Chelsea Handler is s comic who is a bit like Icarus; her comedy often goes into territory that is too raw, too close to the sun sort of speak and can quickly fall flat. When she performed a few years ago here in Kansas City she told jokes about her own abortions. No matter where you fall within the abortion debate, everyone can basically agree that abortion jokes are a hard sell…and she wasn’t selling them. Her best material that night was her commentary over Chuy’s then recently revealed porn videos made before he was her sidekick extraordinaire.
Much has been written about how Joan Rivers would say things other comics would not touch, Handler comes across as Rivers amped up by a thousand. When she is on and lands her jokes I think she has one of the sharpest minds presently in comedy, however when she is off her humor devolves into insults that are more fueled by vodka than wit (see Icarus comment). Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang, published in 2010, is an example of Chelsea Handler at her best.
Like most books written by comics, and as Handler has written before, Chelsea Chelsea are a collection of essays based on autobiographical observational humor. Okay, if you have read this review to this point it is safe to assume you are a Handler fan, thus will not be put off when I reveal that the first chapter is a story about when she discovered the pleasures of masturbation during a slumber party with other eight-year-olds. On one hand a reader can clasp her pearls and decry such a topic, on the other I saw it as a woman, then a girl, talking about her first exploration of sexuality and doing so in a humorous manner. However I found her story about obtaining a Cabbage Patch Doll funnier.
The book was primarily written during the time she was living with Ted Harbert then the CEO of the Comcast Entertainment Group (he oversaw programming for the E! network). Harbert now is chairman of NBC Broadcasting and they are a couple no more. Honestly, it hard to believe that someone who managed to become such a bigwig in broadcasting to be so naïve, but oh how I hope everything she wrote was true including the gynecological table on Stage 2, the dog funeral, and whatever the hell he wore while swimming. A few times I had to grab my asthma inhaler because I was laughing so hard. Yet no matter how she disparages her live-in lover, those jokes come off as all sweetness and fresh flowers compared to the bon mots Handler aims at her father who, if half the stuff she reported was true, deserves ever comedic volley aimed his way. I think I’ll always remember his vacation house described as the vaccination house as well as Handler’s own attorney sister wanting to separate her identity from their father’s by suggesting that she might start using “Lately” as her surname.
Not everything on the pages were brilliant, but my expectations for books such as these is that they at least have more laughs than not because let’s face it, they are not high literature, but when they are good they can persuade you to think of a topic differently.
I recommend Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang for the perfect summer…oops. It is a fast read and funny book, one that if you buy a copy you will pass on to friends.