Also Credited As:Chelsea Joy Handler
|Chelsea Joy Handler on February 25, 1975 in Livingston, New Jersey, USA|
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Born Chelsea Joy Handler on Feb. 25, 1975, in Livingston, NJ, Handler was the youngest of six children. Her mother, Rita, was a Mormon of German descent and her father, Seymour, was a Jewish car salesman. Her conservative, yet loosely structured childhood suffered a traumatizing turn when her 21-year-old brother died during a hiking trip when she was nine. By all accounts, it was a tragic event that shook the entire family to its foundation. Yearning to escape her banal suburban surroundings and strike out on her own, the precocious 19-year-old moved to Los Angeles not long after graduating from high school. An aspiring actress, she began the familiar journey of seemingly endless auditions and waitressing jobs for several years until an arrest for driving under the influence led to a life-changing moment. On the final day of a D.U.I. class, Handler was called upon to relate the story of her arrest experience to her fellow students. Initially embarrassed, she soon experienced a sort of euphoric epiphany when she realized that not only were her classmates enthralled by her tale, but they were in stitches, as well.
With a quick career adjustment and more than a little audacity, Handler began working on a stand-up comedy routine that eventually landed her a booking at L.A.'s The Improv. She gradually honed her act in comedy clubs around the country for the next few years, prior to landing her first big break as a contributor to the hidden camera-reality series "Girls Behaving Badly" (Oxygen, 2002-04). Encouraged by friends who had been long entertained by her comedic sexual misadventures, Handler penned her memoir My Horizontal Life in 2005. Much to her surprise, the book went on to become a nationwide bestseller. The following year, comedian-host Jay Leno joined the growing list of Handler admirers, inviting her to become a recurring correspondent on the "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" (NBC 1992- ).
After several earlier development deals had failed to bear fruit, Handler was finally given a small venue of her own with "The Chelsea Handler Show" (E! Networks, 2005-06). The comedy show wrapped Handler performing stand-up routines around various taped skits, short sketches and other hijinks. As the show was finishing its moderately successful first and only season, Handler's personal life intersected with her professional world when she began dating Ted Harbert, president and CEO of Comcast Entertainment Group, parent company of E! Networks in 2006. Instead of a second season of "The Chelsea Handler Show," she was instead asked to put together an entertainment show, albeit with a distinctly sardonic Handler spin. The result was "Chelsea Lately" (E!, 2007- ), making Handler the first female host to be given her own late night talk show by a network since Joan Rivers in 1983. Formatted as a traditional celebrity gab-fest, it gave the caustic comedienne the opportunity to relentlessly skewer the Hollywood elite she was quickly becoming a part of herself. The show and its new focus found an ever-expanding audience and soon became one of the network's more successful offerings.
After a turn in the direct-to-DVD comedy "Cattle Call" (2006), Handler made her feature film debut in the independent drama "Steam" (2007), starring Ally Sheedy and Ruby Dee. At about the same time, she began filming webisodes of the online comedy "In the Motherhood" with friends Leah Remini and Jenny McCarthy. Initially slotted to follow the project to its adaptation to the small screen, Handler was forced to drop out of the exceptionally short-lived "In the Motherhood" (ABC, 2009) due to her "Chelsea Lately" commitments. Her second book, Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea, a collection of essays about her childhood and hilariously dysfunctional relationships as a young adult made it to the New York Times bestseller list in 2008. Two years later, her home network premiered "After Lately" (E! Networks, 2010- ), a faux-reality show, purportedly giving audiences a behind-the-scenes look at "Chelsea Lately."
Although both maintained their ties at E! Networks, in a 2010 television interview, Handler revealed that she and Harbert were no longer romantically involved. That year, her third book Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang became her second New York Times bestseller, with her two previous books hitting the second and third spots on the paperback list in the same week. Soon after, it was announced that Handler had launched a new publishing imprint, Borderline Amazing, with Grand Central Publishing. The first title under the imprint, Lies Chelsea Told Me was yet another No. 1 New York Times bestseller upon its release in 2011. After launching her own production company, Borderline Amazing Productions, Handler served as producer, writer and co-star for the series "Are You There, Chelsea?" (NBC, 2012). Inspired by her book Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea, the sitcom starred Laura Prepon in a role modeled after a twenty-something Handler. Performing poorly both critically and in the ratings, it was axed after 12 episodes. At the same time, she appeared alongside Reese Witherspoon and Chris Pine in the romantic spy-comedy "This Means War" (2012). Handler had better luck as a producer with two more comedy talk shows for E!, "Love You, Mean It" (E! 2012- ) starring Whitney Cummings and "Hello Ross!" (E! 2013- ) with Ross Mathews. In the summer of 2014, Handler announced that she was ending "Chelsea Lately" in preparation to start a new late night talk show for Netflix.
By Bryce Coleman