Comedian Chelsea Handler tells it like it is. Sometimes her bluntness raises eyebrows, but she prides herself on being direct. Her brutal honesty is what has made this Jersey girl the alpha female she is today -- host of her own TV show on E! ("Chelsea Lately"), stand-up star and best-selling author.
Newsday caught up with Handler, 39, on a day when she was "playing hooky" after her tennis match and just before she was going on a "Breaking Bad" TV binge at her Bel Air home on a break from her "Uganda Be Kidding Me" stand-up/book tour. Friday will unofficially be "Chelsea Handler Day" on Long Island as she does double duty -- a book signing at Book Revue in Huntington by day and stand-up show at the NYCB Theatre at Westbury by night.
Women follow you like a pied piper. Did you have that quality growing up?
I've always had a big personality. I was trickier as a kid. I behaved erratically instead of consistently. I would have tons of friends and then I would have no friends. I'd be with the cool girls, then the uncool girls. I migrated from group to group because I was bored or people got bored with me. I was very intense.
You are the youngest of six. What kind of impact did that have on your personality?
You are scraping the bottom of the barrel. It gave me a lot of material. I have great brothers and sisters who did more of a job raising me than my own parents probably. There was a lot of comedy and laughter.
Do you think your honesty surprises people?
I think so. Everybody is shocked by it, which drives me to be more honest and forthright. It seems like such an untapped resource in this town. But it's serving me pretty well.
How does your "Uganda Be Kidding Me" live show parlay with the book of the same name?
A lot of the stories I tell on stage are from the book and some of what's going on in my personal life. The one thing you can be guaranteed is that the stories are true even if some are horrifying to retell.
Do you see many guys at your shows?
It's predominantly a female crowd. But there are a lot of men with their wives or girlfriends who have dragged them. I always say, "Thank you for escorting!"
What's it like having Sandra Bullock, Jennifer Aniston and Gwyneth Paltrow as girlfriends?
It's different because the culture of celebrity is so strange. They have good attitudes about it. But they are all so perfect-looking, so who cares if they are getting their photograph taken? They are more cautious as to how it affects other people. Sandy and I are planning this trip, and I said, "Listen, Sandy, we are going overseas, we are going to walk down the street and visit museums." She said, "I know. I'm preparing myself. I'm just saying if the paparazzi find us, it's going to be the worst trip of your life, and I don't want to be responsible for the worst trip of your life." It's a totally different world.
We are living in a society filled with outrageous people, public apologies and everything is caught on video. What do you make of all this?
There's no privacy for anyone. You are getting recorded everywhere you go. It's a little bit jarring. I've never been big on the public apology because the minute you apologize to one person, you have to apologize to everyone. I'm not going to say anything that I have to apologize for. But the media is completely out of control.
You've had Justin Bieber on your show many times. Are you surprised at his behavior?
Not really. It's typical, I guess. I remember the first time I ever interviewed him. He was backstage getting B12 shots and asleep on the sofa because he was so exhausted. Who could work a kid like that? He's not an adult yet. I can't imagine that kind of pressure.
When you date, are guys intimidated because you are so bold?
I'd say I'm intimidating to most men. Some men are just disgusted with me and think I should have my mouth sewn shut. The thing I care the most about is someone who tells the truth ... and obviously they have to be good-looking .
Are you worried about turning 40?
I still feel like I'm a kid, but I've accomplished a lot. I have responsibilities even though I behave like a teenager three nights a week. I can write books and run a TV show, but DVRing is beyond my scope of capability.
How come you cut your hair?
I had these growth extensions in my hair and I didn't want them because it's so not me. I chopped my hair off because I thought it would look cute.
What do you get out of meeting your fans face-to-face at book signings?
A lot of people tell me we would be best friends. The touching things are when people say I've gotten them through some rough times. Part of the great thing about going on tour is meeting those people. To say their name to their face, sign their book and look them in the eye goes a long way.
Is there a big difference between who you are on screen/stage and off?
No, I don't think there's any difference. I probably don't have the clearest vantage point of myself. But I don't have a different attitude than I do in real life.
How do you connect with Long Islanders?
Long Island to me is Jerseyish because it's not big city, it's more small town. I always feel at home on the East Coast.
NOT IN THE RUNNING
With the late-night TV landscape shifting and Handler's contract ending at E!, people are talking about whether she will follow Stephen Colbert on CBS at the 12:35 a.m. slot in 2015. (Current "Late Late Show" host Craig Ferguson will be stepping down later this year.) But Handler denies being in the running.
"The next venture for me is not going to be filling someone else's shoes," she says. "That's never been appealing to me."
Then there's the rumor that she's possibly going to Netflix, to which she responds: "Rumors are rumors. I'm meeting tons of different people. I'm not even exactly sure what my next step is going to be."
Whatever step she takes, one thing is clear: Handler wants to do something different.
"I don't want to sit around and talk about celebrities all the time. I want to take it to the next level," she says. "I want to do the things that interest and move me in a funny, cool way."
WHO Chelsea Handler
WHEN|WHERE Book signing: 2 p.m. Friday, Book Revue, 313 New York Ave. in Huntington. Stand-up: 7 p.m. Friday, NYCB Theatre at Westbury