Former host of the E! Network’s late night talk show “Chelsea Lately,” comedian/actress/author Chelsea Handler says she’s finally excited about the career opportunities she has recently had the chance to take advantage of in the last few months.
After seven years on E!, Handler said goodbye to her show in August. In past interviews, she admitted the show became boring for her and wanted to do something different. Her first chance to do this came from Netflix, who just released her exclusive stand-up comedy special, “Uganda Be Kidding Me,” which is based on her most recent best-selling book and comedy tour.
The material for the Netflix special, book and tour was collected during a vacation Handler took with five of her girlfriends to South Africa in 2012 and other trips she has taken in the last couple of years.
During an interview with me this past week, Handler, 39, talked about how she can find comedy anywhere she travels, and whether or not she wants her fans to get something other than laughs out of her stage performance.
“Uganda Be Kidding Me” was released on Netflix Oct. 10.
What was it about Africa that made you think it would be such a great, untapped resource for comedy material?
Well, I always figure anywhere I travel is a great, untapped resource for material, for me anyway. I don’t know about everybody else, but I always have a great time. I like to show up unexpected like a typical American and keep up our reputation. I’ve always loved to travel. It’s been a dream of mine since I was a little girl to go to Africa. So, when I found the time I thought, “We should do this and do it now!” We planned the trip in about two weeks. I grabbed five of my girlfriends and said, “We have to go to Africa. We have to go on safari.” They said, “We can’t plan a safari in two weeks!” I was like, “Sure we can. Let me take care of it.” [The trip] ended up making me write another book, which I didn’t go there with the intention of doing. It was a great trip for a million different reasons. I would go back to Africa time and time again. Africa is beautiful. It literally is like being in another world.
In the past few weeks, all we’ve been hearing about is how dangerous it is in parts of Africa because of the Ebola virus outbreak. Was there anything you were worried about making this kind of trip to a place you had never been before?
At the time, no. I mean, we weren’t really going anywhere that was very dangerous. I know, you can’t be stupid when you travel. You can be irresponsible to a degree, which I try to highlight in my [Netflix] special. [The special] is all about being irresponsibly eager to be abroad. I mean, no, I wouldn’t be going off to Liberia right now.
When it comes to making statements about more political issues in your act instead of just making fun of people in Hollywood, do you want that message taken seriously or do you bring up the topic just for the laughs you can get out of it?
I think both. The interesting thing is that I’m finally excited to be doing something. For a long time I hadn’t been excited about working. I’ve been excited about vacations. Like, “Oh, gosh, when do I get to go away?!” I want [the special] to be entertaining. I want it to be whatever I bring to the table for anybody who is a fan of mine or appreciates me. That’s what you’re going to get. There should be some seriousness and there should be some comedy, but the comedy isn’t like a comedy show. It’s just my personality. If you find that funny, you should find the [special] funny.
Describe what going on a safari is like with you. Are you there to bag a couple of gazelle or are you looking for the big game?
Well, we look for the big five, but it’s not a shooting safari. We didn’t do that. (Sarcastically) We couldn’t do that being from America and being so closely linked to PETA. Not that I would even want to do that. Yeah, we went on safari just to look at the animals. It wasn’t quite what I expected. We kind of tore the place up. We went on an educational trip and turned it into some sort of Spring Break safari. It wasn’t what I set out to do, but nonetheless it served to be a good material source for me, as usual. But I think any trip is a good material source if you’re a little bit off center.