Pittsburgh Current Staff Writer
In her work as an activist, comedian Chelsea Handler has openly covered topics like LGBTQ rights, racism and white privilege. So, yes, she absolutely believes comedians should be vocal about modern issues and provide social commentary about them.
“We’re speaking to so many more people. I pay my taxes. I have opinions. Why would being successful preclude me from being vociferous about any of those things? Somebody basically telling you because you’re successful in one area, you’re not allowed to comment in another, that doesn’t make any sense,” she says in a phone call to the Current from Australia.
Handler last visited Pittsburgh in April 2018 for “An Evening With Chelsea Handler,” a benefit for the Delta Foundation of Pittsburgh at the Benedum Center. She returns to the Steel City at the Byham Theater with “Life Will Be the Death of Me,” her latest stand-up show, on Nov. 1.
The stand-up show has the same name as her latest memoir. Life Will Be The Death of Me,’ released in April 2019, is Handler’s sixth book, and explores her “Year of Self-Sufficiency” after the 2016 election. Done with the privileged bubble she’s lived in, Handler decides to make some lifestyle changes to discover what matters most. The book chronicles ugly-crying in front of her therapist after he offers her an orange, finding her mojo as an activist, digging deep into the pain of her childhood and finding a new way to use her voice.
Although named after her latest book, “Life Will Be the Death of Me” features new material related to themes in the book.
“The book is really just a framer for the night,” she says. “It’s kind of my beginning and my end to the night. It’s all therapy-related, like self-awareness, me trying to be a better person and constantly screwing up with it,” she says.
Handler says turning the book into a stand-up show wasn’t planned — she didn’t think she had anything important to say in that medium. However, after writing the book and going on book tour, it eventually made sense to turn it into a one-woman show.
“This is what I do: tell ridiculous stories about, you know, how screwed up I am or how screwed up I think I am, only to find out that we’re all the same amount of screwed up. You know, we’re all going through the same stuff. And it’s just really personal,” she says.
After working with a therapist — which she covers in the book — Handler says her voice is now more deliberate and thoughtful, after years of “barrel[ing] through life, going a million miles an hour.”
“This is the sharpest I’ve ever been, yet it’s telling a narrative instead of just, you know, making fun of people,” she says.
This is also the first time Handler hasn’t had a television project to work on, which, according to the comedian, has been a learning experience.
“Focusing on one thing at a time rather than 18 things at a time makes you do that one thing so much more impactfully,” she says.
Between numerous television projects and books, Handler fans have known the comedian as biting and self-deprecating. Now, she’s excited to show an empathetic, aware side with her stand-up show, she says.
“It’s nice for people to see a side of me where I was really trying to get better at being a human being and not be such a bitch all the time,” she says. “Which is a funny — not to use the word ‘journey’ because The Bachelor ruined that word for us 20 years ago — but it is a funny journey.”