Chelsea Handler’s brain needed a kickstart. It had been two years since she traded jabs with on-set comedians and guests with her E! talk show, “Chelsea Lately.”
The question was where to get the kick and what form it would take.
Handler’s solution came through Netflix, the online streaming service that has made a major commitment to original programming in the last few years. After a series of talks, meetings, chats and discussions, Handler and Netflix agreed on a talk show with a different spin for Handler, simply called “Chelsea.”
“I’m comfortable with what they are looking to do and something that’s going to be interesting to my viewers, a lot broader than what I was doing before,” Handler says in an interview months before the launch of the show. At the time we talked the show was still in the embryo stage.
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The program had to show that the comedian/author has been on a journey over the past few years.
You have growing pains, I think, with anything. If you are really a thoughtful person and you are always trying to do something that’s not going to just serve yourself and be put yourself on a soapbox but, kind of, change things and make people, kind of, learn along the way with you, then I think you are always, kind of, looking to change the game.
That’s one reason she went to Netflix. It has a reputation for taking a familiar format and giving it a twist. And, it is known for not interfering with the creative process. That appealed to Handler like a 50 cent drink at happy hour.
“It’s such a pleasure to work with people that have faith in you and let you blossom because a lot of people don’t have experiences like that in this industry. And I think I’ve only been in situations where I’ve been told what to do a number of times, and I didn’t respond well to that,” Handler says. “I’m a control freak. I mean, I’m not a control freak, but I am a control freak.”
In the series Handler travels to Russia, Japan and Mexico City before heading across the United States. There will be guests, but the interviews will be done in a way that breaks away from the traditional talk show format.
Topics will include international cultures, alternative lifestyles, education, health, sports, parenting and politics. In the series opener, Handler looks at the topic of education with guests Drew Barrymore, Pitbull and U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King.
A show that features guests talking about topics may sound familiar. But Handler has gone out of her way to avoid the talk show structure she did for eight seasons.
“I think it’s just a natural progression after seven or eight years of doing something. I wanted to do something else,” Handler says. “I’m really fortunate I was in a position to actually quit. It didn’t occur to me that that was a gutsy move or anything. I just always felt like I don’t want to coast. I just didn’t want to coast. So I don’t miss it. I loved it. It was fun, and I was done.”
I don’t really wallow or think about it. I just would like to press forward. It was a great, fun time for me. It brought me into to a different level of success. I was able to do a lot of things that I wanted to do, but it wasn’t a place where I wanted to live for a long time.
New episodes of “Chelsea” will debut at 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, May 11-13, on Netflix.
- 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, May 11, Netflix