Chelsea Handler

Chelsea Handler Biography

Talk Show Host, Comedian (1975–)
With her late-night talk show, Chelsea Lately, Chelsea Handler became one of the most-watched women in comedy.


Comic and talk show host Chelsea Handler was born in 1975 in Livingston, New Jersey. She moved to Los Angeles at 19 to become an actress. While working as a waitress, Handler turned to stand-up comedy. She landed some television work and then turned to writing, hitting the best-sellers list in 2005. In 2007, Handler made her late-night debut with the talk show Chelsea Lately, and went on to create After Lately (2011), a successful scripted series based on the cast of her late-night talk show, and Are You There, Chelsea? (2012), a sitcom based on her memoir. In June 2014, she made an agreement with Netflix to create a talk show and a series of "docu-comedy" specials for the online streaming service.

Early Life

Comedian Chelsea Joy Handler was born on February 25, 1975, in Livingston, New Jersey. The youngest of six children, Handler felt that she sometimes got lost in the crowd growing up. She thought her Mormon homemaker mother, Sylvia, and Jewish car salesman father, Melvin, were caring but flaky. Handler explained to Los Angeles magazine that "I was always quizzing my parents: 'Do you know where the school is?'" Even as a youngster, Handler showed her talent for wisecracks.

When she was 10, Handler lost her oldest brother. His death devastated her family, and Handler became even more motivated to strike out on her own as soon as she could. After high school, she moved out to Los Angeles to become an actress. Instead she worked as a waitress as she went on audition after audition without any luck.

At 21, Handler got arrested for drunk driving. She had to take a special D.U.I. class as her punishment. During the class, Handler got laughs from the other students for her depiction of her arrest. This experience led her to try stand-up comedy. Despite being a novice, Handler was able to land some gigs playing comedy clubs.

Career Breakthroughs

An emerging comic talent, Handler wowed audiences with her brash and sometimes vulgar act. She portrayed herself as a hard-partying beauty with an acid tongue. In 2002, Handler got a part on the cable sketch comedy show Girls Behaving Badly. She went to make guest appearances on such shows as My Wife and Kids, The Practice and The Bernie Mac Show.

With her first book, My Horizontal Life: A Collection of One-Night Stands (2005), made her way on to the best-sellers list. She chronicled a number of her real-life sexual exploits in the book, which amused and sometimes stunned readers. The following year, she debuted her own series, The Chelsea Handler Show. Handler poked fun at celebrities as well as herself in the show's skits and sketches.

Late Night Success

While her self-titled sketch show only lasted a season, Handler found a larger audience for her sharp quips on pop culture with a late night talk show. Chelsea Lately premiered in 2007 and became a ratings winner, especially with young female viewers. On her show, Handler skewered the latest news with the help of comic guest panelists, and interviewed a number of Hollywood's top celebrities.

In addition to her show, Handler has continued to write books and tour with a stand-up act. She had another runaway hit with the 2008 book Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea. In the memoir, Handler shared stories of her family, love life, and career. She has also found success with her popular comedy tours, including Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang tour in 2010 to support the book by the same title, grossed more than $16 million.

In recent years, Handler created her own production company, Borderline Amazing. She also found success in creating the mocumentary series After Lately in 2011, which gave viewers a comedic take on what goes on behind-the-scenes at Chelsea Lately.

In 2012, the sitcom Are You There, Chelsea?—which was based on Handler memoir—premiered, featuring Laura Prepon as an exaggerated version of Handler. Handler co-starred in the series as her fictionalized character's older sister. While the television show mined the same material that shot Handler to super stardom, it was canceled during its first season.

As her contract with the E! network reached its final months, Handler announced in March 2014 that she wanted to leave the entertainment channel. She reached an agreement with Netflix that June, which included bringing a talk show to the Internet television network and video streaming service in the spring of 2016. Handler also created a series of "docu-comedy specials," which premiered on Netflix in January 2016. The series, which features some of Handler's friends as well as experts, puts a comedic spin on newsworthy subjects such as technology and Silicon Valley, the wedding industry, racism and drugs. According to ABC News, Handler was happy to work with Netflix, describing the company as "the most forward thinking, alert group."    

Personal Life

Handler dated Ted Harbert, the CEO of Comcast Entertainment Group, from 2006 to 2010. Since their split, she has been romantically linked to businessman Andre Balazs and rapper 50 Cent.

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