Thursday, February 26, 2009

Seal of Approval Again: Chelsea Handler

In the one post I've done on women in comedy, I neglected to mention Chelsea Handler, and her new late-night talk show, Chelsea Lately, airing on the E! Network. Chelsea Lately combines a typical late show format with a roundtable discussion and a hearty dose of bitchiness.

First of all, I hate stand-up comedy. Not to generalize or anything, but stand-up comedians are all bitter men with inferiority complexes who tried to buy into some patriarchal version of manliness and failed and are now trying to make it up in a pathetic bid for "crass" popularity.* Then they all get older and fatter and start talking about their kids and their wife and even if that is also "crass" I personally never want to hear about anyone discussing domestic shit like that. Also, as someone who's always aware of awkwardness, stand-up comedy is just so awkward, and everyone attends stand-up shows because they know they will laugh regardless of what the joke even is.

So, at its core, stand-up comedy often seems to be about proving oneself in an often "masculine" way. And what is interesting about Chelsea's show is that she sets up/makes jokes and then the other comedian panelists have to come back with something equally funny, and then she often shoots them down. She is almost always the funniest person on the show (in part because the guests are so often that tired and typical stereotypical stand-up guy) but her sense of humor tends toward the quick, dry and bitchy instead of the desperate, lame set-up style so often seen in stand-up. (Though Chelsea is actually a stand-up fiend and does it constantly despite also having the show.)

Also, Chelsea is a genius interviewer. As anyone who watches late-night shows, usually the guest comes out and the male host talks about how much he wants to do her and then she tells this totally quirky story about slipping at the food court at the mall that didn't happen and hahaha. But Chelsea is mean and probing! In one of the first interviews I saw, she asked Jodie Sweetin about doing meth.

In conclusion, I would not call Chelsea Lately perfect. Too often, her panelists are so lame, they ruin the show (seriously, I should be a panelist! Let's do a letter-writing campaign!), and she was also nice to Katy Perry. When Elizabeth Berkely was on, she was mean to her but she couldn't get a word in about Showgirls because Elizabeth acted like she was on Oprah the whole time. But overall, she certainly gets my seal of approval for sure.

Here are some youtube clips of Chelsea Lately:

*Alright, obviously there are some okay stand-up comedians, but this is the general format. Also, have you ever even watched Lenny Bruce onstage because that shit is totally dated and unwatchable. Sorry!


audra said...

yes, yes, yes! we love chelsea! have you read her books? hilarious. i, myself, hate stand-up as well. it makes me sick, actually...but i can tolerate chelsea because she's a fucking genius & her delivery is brilliant. heart!

M said...

i haven't read any, but since the cover of "are you there, vodka" looks like a ya cover i think i may need it for my collection.

Ms. X said...

i love chelsea. she actually reminds me a lot of gerard's mom, but more profane. and i'm down for any book that parodies judy blume.

which reminds me!!! do you know the ALAN Review? it's a YA book review thing...go to, and find the thing to apply to be a reviewer, and if they like you they'll send you free YA books and publish your reviews. it rules.

Gaby said...

Do you know Maria Bamford at all? She is a lady stand-up "alternative" comic and she is the total best (I'm not just making this up, Simone agrees). Also there is a lady named Morgan Murphy who is also a great stand-up "alternative" comic. I have always been too scared to give Chelsea Handler a chance because I was afraid that she was some kind of sorority-girl version of "the Man Show" or something, but I will give her a try. You were right about that tv show starring Topanga from Boy Meets World!

M said...

oh man, i am definitely signing up for the alan books thing. i saw the magazine at your house. plus it sounds like something i could pretend was like real experience on my resume!

gaby, chelsea is worth checking out and i would not call her a sorority girl. and i will youtube these other ladies. even though the concept of "alternative" stand up of course even sounds even worth than the real thing. kind of like this "vegan standup" i saw. that was really bad.

Anonymous said...

It was rather interesting for me to read that post. Thanx for it. I like such themes and everything connected to them. I definitely want to read a bit more on that blog soon.

Donna said...

Stand up comedy is an art form which can be done well or really blah. Chelsea is a hack who tells the same jokes comedy lovers have heard ad nauseum elsewhere.

You may like Chelsea's presence but as someone who actually appreciates humor, I don't find any in her comedic style. She is off the mark. Because you don't appreciate comedians/humorist as real talent in general, I find your critique hard to take seriously. It's like having a non-wine drinker recommend a wine. You're laughable.

Mary said...

Just because I don't like traditional stand-up comedy doesn't mean I don't "appreciate humor" or cannot recognize and critique aspects of the genre. And perhaps you noticed much of this post is written in a ironic and joking way, in which I recognize my own stereotypical view of what stand-up comedy is, as well as point out that not all stand-up comedians are the same?

My reasons for appreciating Chelsea Handler (and hating most stand-up) are totally valid, whereas yours are vague and reflect more that you were personally insulted by my post for some reason instead of offering any real critique. Not very persuasive. Or funny.