Chelsea Handler’s new Netflix special brings laughs, humiliation, and full-frontal male nudity
Chelsea Handler is no stranger to raunchy, offensive, and sometimes terrible jokes, and her upcoming stand up special premiering Friday on Netflix is no exception.
Uganda Be Kidding Me, the hour-plus stand-up special (based on her best-selling book) brings Handler back before the cameras for the first time since her departure from E!’s Chelsea Lately in August of this year. She doesn’t pull any punches, returning to her raw and hilarious brand of self-deprecating comedy, pushing boundaries both in words and images.
The book on which the special is based follows Chelsea on her travels through South Africa and Botswana as the late-night-bad girl traverses the wilderness on Safari.
Though named Uganda Be Kidding Me, Handler said she didn’t actually make it to Uganda. “I wouldn’t go to a gay-hating nation anyway,” she said.
With her expansive LGBT fan base, Handler said she didn’t see much along the lines of gay folks in Africa. “Not a lot of gays I ran into in Africa, not on safari.”
Handler’s loyalty to the LGBT community has manifested in other ways – she’s worked with HRC and GLAAD at fundraising events. She said she’s always down to lend her celebrity to good causes when she can.
“Obviously when you have a personality like mine,” joked Handler, “you have to make it up in other ways.”
Handler admitted she planned the trip last-minute, and had no plans to use it as material for a future book or stand up special.
“It was a great trip for a million reasons, but it’s a place I’d go back to time and time again,” said Handler of the two week excursion. “It is literally like being in another world.”
“I wanted to see where rappers came from,” joked Handler in the opening moments of the special.
But now that the dust has cleared, she admits her planned “educational safari” turned into more of a “spring-break safari.”
“I like to give America the reputation that I’ve given it,” said Handler, who shows off pictures of her pissing in the wilds of Africa, and drinking heavily throughout the trip. ” I’ve always loved to travel, so it’s been a dream of mine to go to Africa.”
Topics in the special don’t stay exclusively about her trip – she jokes on her lesbian lawyer friend (using the phrase “turbo lesbian”), her poor relationship with her father (featuring a massive photo of three old men, naked and in an exceedingly sexual position) and crapping herself in a kayak while spending time at the beach recovering from her African trip.
It’s this dark humor, often targeting herself or her close friends, which makes Handler’s comedy stand out.
“I tried to think of my most personal and humiliating situations that have happened to me,” said Handler on her inspiration for the special’s material. “There’s always humor in that if you’re a comedian and you have a perverted sense.”
The kayak story is particularly humiliating, with someone recognizing her as a celebrity as her bikini filled with waste.
“How awful that was, and how humiliating that was,” Handler admitted. “I thought how amazing it was if I was going to make it out alive.”
Uganada Be Kidding Me is the first in a series of specials from Handler, all created as part of a deal with Netflix to stream the content in the coming year. Future installments include “fish-out-of-water” documentary-style specials where Handler will travel to locations with broad questions people may not know the answer to.
Handler said this curiosity can sometimes bite back, with people making strange faces after she asks these seemingly simple questions at parties or social gatherings. But after the awkward moment passes, the comedian says she often gets thanked by others for clearing things up.
“I don’t have a problem making an ass out myself; I’ve made a career out of it,” said Handler. “So if I have to be out there asking stupid questions I’m happy to do it.”
This curiosity will first present itself with a trip to Silicon Valley, with the intrepid comedian finding out how streaming video services work. Handler said she was inspired by her new partnership with the streaming service Netflix, a relationship she said she courted.
“I went after my lover,” said Handler of working with Netflix for the first time. “It’s like when I’m dating, if we’re gonna hook up you’re gonna know about it because I came after you. I don’t like people hitting on me.”
After leaving E!, she planned to travel and take a year off, but first she took a few meetings and finally got the Netflix folks in a room.
“It was an obvious choice for me, because it was the only choice. And they were very like minded.”
Handler said she ended up in a room full of Netflix’s people with opinions she knew she could respect.
She knew they’d support her if she wanted to continue to work, the comedian would have to do something very different from the late-night format.
“I wanted to broaden my horizons,” she said about the new digital-only arrangement and her future documentary projects. “I’m not a journalist, but I have a lot of questions and I want to do some sort of show where I’m getting those questions answered.”
The former-late night host said she hopes to tackle tougher issues, as “some celebrities are interesting, but not that many.”
She hopes the final product will be entertaining, but she won’t necessarily be approaching it from a comedic angle. Handler plans to leave it to her fans to find out if they like it, with some of the content being serious and most of the comedy coming from her personality.
Your first chance to check out Uganda Be Kidding Me comes this Friday on Netflix–and keep an eye out for more specials from Handler in the future.
Director Vikram Gandhi (Kumaré, HBO’s “Vice”), a Columbia University alumni, approached fellow alum Adam Mansbach (author of “Go the F**k to Sleep”) to help tell this origin story, and from that collaboration Mansbach penned the script.November 21, 2016
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