Chelsea Handler Talks Hillary Clinton, Says Time Is Right for "a Woman to Be Dominating"

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The comedian indulges her political side on her new Netflix series, which she admits got off to a rocky start: "There were a couple weeks where I was like, 'What the f— am I doing?'"

After a bumpy start that saw executive producer Bill Wolff shown the door after just three weeks, Chelsea Handler has begun to find her way with Chelsea, a Netflix talk show conceived as a platform for her to discuss issues that really matter to her. (Contrast that to her old E! series Chelsea Lately, which traded in celebrity gossip and wisecracks and featured a little-person sidekick — all of which, presumably, did not.) 

True to her word, in less than three months on the air, Handler, 41, has already hosted a number of political heavyweights on Chelsea — Nancy Pelosi, Barbara Boxer and ex-Mexico president Vicente Fox among them. 

She'll be on the ground at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia on Wednesday, where she'll sit for a Politico-hosted conversation about her "unique take on the political convention experience." What does that mean, exactly? The Hollywood Reporter cornered Handler for a taste of what to expect. 

So when are you speaking on the big stage?
I wouldn’t do that.

Why not?
I just don’t think it’s appropriate. I think you should use your voice in really impactful, smart, strategic ways and I don’t necessarily need to do that. 

What were your highlights from the first night of the DNC?
Michelle Obama is always a highlight. The last eight years have been great for this country — from my perspective, anyway. Barack Obama and Michelle Obama are people who are thoughtful and have long-term thinking in place and have the right kind of thinking in terms of thinking about the country or the world as a whole. I think a lot of people are so singular in their thinking in about the United States of America that they don’t have a broader scope of things. If you’re going to hang on to something that makes you feel good, I’d like to hang on to those two.

Does Hillary Clinton make you feel good?
Hillary Clinton I feel is very capable. She’s earned her place to run for this presidency and I think she deserves to win. Any politician has good things and bad things about themselves. I don’t feel the distrust about Hillary. I feel good about her intentions. I feel that she wants to do the right things for our country. I don’t feel that she’s an egomaniac. I think it’s harrowing to do run for office and put up with all the shit that she has to put up with. Donald Trump is doing this for one reason; Hillary Clinton is doing it for another.

Do you sympathize or identify with her in terms of being a woman in a vastly male-dominated field?
I think the time is right. There’s no other better time for a woman to be dominating. Or not even necessarily dominating — but to be of equal measure. Women are making strides every day. We all need to work together. Bernie supporters who are like, “We aren’t going to support Hillary.” Well, really? Then you’re supporting Donald Trump. That’s not an option. He’s not an option. He’s a child that is in love with himself and that is not anything that’s going to be representative to the international community or represented historically.

Speaking of pro-Bernie protesters, their disruptive presence in Philadelphia has been the most surprising thing for me at this convention. What do you make of their psychology?
Why would they do this? Knowing what’s at stake? I don’t know. I understand that people are frustrated. There’s levels of frustration: the lower class, the middle class, the upper class. Everyone’s got their frustration. I think the broader message is: If Bernie came together with Hillary, then that’s all his followers should be concerned about. And vice-versa. I would have done the same if Bernie had won and Hillary had joined his party. We’re all supposed to be on the same side here — to make something cohesive and make movement.

There’s always a percentage of people who are too out of control, they become too much of a zealot, who crazily identify with the one thing that they can’t have. I think the real definition of growth is overcoming defeat and still moving forward. And saying, “OK, let’s join forces now. That didn’t work out, so how do we come together?”

As another female comedian, what did you make of Sarah SIlverman’s admonishment that they were “being ridiculous?”
I think she’s right on the money. I feel the same way.

There was definitely a tonal shift inside the arena. The energy changed. It was as if the entire place wanted to say that and she said it for them.
Good. Great! I love that. It was hard to tell on TV what was happening on the floor because there was so much noise. Everybody was up there you wondered, are people being heard?

Are there specific issues that are dear to your heart?
Obviously, it’s an important election and every one is important. Getting Barack Obama was an amazing moment in history that I think most people will never forget. That was such an amazing experience. Not that I would take credit for getting Obama in the White House, but I think he would probably give me a lot of credit for it.

But not exercising your right to vote is not acceptable. After everything that people went through to get us the right to vote, everything that women sacrificed, after all that has happened historically, it is our duty to get out and vote. To research what is on the ballot every single time we vote. This is our responsibility. There is no excuse to me for not voting.

Who are some of the guests you have lined up?
David Axelrod. The CEO of the DNC, Leah D. Daughtry. The first Muslim congresswoman, who was just elected to the state of Minnesota. I just want to get people who are doing things for the first time, or female leaders. We’re trying get Elizabeth Warren and Cory Booker, so we’ll see how that goes. There are a lot of logistics. 

How has the experience of making your new show changed for you since it began?
We started May 11 and I got off to a rocky start not having been on TV for a while. So there were a couple weeks where I was like, “What the fuck am I doing?” Then I made the adjustment and was up and running and got the train on the track. And now it’s great. It’s exactly what I wanted to do. I get to talk about all different topics. I get to talk to interview people I’m interested in. I’m glad that I have this responsibility. I feel a lot more adult-like and I’ve definitely stepped up in a way that I haven’t in the past. 

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