Chelsea Handler Talks Gun Violence, Activism and Kathy Griffin

On Wednesday night in Hollywood, Chelsea Handler will take the stage at NeueHouse, where the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence is holding its Brady Center Bear Awards gala. The Chelsea host is the evening's star honoree for her support of the Brady Center's cause.

She's not alone. Handler will be joined at the event by co-chairs including Oscar winners Dede Gardner and Adam McKay, and actor Kristen Stewart. Ahead of her award, Handler got on the phone with The Hollywood Reporter to talk about why it's important for her peers to get loud about gun violence, hitting her stride on Netflix, and how she feels about Kathy Griffin's recent Donald Trump stunt. 

Congratulations on the Brady Center honor. What does it mean to you?

Obviously, [the state of] gun control in this country is totally unacceptable, and the gun lobby is so strong and so powerful that anytime a celebrity can bring attention to this cause — among many other [causes] — you know it’s an easy thing for anyone to do. We’re way behind the times in terms of gun control in this country, and it doesn’t seem like it’s going anywhere anytime soon. Our voices just need to keep getting louder, and the people that make an impact need to really just step up and stick their necks out a little bit more.… We should’ve heightened all of the restrictions on buying guns, and we just loosened restrictions on buying guns, which made it it easier for mentally unstable people to purchase firearms. It’s disgusting.

There have been so many gun-related tragedies in the U.S., from the Pulse nightclub shooting to Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, San Bernardino, Columbine, and the list goes on. Was there a particular tragedy that shook you the most? Or one that propelled your activism?

Columbine was the first one…I couldn’t believe it. It struck me. But it's not about one incident. It’s about the gun lobbies, the people who — you know, it’s all about money in people’s pockets — the people who argue this and say, "We want our rights to guns." Nobody is trying to take away your guns. If you want to go shoot, you know, whatever, in the woods, that’s fine, but it’s a hobby. If your hobby is [affecting] innocent people being killed all the time, children included, don't you think you should reconsider the lack of restrictions placed on your hobby?

The answer seems clear in the United States: restrictions on who is able to purchase firearms and, like the Brady Center advocates, expansion of background checks. However, it's not so simple, as the country has a president now who received more money for his campaign from the NRA than from any other group. What does that mean for the cause?

We’re in a really tricky time right now, you know? A lot of people are feeling very listless and helpless, but at the same time, I say to myself every single time, "Just get up and get out." No matter how defeated you feel, no matter how depressing the news is, show up. Show up when you can. I have no question about what’s right and what’s wrong, so it’s good to constantly remind yourself and constantly show up, especially when you don’t feel like showing up, especially when you feel defeated. Get out there and support the causes that you can. People need to be louder than ever with this president and his relationship to the gun lobby. He doesn’t give a s---about people. He doesn’t care about anybody.

Congrats on the current season. You seem to be hitting your stride. You told one of my colleagues that you're getting to do exactly what you wanted to do, talking about different topics and interviewing people you're interested in. Who are your dream guests moving forward?

Oh, god, I never have an answer to that question. Last year was so good for me as far as getting informed and understanding about government. There were so many things I didn’t get — from the electoral college, how bills are passed, how the Senate works, how the Senate votes — all things I felt I should know [by my age]. I love that this show has afforded me that knowledge, to get to a place where I can interview Elizabeth Warren or Al Franken or Cory Booker and know what the f--- I’m talking about. I love it. So with regard to that, I mean I don’t have a dream guest. I don’t really give a s--- about that. I just want to have a real conversation, mix the funny with the informative; it can be serious and it can be funny. The two shouldn’t preclude each other. I’ve felt strongly about that for a while, and the hour format really allows us to do that.

Kathy Griffin had a news conference saying she's received death threats for her Donald Trump beheaded stunt. What's your take on the whole situation?

Well, she apologized, and people should move on. I mean, she apologized, that’s it. All she can do is apologize. She made a mistake, she said she’s sorry and people need to move on. Anyway, everyone gets death threats.