Chelsea Handler may be the perfect person to hoist the woke comedy flag. That’s not a compliment.
The former host of E!’s Chelsea Lately once bragged about her drinking and sexual conquests in between rude jokes aimed at anyone in her pop culture cross hairs.
That moxie catapulted her to the bestseller list as well as a choice gig hosting her own Netflix series.
Then President Donald Trump stunned the world by toppling Hillary Clinton’s White House dreams. Handler, like many of her liberal peers in Hollywood, embraced her inner activist. And, by extension, she went woke, joined the Women’s March movement and spent four years worried President Trump would crush America, if not the world.
Her 2020 HBO Max special, Chelsea Handler: Evolution, captured the newly woke Handler in all her glory.
Trump may be a private citizen again, but Handler is clinging to her new woke persona. She proved that over and again while speaking to New York Times podcaster Kara Swisher this week on “Sway.” Their conversation showed just how fluidly the comedienne speaks Social Justice-ese.
It’s like a second language to her.
What’s also clear is how many contradictions exist in her woke world, none of which struck her during the brisk conversation. Swisher, to her credit, asked Handler some tough but fair question about her own unwoke past, if edgy comedy can survive the new woke by laws and more.
Over and again Handler’s answers contradicted the previous statements or seemed wildly dishonest. She began by embracing comedy’s new woke marching orders in their totality.
“I like some parameters. I like for some people to lay down some laws for me so that you can find the chaos within it and be creative about what you are exploiting and what you are making fun of,” Handler said.
In fact, she thinks comedians have plenty of material now … with a catch.
“We’re having a social justice and racial justice movement, so there’s tons to play with and tons to talk about and we’re all kind of saying goodbye to so many of the things that we were accustomed to doing, having to say goodbye to words you used to think were OK, having to say goodbye to phrases and ways to describe things you think were OK.”
Who voted on this, by the way? The Twitter mob? Who anointed Handler the cultural czar who can dictate which common phrases are suddenly off limits? Shouldn’t a comedian recognize, and mock, the utter silliness in no longer being able to use phrases like “trigger warning” without a trigger warning?
She isn’t done with her goodbyes, though.
“[We’re] having to say goodbye to men for a while because they’re on probation. Until they’ve proven to us that there are more good ones that bad ones there’s one big group we’re still able to make fun of, and it’s white guys who don’t seem to be getting the message of the movement that’s happening.”
She gets personal next.
“I’m single, so I deal with a lot of straight men who don’t seem to understand that either get on the bus or you’re gonna miss it,” she said.
One straight male who missed it? New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
Handler explained how she all but threw herself at the disgraced Democrat following his COVID-19 press briefings last year (he responded but they couldn’t settle on an actual date, apparently). She seemed angrier about that during the interview than his heaping pile of scandals which haven’t removed him from office – yet.
You’d think a woke warrior might burn some calories blasting a politician accused of sexually harassing 10 women or at least organize a march to oust him. She seemed more interested in using the right non-binary terms on stage than protecting women in the work place. Wrong party, apparently, since she railed against Brett Kavanaugh during his confirmation kerfuffle with far less proof against him.
Woke means ignoring evidence leveled against progressive figures. She’s not alone here.
In Handler’s world we’re no longer allowed to speak the way we once did and critique anyone outside the white male realm. Yet she insisted comedy is unaffected by the woke bylaws and that it just takes a tad more creativity to share the same messages as before.
Of course, she once insulted people left and right, something Swisher gently noted. That doesn’t matter because Handler has “evolved” and apologized for her comedy sins.
In short, she absolved herself.
“I do want to be kinder and gentler. I want my jokes to not be reflective of the time in my life that I wasn’t aware of how they impact people. Your words are powerful,” she said, once again setting massive limitations on what a comedian can and cannot say.
She overlooked how many comedians are either canceled or just fear cancellation for saying the wrong thing. She also ignored how the woke mob routinely demands apologies but cancels people anyway.
Which brings us to Roseanne Barr. The Roseanne creator blazed a trail for female comedians in Hollywood, no small feat. She also worked to hire black writers, according to her colleague, Norm Macdonald.
Yet when Barr shared a racist, ugly Tweet aimed at former Obama advisor Valerie Jarrett her entire career vanished. Her show, and the millions she earned from it were gone in a snap – even though she apologized profusely and claimed she didn’t know Jarett was black.
Handler essentially said, “good riddance” to Barr to Swisher. No sympathy. No willingness to forgive. Yet she’s content to accept Kevin Hart’s apology for telling gay panic jokes a decade ago because he apologized and appeared to mean it.
Some canceled men, she insisted, aren’t sincere. And Handler is the judge, jury and cultural executioner. Handler forgave Chrissy Tiegen, for example, for her chronic bullying on social media.
The most illuminating part of the chat might be her admitting her Trump derangement was a psychological stunt.
“With Trump I had something to be angry about, I had something to hang my anger on … all my bitchiness and anger could be directed at something, Him! That’s what I hate about this world. That’s not really who I was mad at,” said Handler, noting the death of her brother when she was just 9 years old and her father’s reaction to his passing. “I had a lot of stuff underneath that.”
[Cross-posted from Hollywood in Toto.]