LOS ANGELES, CA - FEBRUARY 27: Chelsea Handler speaks onstage at EMILY's List's "Resist, Run, Win" Pre-Oscars Brunch on February 27, 2018 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Rachel Murray/Getty Images for EMILY's List)
Photo: Rachel Murray/Getty Images for EMILY's List
Photo: Rachel Murray/Getty Images for EMILY's List

INTERVIEW: Chelsea Handler is therapized and ready to rock at the Tabernacle June 27

Originally posted by RODNEY HO/rho@ajc.com on his AJC Radio &  TV Talk blog

Donald Trump’s 2016 election traumatized a lot of Hollywood celebrities but it had an unforeseen positive impact on comedienne Chelsea Handler.

She sought therapy and went deep for a year. It unlocked less about her issues with Trump and more about her own childhood trauma. 

Her brother died when she was nine and she felt abandoned and rejected. She was unable to articulate that at the time and buried her pain, which would burble up as an adult.

“ didn’t know where my anger was coming from,” said  Handler in a recent interview to promote her Tabernacle show June 27. (Tickets available here $47 to $67.) “Trump was a good place for me to place my anger.” 

“As I was going through it,” she added, “I thought, ‘Oh my gosh! I had been unable to process my own experience. It’s so hard to see one’s own experience from the inside. How many people are going through the same thing?”

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The best-selling author decided to write her sixth book focusing on what she learned in therapy. She sardonically dubbed it “Life Will Be the Death of Me.” When it was released in April, it bumped Michelle Obama’s “Becoming” off the top of the best-seller list. 

“The response to the book was so huge,” Handler said. “It was so exciting. I kept parlaying it into other things: a podcast, a book tour, a live show.” She’s doing some international dates, taping a special this fall and even working on a possible TV series based on the book. 

Not that being therapized has turned Handler into a self-actualized monk. She still drinks. She still smokes pot.

But she is now meditating 20 minutes every morning.

“For me, it helps focus,” she said. “I have an issue with attention span. I don’t want to be on my phone all the time. I don’t want to be talking to someone and thinking of five other things. I have to work at that. I always felt like I didn’t have to be. I had to do. I am now more mindful.”

Handler said she is not quite as self-absorbed as she used to be.

“I was always thinking about myself, my ego and chasing checks, making sure I was secure and safe. Now I have a bigger world view. It’s not just me and my family and friends. It’s all of us together. My show is a lot about articulating how difficult it is to try to be better and still screw up. I can meditate and then yell at a six year old at a Starbucks. It’s always two steps forward, three steps back.”

Handler said it’s easy to get discouraged by all the bad news but she is now focusing more on gratitude for the legion of people working for the good on immigration, on voting rights, on climate change. “Therapy taught me about taking action, not just reacting,” she said. “With Trump, everything is reactive. There are ways to make changes without screaming until my veins pop out.”

And her support of women’s rights is unwavering. She is planning to donate some of her proceeds from the show to fight the “heartbeat” abortion bill Gov. Brian Kemp signed last month. Did she have even have a thought of cancelling her show in protest?

She said she spoke with different people in the business and was convinced it was smarter to keep going. 

“I want to show my support for the community,” Handler said. “It’s hellish.”

And she has a warm place for Atlanta. Her brother Glen and sister Simone both attended Emory University. “I went to my first bar at Emory,” she said. “I was 13. It was called PJ’s. I’m sure it’s not there anymore.” But she realized quickly that “this is where I belong. I felt really comfortable.”

Handler is single but on the hunt. “I’m dating people but I’m much more open minded about it,” she said. “I’m not defensive. My whole facade of being so tough and independent, defending against an adult who might lie to me. I get that. I’ve digested it. I’m more healthy in order to get a healthy person.”

At the same time, she said she’s been independent for so long, she has a hard time imagining living with someone else. “It’s probably more beneficial for me to have a real relationship,” she said. “At least that’s what my doctor says.” 


Chelsea Handler

8 p.m., Thursday, June 27, 2019

$47 to $67


152 Luckie St. NW, Atlanta


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About the Author

Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho
Rodney Ho covers radio and television for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.