PLAYBOY: Judging by the title of your latest book – Vodka, Are You There? It’s Me, Chelsea – vodka is your liquor of choice. Why is it a superior form of alcohol?
CHELSEA HANDLER: Vodka is great because it doesn’t have an odor. If you drink rum or tequila, your breath will have a very distinct alcohol smell. I was looking for something that was a little more subtle, because I don’t like to smell like a prostitute in the morning. Not because I’m worried about offending anybody. I’m usually alone when I wake up. You can’t fit two people into a bathtub. Yeah, that’s right, I’m a class act, all the way. Klassy with a capital K.
PLAYBOY: In an era where so many celebrities are checking into rehab, how did you find the bravery to be an unapologetic drunk?
CHELSEA HANDLER: I’m not really a drunk. I just drink a lot. I drink often and I drink frequently, but I don’t really get drunk. I’m kinda immune to it. As long as you can handle your alcohol, I think you should be allowed to drink whatever you want, as often as you want. People who go out and drink to excess and then fall down and make asses of themselves, they don’t have any business drinking in public. I think it’s important to understand your limits. If you drink a certain amount and you automatically turn into a loud and obnoxious loser, maybe you should stop. Because that’s not attractive. Drinking isn’t for everybody. It just so happens that I’m able to handle large volumes of Grey Goose.
PLAYBOY: Your talk show, Chelsea Lately, is devoted to making fun of celebrities. Do you really care that much about Hollywood or is it just an act?
CHELSEA HANDLER: It isn’t natural at all for me. Sometimes it’s fun, and sometimes it’s overkill. I have to pay attention to a lot of stuff that I would never, ever care about if it wasn’t for the show. I wouldn’t normally watch so much TV, much less all those reality shows. But because of Chelsea Lately, I kinda have to pollute my mind with that crap. It’s one thing to thumb through US Weekly while you’re getting a manicure – that’s just a guilty pleasure – but it’s a whole different ballgame when you come to your office every morning and all these tabloid magazines and newspapers are piled on your desk, and it’s your job to read them. I just went on vacation and I was reading (Salman Rushdie’s) Midnight’s Children, and I said to my boyfriend, “I think my mind is completely blown from doing the show. I just had to re-read the last paragraph four times. I may be getting stupider.” And he said, “I’m sure you are, because you just used the word ‘stupider.’”
PLAYBOY: If every young celebrity in Hollywood sobered up and stopped going to nightclubs and started wearing panties, would you be out of work?
CHELSEA HANDLER: I think I’d be okay. We’d find something to talk about on the show. If we had to start talking about politics or racecar driving, if that’s where the action was, I think we could pull it off. Even if Hollywood disappeared tomorrow, it’s not like the human race is getting better behaved. If anything, we’re devolving as a society and a culture. As long as people keep acting like people and they keep doing really, really idiotic things, I’ll always have job security.
PLAYBOY: You once said that all celebrities need to be slapped. Do you include yourself in that lineup?
CHELSEA HANDLER: I didn’t mean that all celebrities need to be slapped, just certain celebrities. There are many people working in this industry who are, for one reason or another, asking for it. But there are also plenty of respectable and hard-working actors who are just doing their jobs. I’m never going to make fun of Amy Adams, for instance, or Gwyneth Paltrow. They just do what they do and they aren’t making a spectacle of themselves. It’s not like I’m going to ridicule somebody just because they’re famous and I have a TV show and I need somebody to make jokes about. Some people deserve it, and others don’t. We’re not in high school anymore. Thank God, because I don’t think I could take another six years of that. I always go by this rule: if I think somebody is stupid, you can be pretty sure that there are many other people who feel the same way.
PLAYBOY: As somebody who has repeatedly mocked Paris Hilton and Britney Spears, do you have to be extra careful when you’re out in public?
CHELSEA HANDLER: Absolutely. If I don’t want to put on underwear because I’m wearing a dress and you can see the panty lines, I don’t have a choice. I have to wear underwear. Because if I get caught not wearing underwear, after I’ve made fun of all these girls who flash their hot pockets for the camera, then I’m the asshole. Right now I’m not the asshole, and I want to stay in that non-asshole category. So at least for the time being, I own a lot of panties. If necessary, I’ll wear three or four pair at the same time, just to be safe.
PLAYBOY: If you ever get caught in a public scandal, what do you predict it’ll be?
CHELSEA HANDLER: I’d guess a sex tape with somebody really controversial, like Verne Troyer or Clay Aiken. I’m not making an announcement or anything. I don’t know either one of them yet, so I can’t even hint at when our sex tape is going to come out. But if I have my druthers, it’ll happen before the end of the year.
PLAYBOY: You’ve interviewed a lot of C-list celebrities and reality TV stars. Are you genuinely interested in what they have to say, or is it as grueling to talk with them as it usually appears?
CHELSEA HANDLER: It’s mostly grueling. Sometimes we’ll get people that I really want to interview. When Madonna’s brother was on the show, I wanted to keep him after school, just to keep asking him questions. But then there are certain people where you’re like, “Thank God that’s over.” Tila Tequila was probably our worst. I only had to talk with her for a few minutes, but I must’ve dozed off at least a couple times. She’s as vapid as it gets. She has that creepy dating show on MTV where she makes people eat pig vaginas, and other than that, I have no idea why anybody cares about her. When they booked her on our show, I was like, “What is this? Why is she popular?” And they’re like, “Well, she’s a bisexual.” Really? That’s what people want now? I can do that. I’ll be a bisexual if that’s all it takes.
PLAYBOY: Was there a moment when you were interviewing Lindsay Lohan’s dad about camel-balls when you thought, “I should’ve gone to college?”
CHELSEA HANDLER: No, not really. Not because of his camel-balls, which are a real problem, but because I definitely shouldn’t have gone to college. That would’ve been a waste of everybody’s time and money. And by not going to college, I’ve become so paranoid and insecure that I’ve overcompensated for it. All of my brothers and sisters went to good schools and they’re all professionals in their respective fields. But I saved my parents a ton of money because I did it all myself. I traveled and I’ve read everything I can get my hands on. Sometimes I’ll be talking with my family and something will just come flying out of my mouth, far more sophisticated and intelligent than they ever expected from me. And they’ll say, “Wait a minute, how do you know where Ghana is?” And I’ll be like, “Because I’m paranoid that somebody would ask me and I wouldn’t have an answer.” That’s how my brain works. I don’t want to look dumb, so I’m ready for anything.
PLAYBOY: In your books and stand-up, you’ve portrayed yourself as a goofy screw-up. Are you the most embarrassing one in your family?
CHELSEA HANDLER: Probably. But my parents gave me a run for my money. When I was just five years old, I looked at them and thought, “These two are hot messes. I have to get my own place.” My father is a used car dealer who rarely sells the cars that he buys. So they sat in our driveway for years at a time, next to piles of old car batteries and flat tires. We were like the Sanford & Son of our neighborhood. We lived in this nice, upper middle-class Jewish neighborhood and my father was ruining the property values for everybody. Our house was the one at the top of the hill and it looked like a carpet bomb had gone off. He’d say, “Oh, these are great cars.” And I’d tell him, “Dad, there’s no windshield wipers and the passenger side door doesn’t open. I’m not letting you pick me up from Hebrew School when I have to climb over you. I’d rather walk home.” He was the perfect role model of what not to do as a parent.
PLAYBOY: One of your first breaks as a comic was a starring role on the hidden camera show Girls Behaving Badly. Do you miss playing pranks on innocent people?
CHELSEA HANDLER: Oh, I still play pranks. All the time. It’s just not being filmed anymore. Right now I have some of the Chelsea Lately writers believing that I was offered a movie role to play Meryl Streep’s daughter in the Challenger movie. It’s a dark comedy about the Space Shuttle that went down (in 1986). Meryl plays Christa McAuliffe in heaven and I’m her daughter and it’s a comedy. I even have them working on titles. One of my favorites is The Sky Is Crying. I don’t know how I’m going to break it to them that the movie doesn’t exist. I kinda thought they’d figure it out on their own. I mean c’mon, a comedy about the Challenger Space Shuttle? Really? I also just told (comic and actress) Heather McDonald this morning that I might be pregnant. She said, “Chelsea, if you’re playing a joke on me…” “No, no, seriously,” I said. And then I teared up and ran out of the room. What I’m going to do tomorrow is tell her that I am pregnant, and then the day after that I’ll just come in and say, “Wow, I am so hung over after last night.” It’s fun to see how long I can keep a prank going. To their credit, most of my friends are wary of anything I tell them. Almost every conversation starts with “Are you lying?”
PLAYBOY: Sometimes when you’re doing a monologue on Chelsea Lately, you have this peculiar stance, with your fists on your hips and your elbows pointed out, which kinda looks like a Wonder Woman pose. Is that intentional?
CHELSEA HANDLER: It’s entirely intentional. I just assume I’m a superhero. I’ve been telling myself that since I was a little girl. And I think most people are starting to come around. There was this one time when Jay Leno gave me a ride in his plane – because y’know, he’s got his own plane and I don’t – and I challenged him to an arm-wrestling contest. And I won! And then he said, “Let’s do that again, because there’s no way you beat me.” So I arm-wrestled him for a second time, and I won again! And then he realized I am She-Ra, Princess of Power. Don’t bother confirming any of that with Jay. I doubt if he’d admit to it, since I made the whole thing up and he doesn’t even know about it.
PLAYBOY: Is it true that you were invited to the White House Correspondence Dinner? And if so, did you say anything wildly inappropriate to the President?
CHELSEA HANDLER: I was invited to the White House and it was a blast. Actually, no, I take that back. It was pretty boring. It was weird to be at a dinner where they announce George Bush and everybody is supposed to stand up and clap. That was awkward, especially when nobody did. A few weeks before that, I went to a cocktail party that Colin Powell was at, because those are the kind of circles I run in. At some point the Pussycat Dolls were performing, and I noticed that Colin Powell, who was sitting at a table right next to me, was taking a picture of them with his iPhone. So I took a picture of Colin Powell taking a picture of the Pussycat Dolls. And because of that, I will probably never be invited back.
PLAYBOY: You’re one of those rare female comics who understand the inherent hilarity of farts. When you’re doing a skit where you have to pass gas, do you perform your own stunts?
CHELSEA HANDLER: At least on Chelsea Lately, the farts are just a special effect. We could’ve hired a fart double, but they’re expensive. Actually, we don’t call them “farts” around here. They’re “boomsies”. I’d love it if I was able to fart on cue, but that’s a lot more difficult than it looks. You’re a man, you know what I’m talking about. I’ve tried, but I just don’t have the muscle control. I think we’ve all been in those situations where you’re talking to somebody and you think, “I really wish I could fart right now, just to show what I think of you and this entire conversation.”
PLAYBOY: You’ve come up with your own sexual language, inventing euphemisms like “hot pocket” and “shadoobie” and “pikachu”. Is that out of necessity, or do you just think that most sex vernacular isn’t inventive enough?
CHELSEA HANDLER: The E! Network lets us get away with pretty much whatever we want, so it’s not because we’re being censored. They’ll bleep us if we go too far. But I like words like “pikachu” or “shadoobie” because it lets you talk about really filthy things without being obvious about it. I think it’s more creative. I just like the idea of having a conversation about something in a coded language. Usually when I first use a word, I’ll point in the general direction of what it means or at least use it in a very specific context. After that, the audience is on their own. If somebody is just tuning in for the first time and they don’t know what the hell we’re talking about, they need to pay attention and they’ll figure it out eventually. And if they don’t, well, then maybe they should be watching the Animal Planet instead.
PLAYBOY: What’s your personal favorite slang term for vagina?
CHELSEA HANDLER: Coslopus is my favorite right now. That’s what my parents and brothers and sisters used to call it when we were growing up. The penis was a batchookie and a vagina was a coslopus. My brothers laughed so much when I started saying coslopus and batchookie on TV. They said, “I can’t believe you’ve introduced our family words to the country.” I’ll do stand-up shows and there’ll be people in the audience wearing t-shirts that say “Hot Pockets” or “I Love Nuggets.” That makes me so happy.
PLAYBOY: Speaking of nuggets, you have a sidekick named Chuy (pronounced “Chewie”), whom you affectionately call your “Little Nugget.” Was he hired specifically because he’s a midget, or is it just a lucky coincidence that he’s height challenged?
CHELSEA HANDLER: When I got the Chelsea Lately show, I told the producers that I needed a personal assistant. And because they know I have an affinity for nuggets, they brought in Chuy for a job interview. He came in and I said, “I just have one question for you. What’s two times two?” He said “eighteen” and I said, “You’re hired.” I hire people predominately based on their shapes and height. If you’re fat and meaty and short in stature, you’re in. I like things I can hold onto. I like things I can snuggle with. I know some people consider that sexual harassment, but I think sexual harassment can be a good thing if everybody in the workplace is on board with it.
PLAYBOY: In your memoir, My Horizontal Life, you wrote that “the great thing about sleeping with a midget is that first you get to have sex with them and then you can use them as a pillow.” What are some other great reasons to sleep with midgets?
CHELSEA HANDLER: Okay, first of all, you have to stop using the M-word. They don’t like m-i-d-g-e-t. I won’t even say it because Chuy will be in an uproar if he hears that word come out of my mouth. They’re “nuggets”. I personally enjoy nuggets because they can get to those hard-to-reach places. And I don’t just mean that sexually. If you’ve lost something in your apartment and you can’t reach it, just invite over a nugget. Also, they can double as a bowling ball. And they’re fun to snuggle with. When you’re holding a nugget, it’s like a little Koala Bear, clinging to its mommy.
PLAYBOY: Aside from not being a nugget, what are some other reasons that you wouldn’t be attracted to a man? What are your turn-offs?
CHELSEA HANDLER: I don’t particularly care for sandals. That is never a good look, especially if a guy has those double-decker toes. I just don’t like jacked-up feet. If you’ve got a foot situation and one of your toes is making a right and the other four are making a left, then you need to get an operation. And I will never sleep with a redhead. I dated a redhead once and that was the last time. It was blinding. I literally had to go to bed with sunglasses. You wake up in the morning and it looks like he’s got a clown in a leg-lock.
PLAYBOY: You’re 33 and your boyfriend – Ted Harbert, the president and CEO of Comcast Entertainment – is twenty years older than you. What’s the appeal of a silver fox?
CHELSEA HANDLER: Older men know how to take care of a woman, whereas younger guys usually need you to take care of them. With Ted, I never have to do anything. If we’re going out to dinner, he makes the reservations. If we’re going on a vacation, he’s got everything planned out. I realize that’s not true with all older men, it’s just a personality type. But I think older men have more experience with women and they really know what we need. They know that if we’re being a bitch and we’re in a bad mood, the only rational thing to do is just leave us alone. It’s never a good idea to nudge and nudge and nudge and nudge and ask annoying questions like, “What’s wrong, babe?” An older man realizes, “Okay, this’ll pass. I just need to stay out of her way.”
PLAYBOY: You’ve been a vocal opponent of the institution of marriage. What finally convinced you that marriage is for suckers?
CHELSEA HANDLER: I don’t have a problem with marriage itself. I just don’t want to get divorced. If I never get married, then divorce will never be an option. I love going to weddings, I just feel ripped off when I hand over a big gift and then I find out a few months later that they got divorced. I want to call them and say, “Can I get my gift back?” I know people who’ve been married three times. I’m not going to three weddings if I’m required to bring three wedding gifts! You get one gift, that’s it. My parents never got divorced, but I think divorce is easier for people who have a lot of money. Our family wasn’t poor, but we were by no means wealthy. If my mom had more money, who knows what she would’ve done. When you’re in a situation of financial dependence, your hands are tied. I just never want to be in a place where divorce is my only way out of a bad relationship. A divorce is painful and bad and there’s a lot of paperwork required, and I have a huge aversion to paperwork.
PLAYBOY: As somebody who so clearly enjoys her independence, would you ever consider becoming a mother?
CHELSEA HANDLER: I don’t think I could do that to a baby. I have six nieces and nephews and I love being an aunt. I love kids. I think they’re funny and great. But I prefer spending time with them when it’s temporary. A lot of people have children for very selfish reasons. They don’t think seriously about what their baby’s life is going to be like. For someone like me, a child would be such a huge change to my lifestyle, and I don’t think I’m ready to make that sacrifice. With everything I put my parents through, I’m due for a karmic payback. My baby would probably come out and punch me in the face.
PLAYBOY: What about adoption?
CHELSEA HANDLER: Oh yeah, I’ve already done that. I have two kids overseas. I have one in Ethiopia and the other in Guatemala. Wait, no, no, sorry, I meant Zimbabwe. I’m confusing myself with Angelina Jolie again. I always do that. Yeah, I have two adopted kids, and I call them both Earl. I’m not sure if either of them know that yet. We’ll break it to them soon enough. I’m not kidding, I totally have two adopted kids. And honestly, I think that’s the best way to have children, when they’re 7000 miles away and you never have to see them. One of them is thirteen and the other is eight. They send me letters occasionally, and sometimes pictures. They have no idea that their mommy is such a hot superstar in America.
PLAYBOY: You’ve claimed that you’ll retire from comedy when you get too old. Do you honestly believe that only young women should tell jokes?
CHELSEA HANDLER: I guess I just feel like there’s something unattractive about being a 65-year old woman on stage doing standup. Obviously that’s a long time away for me. I’ll keep doing comedy as I get older, but I probably won’t do standup. It’s just such a masculine world. At some point, you have to realize that an old woman telling jokes on stage just isn’t very sexy. I don’t want to see Joan Rivers doing standup. I want to see her sitting down and telling jokes. That’s different. That’s better. There comes a point in every woman’s life when she has to stop pretending she’s something she’s not.
(This story originally appeared, in a slightly different form, in the November, 2008 issue of Playboy magazine.)