It takes real guts to walk away from your own long-running talk show, but that is exactly what Chelsea Handler did in 2014 when she said “seeee yaaaa!” to her late-night E! program, Chelsea Lately, once her contract was up. No renegotiations, no nothing: “I just felt that time was done.”
Afterward, Handler, 41, took a sumptuous year and a half off to visit China and French Polynesia, go scuba diving with sharks and learn Spanish.
“I did whatever any 85-year-old woman on sabbatical would do,” she deadpans. “I’m pretty happy I took that time to regroup and to get a grip on reality.” But then what? She had several job offers, but Handler instead rocked up to Netflix with a pitch for a very different type of talk show—some bits would be filmed with a live audience and some would be pre-taped, and new 30-minute episodes would “air” every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday on the streaming service.
“Without advertisers and without having to worry about offending this person and that,” she says. “I’m focusing on things that will interest me, knowing that will lead to the audience being interested.” Issues that intrigue Handler: Racism! The election! Abortion! “It’s much more appealing to me: it doesn’t get boring.”
Chelsea will stream in more than 190 countries (and be translated into 57 languages), and travel-nut Handler has already journeyed to Tokyo, Moscow and Mexico City to film segments. She is also excited to debut a show sans set format, allowing her to focus on a single topic or cover off several. Some episodes will feature one big-name interview (on her wish-list: Justin Trudeau, Hillary Clinton), while others will feature boozy dinner parties with A-list guests in Handler’s house. And, we assume, no Kardashian talk. So has Handler finally found the perfect fit for her brave brand?
“Yeah,” she says. “It’s like finding the right boyfriend.”