New Times: Between last year's Evolution special and now, has putting together a full set of material required a different writing process or mindset compared to normal times?
Chelsea Handler: Evolution was a very personal special for me. It was about my therapy story and my story about my brother, and my experience with how humbling and also humiliating it can be. You kind of take five steps forward and then eighteen steps back. You think, "Oh, I'm killing it! I'm nailing it! I'm meditating!" And then you get into a huge screaming match with the parking lot attendant on your way out the door from therapy, and you're like, "Wait, what just happened?" So that special was important to me because I wanted to take the medium of standup and do something I hadn't done before with strong messaging and a personal story that was profound.
And now I feel like the vibe is that people just really need to laugh. I want people's sides to hurt when they leave the theater. I want somebody to have an accident and urinate during my show. I want that kind of energy — to bring joy and just make people kind of forget about the last couple years while also remembering the idiotic behavior that many of us demonstrated time and time again during the pandemic. Because if we're not laughing about it, you know, it's just too depressing.
You recently completed the first season of your podcast Dear Chelsea. What have you learned about your fans or yourself since its inception? Does it allow you to express yourself in ways you can't onstage?
The thing I've learned throughout my career is that interviewing celebrities is one thing but talking to real people is a whole different ballgame. And one that I get a lot of joy out of. I'm a really strong person, and I'm a really strong advocate of everybody being at their best. I want to be that big sister that pushes you in the right direction, the way that I am with all my friends. I'm the person who comes in and says, "You can do this! You can leave this relationship! You can quit this job! You can take a leap of faith!" So the podcast is very much in that vein.
Most people have already made up their mind about what they're going to do, but they're just deliberating about when and how they're going to do it. I absorbed so much in therapy that I consider myself to be a de facto medical expert even though I have no degree. I grew up reading "Dear Abby," and I love advice, and I thought, "Oh, I should do that! What's more bombastic than me deeming myself some sort of advice-giver?"
You recently made your new relationship with former Chelsea Lately panelist Jo Koy Instagram-official. How did you make that transition from being longtime friends?
Jo Koy and I ending up together is a perfect example of therapy working. Because I would have never ever taken him seriously before I went to therapy. He came into my life again about a year and a half ago, and he put in a lot of work, even though he tries to convince me I've had a crush on him for 15 years. But I didn't really see him through that lens. And until I became a little more open-minded and stopped judging everything and being so narrow-minded in my own personal belief systems, I wouldn't have seen him in that way. So to be able to be with him and love him the way that I do and appreciate him the way that I do, I really do attribute that to therapy and to getting my head out of my own ass.
Your perspective on issues from voting rights to abortion access might seem to run counter to those widely held in Florida. With four upcoming shows in the state, do you generally view encountering politically charged moments as personal challenges or more as opportunities to foster discussion?
I think we've all had our fill of politics for a long time. I certainly have. It's pretty exhausting. So on this tour I feel a certain responsibility to come and entertain and create side-splitting laughter and help people forget about their problems and the politics and how awful things have gotten. I banged that political drum pretty loudly, so people are very well-aware of how I feel. So I really want to just focus on the comedy, on the idiotic behavior that we've all displayed, certainly myself during the pandemic.
How does comedy help bring seemingly divided people closer together, particularly during times of sociopolitical uncertainty?
It's a reminder of humanity and a reminder of togetherness. We're all in this together, and we keep forgetting. People can get caught up in their own nonsense, but it's important to remember the high tide raises all ships. We all want to help each other; we're all human. Laughing with other people is, like, the best vibe in the world. That sense of togetherness — when you can't control your laughter, and it hurts and your cheeks hurt and your belly hurts — that's humanity.
Chelsea Handler. 7 p.m. Thursday, October 28, at the Fillmore Miami Beach, 1700 Washington Ave., Miami Beach; 305-673-7300; fillmoremb.com. Tickets are $49.50 to $169.50 via livenation.com.