Chelsea Handler on her career, Hillary Clinton and cursing

Chelsea Handler wants to be more than funny
Chelsea Handler wants to be more than funny

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    Chelsea Handler wants to be more than funny

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Chelsea Handler wants to be more than funny 02:11

Story highlights

  • Chelsea Handler discusses following her instincts and taking pictures next to toilets
  • Her Netflix show 'Chelsea' streams three new episodes each week

(CNN)Chelsea Handler knows how to make people laugh. Now she wants to change people's lives.

The comedian and talk show host hopes the conversations taking place on her Netflix series "Chelsea" accomplish both. The show, which premiered in May, doesn't follow the typical late-night comedy formula -- and that's by design.
    "I wanted the fluidity to allow myself to explore and experience new things, have people come on and explain things to me that I don't understand like the moon and super delegates and gerrymandering," Handler told CNN in a recent, wide-ranging interview.
    With classic Handler candor, she discussed her career, Hillary Clinton and cursing.
    "Chelsea" (photo by Adam Rose/Netflix)
    Do you feel like this is your dream job?
    Every job I've ever had has been my dream job as long as I'm being paid millions of dollars a year. I'm not stupid. I love my life. I want it [the show] to be a little bit more responsible without being saccharine about it. I want it to be a little bit more profound and make a bigger statement than I was making. I'm very happy with where I am. I'm very grateful that Netflix gave me the opportunity to explore more serious topics but also with a sense of humor.
    What's it like to make a room full of people laugh?
    It's great, if that's what you're into. I'm into people laughing and I'm into people playing off of people. But I'm also now in a phase in my life, again, without being heavy-handed where I want more than that. I know how to make people laugh. I got that. I want to do other things. I want to make people think and I want to make people laugh at the same time. I want to do great things for people. I want to change somebody's life. I want people to hear a story that is going to change their lives and their trajectory.
    At what point in your life did you realize that you were funny?
    I always thought I was a lot funnier than other people thought I was. I got a real kick out of myself. I was like, 'You are funny!' I would sit alone and be like, 'that's funny.' Then I started to go through phases where I'd be like, 'You're a genius.' Now I'm like, 'You're not that funny. Who cares?' I'm so many other things.
    Is there a difference between laughter from a studio audience and laughter while doing stand-up comedy?
    It's just the audience. There's not a difference because it comes down to the basic, rudimentary idea of moving somebody in a way. It's like, I don't know how to sing. I don't know how to dance and I don't know how to do many other things. I do know how to tell a joke or a story and make it engaging. I can engage. I like to socialize is basically what it comes down to.
    Chelsea Handler navigates the famous Takeshita Street in Harajuku with her guide, fashion blogger, Elleanor Yamaguchi. (Photo: Geoff Johnson/Netflix)
    After Joan Rivers, you are the second woman to host a late-night talk show. Who in the industry do you look to for advice?
    I don't look to a lot of people for advice because I really think that if you're driven to something like this, you have your gut and you have to really honor your gut instinct. It just means, to me, knowing the difference between what's right for you and what's wrong for you. I've never really taken advice from anybody because I think every situation is circumstantial. I think everybody has their own experience.
    What was the biggest obstacle you've faced on your path to success?
    I think I put myself in a situation where I get criticized a lot because I am really outspoken and I rub people the wrong way and I'm divisive. People always go, 'Oh my God, you're nothing like I thought you would be.' I always think, 'What did you think I was going to be?' Just because I'm outspoken doesn't mean that I'm bad. It doesn't mean that I'm evil. It just means that I want to be heard. That's valuable. Everybody's voice is valuable.
    What's the worst thing you've ever read about yourself that's not true?
    There are no misconceptions. I've been b***hy to people. I've been a c**t to people. I've been nasty to people. That's not a misconception, that's their experience. Whether they deserved it or not, I would argue they did. There's a difference between being nice and being kind. I can't be nice to everybody, but I can be kind all around. I try to do that. I try to do that all the time. It's important to me. It's important to the way my family sees me.
    What's it like having people come up to you all the time?
    I don't mind it. I love it. I love that people love me. How could I complain about that? The only time you're annoyed is when you feel like sh*t about yourself, or you got off a plane and your mascara's running, or you feel bloated and somebody's like, 'Can I take a picture?' Or you're in a bathroom and you're like, 'Is this necessary?' You know what? You were excited to see me that badly, then yeah, we'll take a picture next to your toilet.
    Do you feel like you've helped open the door for other female comedians like Amy Schumer?
    Open the door for her? I don't know. I think we're all opening doors for each other. I think we're all helping each other. I don't think you can target one person. It's an evolution. It's Joan Rivers. It's Carol Burnett. It's all these people. It's Sarah Silverman. It's Amy Schumer, or Polar, or Tina Fey -- everybody collectively over a period of time. It's Julie Louis-Dreyfus. Everybody's pushing through. Then you get through. It's Hillary Clinton. It's Chelsea Clinton. It's all of these people. It's not just about being a woman, it's about being a human being. It's about being a great human being.
    Did you ever imagine that you would have reached the level of success that you have?
    There are not many days that go by where I don't think, 'This is great.' I pull on to a lot everyday in my car and I have a parking space that says, 'Chelsea Handler is the only person allowed to park here,' and it's next to a huge sound stage and the whole thing just says Chelsea? Yeah. I'm like, 'This is f***ing awesome.'
    What motivates you to keep entertaining people and to keep going?
    I think the motivating factor for me is A: I like the attention, obviously. That's a lie to pretend I don't. I like that people like me. I like that people think I'm an influencer, or that I have some say in a matter. I also really like to feel like I'm doing something of importance.
    What are words you live by?
    Fortitude. Loyalty. I don't like lying and I don't like cheating and I don't like people that don't stick up for other people. I'm into underdogs and I'm into defending them.
    What is your favorite curse word?
    F**k. F**k is the best. I mean, it says everything you need to say. It ups the ante in every way. I don't care if people think, 'Oh cursing.' I don't care what anybody thinks, I love to curse. I curse in real life and I curse on TV. So deal with it.
    This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.