people are listening.


1 Comment


Rich said:

Chelsea is kinda "Hit or Miss" - when she's ON , it's very funny, acerbic, cunningly clever, or even ribald in her musings- It all depends on the topic.

Her appeal is what I'd call "Pretty Girl SHOCK Humor"- where it's funny to watch a cute girl be verbally abrasive like an Macho Man. If you're not into paradoxes and iconoclastic women, her appeal lessens even more. She's a more sophisticated (verbally) version of Sarah Silverman.

Chelsea's more "interactive" in that she needs to 'bounce off things,' but again she's either "You Get her or You Don't"- like Dennis Miller, David Spade, or even Norm Macdonald - it's her way of ripping on Hollywood or events that makes her fun to watch... sometimes.

Comment posted on June 4, 2010 7:21 PM
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