Chelsea Handler on her own again

by Alison Bonaguro

Special to the Tribune

Published April 9, 2010


Chelsea Handler hates to think that President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama watch "Chelsea Lately."

But they do.

Obama told her so, in a roundabout way, when she was at a fundraiser in California before the presidential election.

"I was standing in line to get my picture taken with him and I was thinking, ‘This must be so annoying,'" says the raunchy comedian. "But then I also thought, ‘He could be the next president.' So I was at the end of the line, and when it was my turn he goes, ‘You're a very funny lady.' I thought, ‘Oh my God. How could he possibly know that?' I mean, nobody was whispering in his ear ‘This next girl is Chelsea Handler.' Then he goes, ‘Where's Chuy?' I could not believe he knew who Chuy was. And I just kept thinking, ‘I hope the Obamas do not watch the show because that is just so embarrassing."

"Chelsea Lately," is Handler's wildly popular late-night talk show on cable channel E! And Chuy, who Obama was referring to, is Handler's diminutive Mexican assistant/sidekick on the show. The one she calls her "little nugget." The Obamas are not alone in their love of Handler's rude-but-true sarcastic look on life. It is the highest-rated program on E!.

While the television show features Handler and a roundtable of semi-famous comics commenting on the day's pop-culture news and gossip, Handler's stand-up show at the Rosemont Theatre on Sunday night will be just Handler. No roundtable. No celebrity guests. And no Chuy.

That's fine with her. Handler did plenty of time on the stand-up circuit before landing her latest gig as talk-show host and best-selling author. It sounds like maybe she's looking forward to getting back to those roots and having the alone time.

"Sometimes it's better to be just Chelsea. I started doing stand-up so it feels totally normal for me," she said.

And while the talk show has essentially become an endless torrent of disparaging remarks on what's going on in the lives of Kim Kardashian, Britney Spears, Ashton Kutcher, John Mayer and more, her show here will have her remarking on what's going on in her life. In a brutally honest, expletive-laden way.

"A lot of the show is just what's going on in my life right now," says Handler. "I'm newly single. I have a new dog, Chunk. So I keep it current."

Handler's obsession with her Chicago limo driver, Glenn McCants, is bound to come up too. During her March show at the Rosemont, she brought McCants out on stage, introduced him to the crowd of 4,400 and forced him to mock her ex-boyfriend's dancing style. That's a lot to ask of a limo driver. But McCants, who works for Carey Chicago, has been driving Handler when she comes to town for a couple of years.

"We have high-end clientele like Don King and Mary J Blige, but Chelsea's my favorite because she's feisty," McCants said. "And she's straight up with you. I drive millionaires around every day, but with her you can be yourself. She's just wrong, you know? But that's so right."

He's right about one thing. Handler is just wrong. Her show may cover things as innocent as her hatred of cats and vegans, but it's just as likely she'll talk about masturbation, male genitalia, her father's love affair with his very young Jamaican cleaning lady and her rationale for her brand of racism.

"I think being racist is really funny. When I say a Chinese person is good at math, that's a compliment," she said. "It's not like I'm saying they smell like egg rolls."


Chelsea Handler
: 8 p.m. Sunday
: Rosemont Theatre, 5400 N. River Road, Rosemont
: $47.50-$73; 800-745-3000 or

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