Chelsea Handler is fully embracing — and fully enjoying — the live comedy circuit with her 2023 “Little Big Bitch Tour.” However, that wasn’t always the case. Prior to returning to touring in 2021, the comedian, television and podcast host, and New York Times best-selling author had taken a six-year hiatus from the road.
“I just didn’t feel like I had anything new to add to the medium of standup. I was just bored and I was kind of burnt out,” said Handler in a phone interview from Los Angeles, where she spent a day off from touring to record her weekly podcast, “Dear Chelsea.” “I took everything for granted. I wasn’t enjoying my time on stage the way you hoped and dreamed you would when you’re someone who dreams about doing that, and so I took some time off.”
“It was a little bit of a rebuild because your audiences haven’t seen you live for so long, so that was a really interesting thing for me to do, and it yielded really amazing results because I have such a different attitude about it now,” she added. “I love it so much more than I did before.”
Handler, who is stopping at the Veterans Memorial Auditorium in Providence on Sunday as part of her tour, said that in the wake of the pandemic and with all of the challenging issues the world is facing, laughter is needed now more than ever.
“I have a service I can provide. I can make people laugh and forget about everything for an hour and a half,” she said. “You can give yourself a reprieve and sit with strangers and remember that that there’s goodness.”
The Livingston, N.J., native, who lives in Los Angeles with her rescue dog, Bernice, said she delves into her childhood on this tour and tells stories that explain a lot about her no-holds-barred attitude and unabashed candor.
“I started my own babysitting company when I was 10. I looked much older than I was, so I lied and said I was 15,” she recalled, adding that she earned so much money that when she was 13 and her family was planning a trip to California to visit her grandparents, she walked down the street to the office of a local travel agent in the neighborhood and bought herself a first-class ticket for the trip.
“I didn’t tell my mother, so when we got on the plane, I found my seat, which was 2C, and sat down and said ’See you guys at the end of the flight’,” she recalled. “I was like this my whole life. Even when I was 3, I was looking at my parents like ’Who the hell is in charge around here? This doesn’t seem like a smoothly run operation.’ I was always saying to my brothers and sisters, ’You guys need to listen to me’.”
Chandler, 48, who in addition to hosting the late-night talk show “Chelsea Lately” on E! for seven years, has had several specials on Netflix, and earlier this year hosted the 2023 Critics Choice Awards, said the shows on her current tour are “jam-packed with laughter.”
“They are my true stories and they’re outlandish,” she said. “I have this whole run of men who have been canceled and I talk about my personal run-ins with them, so I have a great Woody Allen story, and I have a great Bill Cosby story — which not a lot of people can say.”
Handler said she also recounts to her audiences how she went to Kennebunkport “really stoned on three edibles” while she perused former President George W. Bush paintings.
“Oh, and I have a really funny Andrew Cuomo story about me having a huge crush on him when he was in the spotlight,” she said. “So yeah, I have a lot of personal stories that are ridiculous because they’re true.”
In addition to touring and doing her podcast (“We give real advice to real people. It’s not a vanity project; it actually feels like I’m helping people,” she said), Chandler is writing her seventh book that will likely be released next fall.
“It’s about being a woman and owning your womanhood; about being the person you want to be without society telling you what makes you valuable,” she said. “I wouldn’t take shit from anybody. I never have and I won’t. I’m not for sale. I do what I want and I have the best life. I just want to encourage all people to listen to themselves and know what they’re supposed to do. Know if you really want to become a mother or if you’re just doing it because you’re supposed to. Know how to get out of a job and move on to something that’s going to be more fulfilling.”
When asked what it is about her that resonates with so many people, Handler did not hesitate: “I think it’s my honesty.”
“I think that people know when you’re feeding them a bag of garbage or if you’re being really authentic. I always share what’s happening in my life, whether it’s flattering or unflattering, good or bad. When I screw up, I’m also loud about those screwups,” she said. “I think people can relate to that because obviously perfection is not possible. And we are all flawed and there’s nothing wrong with any of that.”
Handler added that she has “no tolerance” for fake people.
“I don’t even like it when people kiss my ass. That’s fake. I want authenticity and one of the things I love about my podcast and about performing live is that I get to see my fans in real life and they’re just like me,” she said. “They’re authentic and they’re cool and they’re real, and so for me it’s a nice reprieve from living the life I live that is in Hollywood and surrounded by celebrity. That doesn’t feel as real to me as real people do.”
When asked if she wanted share anything with her fans in advance of the Providence performance, Handler said “Just tell them to bring condoms. It’s important.”
A request for elaboration was answered with a laugh and a final thought: “They’ll understand when they see the show.”
Chelsea Handler’s LBB Tour is at Veterans Memorial Auditorium on Nov. 19. For more information, visit thevetsri.com