INTERVIEW

‘Fake news is anything Donald Trump relies on’: Chelsea Handler on liberating the talk show

The long-time talk show host, comedian and writer was in Mumbai to shoot an episode for the second season of her Netflix show.

In 2014, after hosting her popular talk show Chelsea Lately for seven years, stand-up comic Chelsea Handler quit to pursue other interests and “get a real job”. Handler, who captured her hilarious escapades in her trilogy of memoirs My Horizontal Life: A Collection of One-Night Stands (2005), Are You There, Vodka? It’s me, Chelsea and Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang, began her partnership with Netflix with Chelsea Does, a series self-described as “the college education she never got”.

In the four-part series, Handler spoke with celebrities about issues ranging from marriage and drugs and travelled to places such as Silicon Valley and Peru. Her talk show Chelsea made its debut on Netflix in May 2016. The first season, comprising 90 episodes, ended in December 2016. Handler is in Mumbai to shoot an episode revolving around India and its politics for the second season, which will air in April.

What will you be shooting in India?
We shot a dinner party last night with Freida Pinto and some comedians and two Indian directors. I’m taking a self-defence class today, I’m going to an Indian wedding, meeting a Member of Parliament. We’re also on the street talking to local people about the culture, the food and the political climate, you know, just kind of covering all the ends of the spectrum that people would be interested in seeing on my show.

Play
Chelsea.

What aspects of Indian politics are you covering?
We are talking about how it works here versus how it works in America. The relationship with England, the prime minister and the president, it’s a different system here. I am interviewing a Member of Parliament at some point in Delhi and I think all of those things are interesting to people.

People have such strong feelings about India that it was really exciting to come here. When I was telling people I was going to come here, they were like, “You’re going to India, it’s going to change your life”.

Did you read or watch anything in particular before coming to India?
I read Arundhati Roy’s God of Small Things. Everyone said I needed to read that. Very descriptive writing, a little too descriptive for me, for my tastes. I’m like, “Oh my god! The smells, the leaves, everything was describing the smell of the pickle factory.” I had one of those pickles I think the other night and I was like “Aah! This is way too spicy!” Then I read Winston Churchill and Gandhi and then I read information about present-day India.

In your Priyanka Chopra interview, she warned you not to offend anyone in India. Has that happened?
I don’t know. No one has said I have offended them but I’m sure I have without knowing.

Play
Priyanka Chopra on Chelsea.

You also said you want to “free the talk show”. Is that possible within the framework of a celebrity interview?
Mine is more of a conversation. It’s a back-and-forth, how I would talk to people at a dinner party. I could do a whole show dedicated to India. I could do a whole show dedicated to Mexico, to Tokyo and then you turn it on and it’s a bunch of celebrities at a dinner party talking about religion or talking about parenting.

Sometimes I bring people on the show to explain things that are an edification for me and my viewers. I didn’t understand the electoral college when I started making my show. Lots of people don’t know all the information that you expect yourself to know at a certain age. It’s embarrassing to admit that you don’t, but I am not embarrassed to admit I don’t know, so let me ask for everybody.

You quit your previous talk show ‘Chelsea Lately’ to ‘get a real job’.
Yeah, I mean, I am interested in talking about broader topics and a broader range of ideas. Not just about celebrity, I want to talk about politics. You know Netflix is an international network, and I want to highlight all the different cultures and also the sameness. We have so much more in common than we don’t. And it’s important for people who necessarily don’t get to go on trips like this because I feel a responsibility to film it and show that we are all human beings. When you land in any major city, you are in the same kind of airport.

I didn’t think Donald Trump would be elected, so I have even more of an obligation to continue to do, you know, to make sure that the world knows that is not our president, that most Americans don’t want him there.

You have observed that reality television played a part in Trump’s election.
I think there is a problem with reality television in our country. It’s bad and gross and disgusting. Its advent has done a lot of harm to young girls. Looking at these people as role models is sad. It’s not real, it’s fake, everything is fake about it. It’s fake news, it’s all bad. It’s not truthful, and it’s not honest and it’s not realistic. So I think it has a real bad influence on our country.

Since you air your opinions, you also get trolled a lot. Does that affect you?
I don’t care about any of that. I’m not interested in the people who hate me. I’m interested in the people I’m speaking up for. I don’t read all of that garbage. There is so much hate. Trump has brought out so much hate in the world and I won’t participate in that. I’m happy and I continue to be that way. I mean I am fighting and am sad for all the people that are being treated so poorly, and that’s who I am going to fight for.

People who aren’t speaking out on social media, are posting selfies of themselves looking pretty without discussing the topics, should be ashamed of themselves because this is an emergency situation. And it’s so important to say so he knows that this is not okay. I want Muslims to come to my country. They can live in my house if they want. And anything less than that is disgusting. Syrians have nowhere to go. Kids are dying, and people are closing their borders? To refugees? I don’t understand. It’s like Nazi Germany. It’s sickening.

Chelsea Handler and Ashton Kutcher. Courtesy Netflix.
Chelsea Handler and Ashton Kutcher. Courtesy Netflix.

How do you interact with someone who has completely different political opinions from you?
I think you have to find the people who aren’t racists or bigots. You have to find the people who have a common ground. Or the people who just didn’t know better, they were working three jobs, they don’t have the time to read the paper and find out. Or they were just voting against Hillary Clinton because they didn’t like her. So those are the fringe people that will come back to the right side of history, the humane side of history. And I focus on finding common ground with those people.

More talk show hosts are getting involved with politics. There’s John Oliver. And David Letterman came to India last year for a show on climate change.
I think it’s hard to ignore right now, we were in such a nice place with Barack Obama, it made us feel safe and people got lazy and millennials got lazy and didn’t think they had to participate in an election, if you don’t participate, this is what could happen. And it’s a big lesson for everybody. So the silver lining is that it’s going to be a galvanising movement, and I will hang my hat on that. You have to get informed. You have to go online, get informed from a real news source, which is not fake news. Fake news is anything Donald Trump relies on.

Do you have a preference between hosting talk shows and doing stand-up comedy?
Stand-up is kind of like my life before this show. That was part of my old show. In stand-up, you are on stage all by yourself with a microphone, that’s like a very strange position to put yourself in. I just did so much of it for so many years that I burnt myself out. And then I thought, once I am 40, I really don’t want to be standing on stage with a microphone anymore.

There are more men than women hosting late night talk shows.
I think that’s changing. I think women are getting somewhere now. They have been for many, many years. It just takes a long time for a movement to really take place. You can make the rules and enact the laws but it takes a long time for something to actually happen. But now there are so many powerful women in our country. In any country, it takes a long time to catch up with modernity.

There’s a growing Right wing movement around the world. Are you seeing this too during your travels?
Yeah, people are really, really racist right now. It’s bad all around the world. It’s scary. I think we have to try really hard to fight that. I have to have hope and be hopeful, otherwise I will kill myself because I am so upset.

What’s the next step for the show?
After this, we are filming in London so we can examine their political system and their culture, and their class system. We’re going to France because they have an election coming up and maybe try and help that not happen.

I don't know what I'm doing in a market. #mumbai season 2 #chelseashow

A photo posted by Chelsea Handler (@chelseahandler) on

Chelsea Handler in Mumbai.
We welcome your comments at letters@scroll.in.
Sponsored Content BY 

It’s the new year and it’s already time to plan your next holiday

Here are some great destinations for you to consider.

Vacation planning can get serious and strategic. Some people swear by the save and splurge approach that allows for one mini getaway and one dream holiday in a year. Others use the solo to family tactic and distribute their budget across solo trips, couple getaways and family holidays. Regardless of what strategy you implement to plan your trip, the holiday list is a handy tool for eager travellers. After having extensively studied the 2018 holiday list, here’s what we recommend:

March: 10 days of literature, art and culture in Toronto

For those you have pledged to read more or have more artistic experiences in 2018, Toronto offers the Biblio-Mat, the world’s first randomising vending machine for old books. You can find the Biblio-Mat, paper artefacts, rare books and more at The Monkey’s Paw, an antiquarian bookseller. If you can tear yourself away from this eclectic bookstore, head over to The Public Library in Toronto for the Merril Collection of over 72000 items of science fiction, fantasy magic realism and graphic novels. With your bag full of books, grab a coffee at Room 2046 – a café cum store cum studio that celebrates all things whimsical and creative. Next, experience art while cycling across the 80km Pan Am Path. Built for walking, running, cycling and wheeling, the Pan Am Path is a recreational pathway that offers a green, scenic and river views along with art projects sprinkled throughout the route. You can opt for a guided tour of the path or wander aimlessly for serendipitous discoveries.

Nothing beats camping to ruminate over all those new ideas collected over the past few days. Make way to Killarney Provincial Park for 2-3 days for some quiet time amongst lakes and hills. You can grab a canoe, go hiking or get back to nature, but don’t forget to bring a tent.

If you use the long-weekend of 2nd March to extend your trip, you get to experience the Toronto Light Festival as a dazzling bonus.

June: 10 days of culinary treats, happy feet and a million laughs in Chicago

Famous for creating the deep-dish pizza and improv comedy, Chicago promises to banish that mid-year lull. Get tickets for The Second City’s Legendary Laughs at The UP-Comedy Club - the company that gave us the legendary Tina Fey, Stephen Colbert and Key & Peele. All that laughter can sure work up an appetite, one that can be satiated with Lou Malnati’s classic deep-dish pizza. For dessert, head over to the Ferrara Original Bakery for mouth-watering treats.

Chicago in June is pleasant and warm enough to explore the outdoors and what better way to soak in the sunshine, than by having a picnic at the Maggie Daley Park. Picnic groves, wall climbing, mini golf, roller blading – the park offers a plethora of activities for individuals as well as families.

If you use the long weekend of 15th June, you can extend your trip to go for Country LakeShake – Chicago’s country music festival featuring Blake Shelton and Dierks Bentley.

August: 7 days in London for Europe’s biggest street festival

Since 1964, the Notting Hill Carnival has been celebrating London’s Caribbean communities with dancing, masquerade and music ranging from reggae to salsa. Watch London burst into colours and sparkle at the Notting Hill Carnival. Home to Sherlock Holmes and Charles Dickens Museum, London is best experienced by wandering through its tiny streets. Chance encounters with bookstores such as Foyles and Housemans, soaking in historic sights while enjoying breakfast at Arthur’s Café or Blackbird Bakery, rummaging the stalls at Broadway market or Camden Market – you can do so much in London while doing nothing at all.

The Museum of Brand, Packaging and Advertising can send you reminiscing about those old ads, while the Clowns Gallery Museum can give you an insight in clown-culture. If you’d rather not roam aimlessly, book a street-art tour run by Alternative London or a Jack the Ripper Tour.

October: 10 days of an out-of-body experience in Vegas

About 16 km south of the intersection of Las Vegas Boulevard and St. Rose Parkway in Henderson, lies a visual spectacle. Seven Magic Mountains, an art installation by Ugo Rondinone, stands far away from the wild vibe that people expect in Las Vegas and instead offers a sense of wonder. Imagine seven pillars of huge, neon boulders, stacked up against one another stretched towards the sky. There’s a lot more where that came from, in Las Vegas. Captivating colour at the permanent James Turrell exhibit in Louis Vuitton, outdoor adventures at the Bootleg Canyon and vintage shopping at Patina Décor offer experiences that are not usually associated with Vegas. For that quintessential Vegas show, go for Shannon McBeath: Absinthe for some circus-style entertainment. If you put the holiday list to use, you can make it for the risefestival – think thousands of lanterns floating in the sky, right above you.

It’s time to get on with the vacation planning for the new year. So, pin up the holiday list, look up deals on hotels and flights and start booking. Save money by taking advantage of the British Airways Holiday Sale. With up to 25% off on flight, the offer is available to book until 31st January 2018 for travel up to 31st December in economy and premium economy and up to 31st August for business class. For great fares to great destinations, see here.

This article was produced by the Scroll marketing team on behalf of British Airways and not by the Scroll editorial team.