Shortly after I sign into our Zoom Date, Chelsea Handler’s rep is still swiftly trying to dial her in. There’s an issue with the link, of course. We’re almost a year and a half into this digital-only workplace scenario and it would almost be unusual if you didn’t have technological difficulties or hear things like, “You’re muted,” or “I think you’re frozen,” uttered from the other end. It’s the nature of the beast—that and perhaps the result of planetary disruption, which I begin to blame for Handler’s troubles before she appears on my screen.
“We’re on! Retrograde is over with!” I excitedly say to ease her.
“I know,” she says to me. “But you know what? I've got to tell you, yesterday was such a shit show. I was talking to my girlfriend and I was like, ‘What is going on?’ And she goes, ‘Well, Mercury was in retrograde, but it's been out for a week. Can you feel the difference?' I go, ‘No, I don't. I feel like it just started.’”
The stars may not have been aligning for Handler in the past day or so, but from a macro level, her career is currently reaching astronomical heights. She just launched a podcast, Dear Chelsea; she has a television show based on her book, Life Will Be the Death of Me coming out; she’s about to go on tour, and she just partnered with skincare brand OLEHENRIKSEN for its latest launch, Dewtopia. There’s a lightness about her; she’s still the same joke-slinging, brutally honest Handler, but with a palpable shift in perspective. While I brace for impact during our chat for some light jeers, I’m instead met with someone who has an impressively optimistic outlook—not your typical comedic fodder, but in any event, we certainly aren’t short on laughs during our chat. Below, we talk skincare, fitness, therapy, and everything in-between.
Thank you so much for taking the time to talk with us. First, I wanted to ask you about this partnership with OLEHENRIKSEN and what made it feel right and authentic.
Well, I'm into my skincare, and I'm really into their product, Dewtopia. So they sent me a bunch of samples. I've always been into OLEHENRIKSEN, even though I just found out how to pronounce his first name, like oo-la, like a cool-a. So they sent me a bunch of their stuff, and I was really into it because I don't change skincare regimens very frequently. So I had to set aside a week just in case my skin, which is pretty sensitive, had a bad reaction. But it didn’t, and it had a great reaction. And so it was a very easy match to make. I was like, Oh, yeah, this is exactly what I'm looking for. This area [points to tops of cheekbones], tightening it, you know, minimizing your lines. So I did notice a difference pretty quickly. I was very excited about the product and I let them know, and then we decided to do a partnership.
Oh, that's awesome. So what is your skincare routine?
Well, I'm not that great at taking care of my own skin, so I usually default to my makeup artist who tells me what I need to do and when I need to do it. Her preference would be that I wash my face every night before I go to bed. And I blame my childhood for not being able to do that, because no one trained me to do that. So there are many times where I do not wash my face before I go to bed, so I'm trying to nip that habit in the bud. But since I started using the Dewtopia—you have to do it at night so it kind of sets—so since I've been using it, I've been following a pretty strict regimen from OLEHENRIKSEN—all their products, scrubbing, and exfoliating, and all of those things. At night, now what I've been doing is I clean my face with a little thin towel and some cleanser from Ole. And then I put the Dewtopia on and I put a little bit of the serum on [Ed. Note: The Banana Bright Vitamin C Serum] because it just smells so delicious. The acid [from the Dewtopia] can kind of have this drying effect on your face, so it gives you a little extra moisture while it's happening. I mean, you do want it to dry, because that's the objective. It kind of sinks into your skin and kind of gets in there. Then in the morning, I wake up, and I wash my face again. So now I've washed my face two times within 12 hours. And I put on the serum and then I use the moisturizer [Ed. Note: The C Rush Brightening Gel]. I've been doing the Dewtopia pretty much every night.
Pivoting to your fitness routine, you post about it on Instagram, and it's very impressive. How do you motivate yourself to put on your gym clothes and go to a training session on days where you'd rather just be like, F*ck this, I do not want to work out.
On days that I feel that way, the only thing I force myself to do is to work out, because every day I'm home is an opportunity for me to be like, you know, physically fit and strong because I'm traveling so much and I'm about to start on tour, and then that screws up your schedule. So I just like to jam it in any day. I'm in L.A., I train with my trainer [Ed. Note: Ben Bruno], no matter what happened the night before. So I have made a commitment to my body and to my mental fitness and physical fitness to always meditate and to always work out.
What is the most woo-woo L.A. thing, speaking of L.A., that you've ever done, like crystal healing, et cetera. Have you ever dabbled in that?
Oh, yeah, I've done everything. I mean, I don't think I've done crystal healing. But I've done things that are too embarrassing to even remember. What's the craziest thing I ever did? For treatment? I think I once got a full… Oh, no, that's not that crazy. Hold on. People do that all the time. Um, let's circle back to that one.
What's the full… “question mark,” just out of curiosity?
Body laser, like full body laser. It's called Morpheus8. Actually, that is crazy! So put it down. People have done it, but my friend was like, ‘You've got to do it, it tightens your skin everywhere—your abs, your butt…" But it's a major undertaking. I was down for the count for about four days, and I felt like a burn victim. It's an intense laser treatment, like skin tightening and laser. So yeah, that was a little harsh. And my cousin spent the night with me the first night and was like, “This is going a little too far.” And I thought, You might be right.
But was the reward worth the risk?
Honestly, I don't even know. You know what? You're doing so many things, sometimes with your body and your exercise and your supplements, and you're not sure which one is hitting, right? You just know that you feel good. And you're like, Okay, let's just keep it going. So I don't know that that worked. I wouldn't recommend it to anyone, quite frankly.
Switching gears to Instagram—you’re so authentic on your page, but the platform can be such smoke and mirrors. What's your take on the way that celebrities and influencers present themselves? Do you think it's exhausting to be fed these images that aren't necessarily real?
Well, I mean, that's up to the viewer, right? And that's up to the person looking at Instagram. So it's really everyone's individual decision, what they're willing to, you know, be exposed to or not be exposed to. I try and keep things really real because that's the way I am. I don't like filters. I don't like when I'm washed out or I look like I have no lines on my face. I'm 46, I should have some lines on my face. Not too many, but a couple, you know? So I think it's to each his own. I just try not to perpetuate any mistruths about me or about the way that I look.
Similarly, you've mentioned that you're not against injectables, can you speak more on normalizing them?
Yeah, I mean, I've had Botox, I've had filler, I've had strings—they have little strings that they do now, these kind of little things [mimics a pulling motion near her face]. So, yeah, I've done all that stuff. And I mean, I try not to ever overdo it because I have in the past or, you know, I've made mistakes… it's a slippery slope. We get one thing done, and I'm like, Well, this is bothering me, and this is bothering me. So I have a healthier outlook now than I used to about that stuff because I'm healthier all around, you know what I mean? Sometimes you have to take some responsibility for your appearance, rather than trying to fix it. If you're drinking a lot, you're going to feel bloated, you're going to look bloated, and your face is going to be bloated. You can get away with that in your 20s and for most of your 30s, but not in your 40s. So I had to change that habit. I had to focus more and pivot to cannabis more, because that's easier on your system and grows out of the earth. It's not a chemical, you know, that you're putting in your body. I mean, we're basically drinking rubbing alcohol when we drink. So I've made a lot of life adjustments about healthy living, eating clean food, not eating anything processed, not having any dairy. So all of those things also contribute to the way that you look and the way that you feel and the way that your brain works.
Absolutely. And in taking care of yourself, you've been open about going to therapy. How has that helped you progress? And what's the most valuable thing your therapist has shared with you?
You know, to not react, I think, is the most salient piece of information for me to temper my reaction, instead of getting an email you don't like and typing before all of a sudden you've lost complete control. Do you ever see somebody walking in the airport, and they're looking down at their phone, and they're just like, stabbing the keys? That's not a hot look. Once I was given the information that everything is a reaction, like if you really sit with information when you receive it, more than, you know, two minutes, more than 20 minutes, and actually sit with it and digest it, it is true that most often times you won’t want to send that email. I didn't think that was true. I had heard about it. But now I know from experience that most things are really worth the reaction. And once you take out that [part], then any place you're coming from is just a little bit more grounded, and a little bit less emotional. It gets your point across a little bit more firmly.
They say the best comedians are those who have had tough pasts. Do you agree with this? And how does art imitate life for you?
I mean, a lot of comedians have had a rough time growing up or have experienced some sort of trauma. My brother died when I was nine, I talked about that a lot in my book and my most recent standup special on HBO Max, but I think you have to cultivate a sense of humor because things are so painful. That's your floating device, right? That keeps you up above everything and above the fray. So I would say for sure that trauma is a good indicator for a lot of comedians to look for the funny and find the funny because they're desperately trying to laugh. I know that was true for me during that time. And how does art imitate life? You know, I didn't talk about my brother seriously dying until I was probably 39 or 40 in therapy. And I wrote a book about it, then I turned it into a standup performance. I mean, not that my brother died, obviously, but it's part of my standup special, Evolution. And so my psychiatrist would refer to that as delayed grief. Now we're making a TV show about my most recent book, Life Will Be the Death of Me. So art is imitating life very much now, almost 40 years later.
Congrats on the show, I can't wait to watch. How are you feeling about the world opening back up again? Do you have any trepidation?
I've decided to go on tour because I really wanted to be one of the reasons that people are coming together again for the first time, you know, people are going to be out for the very first times at concerts and standup shows, so I just keep reminding myself of that. It's a good thing, even when I'm resisting. There's a lot of, kind of, social rust that we're experiencing, like a lot of us feel rusty. I was at dinner with my sister in San Francisco a few weeks ago, and I didn't know what to say when the conversation stopped. She was like, “What the hell, all you do is talk!” I go, “I know, I don't know what to say." I’m thinking of things to say. It's a little weird, but yeah, I'm just gonna go with the flow of things.
What are you most looking forward to in your next decade of life?
I'm focusing on the macro, instead of the micro—focusing on spreading joy and light… and focusing on skiing, that's very important to my well-being, because I love to ski more than anything else. And focusing on travel and doing the work that you know, work that's meaningful to me. Spreading good messages, not taking my platform for granted in any way. Everything I do is with that in mind to actually make a contribution rather than doing something that's just going to get me more money.
I love that. That's awesome. And finally, just a fun question: What's something that you're currently obsessed with and something that currently annoys you?
Oh, everything usually annoys me. You know what annoys me? Everyone saying they're “obsessed.” There you go. That is annoying. I'm like, there are a lot of people in mental institutions that would disagree with your definition of the word “obsess.”
True, so, maybe I should reword this question to something that you're really "into" right now. [Laughs]
Oh, okay. [Laughs] What am I really into right now? Anything? I'm into my dog, Bert. I'm always into Bert. I love him so much. I wake up in the morning and I just say, “Thank you for being here.” He doesn't have a choice because he can't, you know… he doesn't know how to go anywhere. But I just love him and I have been obsessed with him ever since I saw his body the first time.
Dogs are truly the best.