The Queen of Comedy Reigns Once More
Marissa Frobes | Thursday, April 15, 2010
Chelsea Handler released her latest book, “Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang,” this March, and has it ever made a bang. She is in the midst of a huge book tour that 32 cities and 47 shows, and she’s still managing to maintain her five half-hour installments of the hit late-night talk show “Chelsea Lately” each week.
“Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang” hit No. 1 on the New York Times Best Seller list in March and currently holds the No. 2 spot in the Hardcover Nonfiction category. Although people may speculate about whether it belongs alongside books like Karl Rove’s “Courage and Consequence” on the Best Seller List, even more people will wonder how this hilariously unbelievable set of essays can be classified as nonfiction.
Handler also has two other books to her name. Her first book, “My Horizontal Life: A Collection of One-Night Stands,” is a memoir detailing the outrageous, not-so-romantic flings of her younger years.
Her second, more successful work has sold close to half a million copies and is appropriately named “Are You There Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea.” Not surprisingly, this collection of raunchy anecdotes from Handler’s past mirrors only slightly the quintessential coming-of-age tale in Judy Blume’s “Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret.”
“Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang” is also comprised of a plethora of short stories concerning hilarities in Handler’s life from childhood on. She was the family misfit as a youth, living with her Mormon mother, Jewish father and six siblings who chose their varying religious sects.
Several of the anecdotes from Handler’s upbringing exhibit her early independence and aloofness from her family. In the book, her parents often mumble, “Jesus Christ, you’d think she was raising us,” as a response to her strong-willed and sarcastic personality. In one story, “When Life Hands You Lemons, Squeeze Them into Your Vodka,” Chelsea writes a report on Reaganomics to earn the Cabbage Patch Doll she longs for in third grade. As it turns out, her father brought home a bald preemie doll named Stanley, leaving Chelsea no choice but to steal the real thing from her creepy next-door neighbor Jason.
Many of the more “mature” stories center around her relationship with her “live-in lover” Ted Harbert, who oversees E! Entertainment as the CEO of Comcast. Handler is contracted until 2012 with E! for her talk-show “Chelsea Lately,” but the couple is rumored to have split recently. Perhaps he finished reading “Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang,” in which Chelsea affirms, “I’m a girl, but not as much of a girl as my boyfriend.”
Still other stories revolve around different family members: her “off” sister (“off” meaning Mormon, in Handler’s words) or her brother employed as a public accountant who couldn’t possibly have a “real life” like her. Each essay contains at least five to 10 laugh-out-loud irreverent quotes that readers will have the urge to memorize so they can shamelessly attempt to entertain their friends with Handler knowledge.
Handler’s voice in her work, though completely unique, can be most closely compared to the honest vulgarity in the Tucker Max memoir “I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell,” which is also a New York Times Best Seller. Not a bit less provocative than this male author, Handler holds nothing back when she rips on others or recounts awkward stories about herself.
The only complaint a reader may have about “Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang” is that they wish it were audible. Handler’s wit definitely comes through more evidently live on “Chelsea Lately”— the delivery of her quips is so sincere and her facial expressions are priceless on television. And no Chuy in the book? Her little nugget is greatly missed!
But any true Handler fan will appreciate the background on her life uproariously outlined in “Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang.” There are no regrets after reading this comedienne’s chronicle, except the embarrassment to endure when you realize you’ve been laughing out loud alone.