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Chelsea Handler Interviewed by Jason Hirschhorn | Upfront Summit 2020

Chelsea Handler
Executive Producer and Host, Chelsea at Netflix
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Upfront Summit 2020
January 30, 2020, Pasadena, CA, United States
Upfront Summit 2020
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Chelsea Handler Interviewed by Jason Hirschhorn | Upfront Summit 2020
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About speakers

Chelsea Handler
Executive Producer and Host, Chelsea at Netflix
Jason Hirschhorn
CEO and Chief Curator at REDEF

Regarded as one of the most successful figures in today’s entertainment industry, Chelsea Handler’s stand-up comedy, best-selling books and nightly talk show have attracted millions of fans worldwide. As the host of E!’s top-rated Chelsea Lately, Handler became the first female to break into the otherwise male-dominated late-night arena.Handler’s five best-selling books include: My Horizontal Life (2005), Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea (2008), Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang (2010), Lies That Chelsea Handler Told Me (2011) and 2014’s Uganda Be Kidding Me, her fourth nonfiction title to debut at No. 1 on The New York Times Best-Seller List.Her most recent undertakings include a documentary film series called “Chelsea Does,” released on Netflix in January 2016.In 2016, Handler will host an all-new talk show for Netflix, marking the first of its kind for the global on-demand generation.Handler has been honored by TIME magazine as one of its annual “TIME 100”; Glamour magazine as one of its 2011 Women of the Year; and the Human Rights Campaign, which gave her its Ally for Equality Award in 2009. Her wide appeal and multiplatform success have been highlighted by publications all over the world.

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About the talk

Topic: Business

Comedian Chelsea Handler talks with Jason Hirschhorn about white privilege and what she learned making her recent special, her return to standup comedy, and her new cannabis venture.

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All right lot to go over. I feel like we need to catch up on stage live here a couple of months ago. I called you after I watched your documentary on White Privilege and I tend to like to be uncomfortable. I like to be in situations where I'm learning things that I did not know or maybe challenging things that I did know and I watch to really focus on societal issues since the election. I think you were the first person I spoke to the day after the election. I flew overnight and racism is something that we suffer from in America. I'm really curious as to what pushed you into the

topic and which ultimately became the special of white privilege reaction to not things not going your way. Like I couldn't believe it like I was stomping my feet. I had to look at my reaction in the fact that I'm adults and then Acting like a spoiled brat and where that was coming from and you know, you hear that you heard the term elitist Bubbles and I was like, that's not me. I'm from New Jersey. My father was a used car dealer like I came up on my boot straps. I didn't have privilege. I didn't have it. I'm not an elitist and it's like being white

is a privilege. That is the privilege in this country in any country. It's a privilege you get centered in a different way if you have white skin, so the idea that some white people don't think that there a beneficiary of white privilege because they didn't go to Harvard or Yale or and had trust funds is is not necessarily true. I think we all experience privileged that we don't necessarily take into account until we're faced with, you know, a reality that makes us look at ourselves in a different way and you think that's where I swear I get uncomfortable. Is that something that you need to

prove to your black colleagues or your black friends, or is it something that you need to come to you know? Tell me to brass tacks about about yourself first signal that is true to a degree. People want to you want to be a more responsible person. You want to be I want to be a better Ally. I don't want to just talk about being a now I want to get my feet done like on the ground and understand. How do I do that? And how do I live my life in a way that's respectful of all the other people that

are marginalized and not getting what I've gotten an end using other people or myself all the time. Like I did for the first ten years of my career. I was like, oh, yeah, here's that offer take it through. This is about me my family my friend. It's the election there was a nice Silver Lining to come out of it which walk a lot of people up and a lot of people are like, how do I become a better kind of Citizen so special you sit down with Tiffany haddish and Kevin Hart sort of in the same business you've done. Stand up and they talk about their experiences and getting work and

being recognized me. Give me an example now and you look back at your career of the doors that were open specifically that you were white that maybe aren't open for Tiffany. I mean, I just got away with you know, my whole career was my first book was called a horizontal my horizontal life a collection of one-night stands. I was rewarded for that kind of loud drunk in bad behavior. That girls weren't supposed to have I don't think a person of color would have had success in the in the same way that I had because I got away with it and I've gotten away with things my whole life that I

just never looked at that way. I thought it was oh it's because of your personality is because a lot more of that and I'm it's a lot more it's a lot deeper than that. There was a moment in the special and I really would ask everyone to watch if you haven't already where you're sitting down with four or five women. I think they're from Orange County on seemingly all accomplished professional women with families and one of them stands up and says, You're talking about police shootings. And I think the shootings of young African-American men and she says, you know, listen I see this on TV

all the time. I just don't see what the issue is. I don't ever see that in my neighborhood. That should be summed up White Privilege, which is your an Orange County which I don't think is the most diverse place in the world and you weren't seeing the school shootings when you're doing with that. I want you're doing that in the special items. I don't think you're there to make fun of them you're there to listen and there weren't, you know, I roll zorvino sort of sounds being made when these answers were coming. But do you think in the moment that those ladies realized what they had said in

there was learning there or it was lost on them a lot of feedback after and I'm sure they heard it because they did sound very uneducated and if you are so I mean, I think I'm woke and start shooting this documentary and my director is like where you know, give me your history of where you live. Like I grew up in Livingston, New Jersey and a very Jewish Italian white neighborhood. Yes shout out for that and and then I moved to Bellaire and I think I've got it together. Like I'm moving, you know, I'm completely isolated myself

in the same way as your speaking Oktoberfest, you're sitting down with individuals. You're you're in these groups in the Urgent County. The biggest thing that I was talking about white privilege in and sort of owning that everyone seemed to take it is something that they were giving up that they were getting taken away from how do you deal with, you know, the sort of the benefits that you've had with an end wanting to know whether it be any other way to have those benefits and not feeling like it's taken away from you that you have to address a

lot of people means that they're losing. Nothing, and that's the thing that people they don't want to be a things to be taken away. If I'm in men right now or like are enough with this women, you know, taking all of our positions and diversity taking all of our positions like what you guys have had an advantage for a really long time. So it's time to feel like even the playing field so it's not comfortable for everybody but its necessary. There's an overcorrection I believe in order to have like to know to come back to normal ground. So people have to really understand that

they've been given huge advantages and I understand that for myself and you know, not everybody has the luxury of saying OK I can afford to not have all these advantages for a while not everybody hate people have children to feed and they have to pay for it. So I understand that, you know people aren't comfortable with it. But I think the uncomfortableness is what we all need. We can all just we all deserve to be a little bit more uncomfortable have uncomfortable conversations if it means for the greater good and being just kind of a better, you know human being All the way

around I mean anybody against that segment where you're sitting down I think was a lot of poets and academics. Most of the room is black. Basically, the only white person in there. It is a very uncomfortable position that you put yourself in but I think the whole point of the special one lady stands up and basically say, she's embarrassed that you're there she's embarrassed that she's there. My personality would be wanting to win her over in the room. What was that like, you know short of being in that room and being the target of animosity that you didn't create but that you

benefited from now. I mean, it's not comfortable but whatever again I can be uncomfortable. Yes. These people are angry at me walking into their space and take it you had a lot to learn to I'm not first day the Netflix called me and told me I had to take sexual harassment training classes and I'm like what I'm like, I haven't hit on anybody and I had touched a woman on her. But a black woman why I gave her a hug and I kind of like Fresh store like that and tapped her on the front like good job don't know this woman. She was offended and I didn't understand why I initially until I called her

on the phone and I said, you know, I don't know what I did and I was defensive and she's like black women have been defined by their hair and their asses since the beginning of time. You have no business touching me. You don't know what my history is. You don't know what I've been through and I was like, oh, yeah, you're right. I don't know what you've been through. So I mean choosing to resist the information you're getting is choosing to be part of the problem rather than being part of the solution. You have this public forum to be able to do these things. Do you have friends that you can

turn to Iva a friend of mine who's a very successful Music Manager a black man, and he told me a story about how when he bought his kid a car for the first time sitting down with his son and explaining that as a black man in La if you get stopped, here's what you need to do it was Heartbreaking in a conversation that I think I've heard in awhile because that never occurred to me in my first car that I have to have my hands on top of the wheel and IBS or no, sir. In fact, it's likely that I would argue with the cop on those are the kinds of things that make me very

uncomfortable. I have some friends that I actually like turn to to ask those questions before I go into a public forum. Is that something that you start with a u go directly under the public for? No, I mean you can use a substances from your life. Like I used to go grocery shopping with my friend and those sample things that they have the candy fins. I would go and take a gummy bear. I take this to generate it while we're walking to the store shoplifting. I'm like, no. I'm not I'm just stacking, you know, and my friend as I

can we would never walk into a grocery store. I took a stand and eat it that's privileged, you know, not every white person is shoplifting a message. Necessarily paying attention to because you know, why would you you have your own life to lead your you're taking care of your own people and there are things you know, you you're not you'll spend your days thinking about other people but at a certain point, you know, we have to start doing that a little bit more to my list question of the special and I

really again whenever you want to watch it is so in high school, you're a little wild you're 15 or 16 years old. You're living in New Jersey. You have a black boyfriend and while you guys are getting wild he's been arrested a couple of times a year in the car with him explain that situation and ultimately why you look back at it in the special for everybody cuz it's a it's heartbreaking basically two kids the same age that love each other doing the same stuff but one pays a price in one dozen twice, maybe if yes, I think it was twice

and each time the police officer told him to tell me to go back home and get out of here and they arrested him and he Full scholarship to play basketball UNLV that fell apart as soon as he was put into the system. He didn't you know, there was no chance of him going to school like that. He couldn't afford the name they turn into warrants for his arrest, you know, it's just a whole cycle and at the time I was just having fun at that first time getting caught up in the system ultimately made it an inevitability

of what would happen to him later. It makes it very hard for you to get out of it. So they're looking for a young black man to make mistakes. Maybe they're looking to help me get out of my mistakes, you know, the system is on our side. They don't want to arrest me because I'm young white shoes Jewish girl. They're going to arrest the guy that they were seemingly Sandy. We want to get you away from him. I'm sure he was a bad influence. Yeah, I believe she was a bad influence to

heartbreaking as always mention. I was on the I was on the red-eye the day of the election. I think we spoke as I landed and ever since then my Easton media has changed a little in that I tend to like dystopian stop and yet the real world supposed to hurt surpass fiction. So I seek out comedy constantly whether that be Wedding Crashers on TV again, or you know, one of your special and you returned to stand up and I don't think I'd ever gone to a stand-up Club until recently with thanks to

Donald Trump. What what do you love about stand up and and why have you returned the life stage? Cuz it's not exactly the way that you can you hit the amount of people you hit on Netflix run TV. Tell us about it. The interviews and during that I hadn't done stand up in five or six years cuz I had burned myself out with my talk shows and my chores and my books. I just had gone Full Throttle at like Full Speed Ahead to the point where I didn't want to do any of it. And so it kind of was a natural progression and then as I was

doing my book store in like this is a stand-up show and if I could take Zantac if I could take a book about death and grief and loss and make it into a stand-up special then I really have a message and I have something to say so that's what I've been working on and I have an industry is seeing it but I'm sure everyone's coming to see it next month. So I'm back to stand up in a way that was completely organic and is necessary in this time. I'm in this is a very dark time. It's it's fucking depressing every single day. You turn on these impeachment trial then you're like, oh my God, the

corruption is at such a level that yeah, I welcome any chance I can to spread light and joy and funniness and get people out of their head, but also remind them that Donald Trump is a giant ass. We have to vote him out in 2020 and you know with that message always. In a world of social media and people not looking each other in the eyes or something about seeing the audience that's different than television or Fillmore or likes to get back. I wanted to be grounded again. I felt like I had gone all you know all over the place

and I wanted to be solid and be on solid footing and for me it was about going to therapy. It was about learning how to meditate how to slow down cannabis with a big part of that because the legalization of cannabis in California allowed me to Pivot for my passion for pharmaceuticals it to cannabis, which is healthier option revolving. Yes. I'm evolving. It's baby steps. Also, you know, it's so much better than alcohol cannabis. I mean, it's a great alternative and ship faced anymore. It's not it's not a hot luck. You know,

I want to get to the Cannabis and hopefully you brought some for me in a second. I don't think you could handle the Cannabis Jason. Who says you know, the Edibles don't have any off button so they they hurt me sometimes, you know, Dave Chappelle did this special on Netflix and I had read about it before and he's making fun of Anthony Bourdain killing himself and saying he doesn't believe the Michael Jackson molestation charges and all the sudden. I'm my beloved Dave Chappelle. I don't know that I'm going to be able to watch this and I run into a friend and asked me if I'd seen it and I

said, I don't think I'm going to watch it cuz he's supposed he says this this and this and this is Jason you forgot the reason for comedy. It's about the joke. It's about making you laugh. That actually doesn't even matter you no matter what the position is and yet we're in a time where Todd Phillips who made old school doesn't want to make comedies anymore because the Studio's one put out movies that are necessarily making fun on race or religion or anything else. What is the state of Comedy like when everyone so woke and there's a cancel culture. Can you still make fun of people? A

little bit more creative about who you're making fun of and start with yourself, you know, you don't have to make fun of him. So huge swaths of people or you do I mean, it's not to be taken. So seriously, it's not to be sad about that. Play for me stand up is important to have a message. Like if you can send a message through laughter that is the best way to get people to pay attention. So that's all you know, what everybody else is doing? I don't think that's a good prescription for your own true kind of north or what-have-you. You know, I think I'm a

fan of and I thought it was brilliant and I intend to me, I don't know that there is a line in a Jerry Seinfeld was saying and his Netflix special there is no line. It's always about the joke where Chris Rock would say, he's a preference professional argue, or he doesn't really care what side he's on his long as he can argue it. That's what I know. I look for that in comedy who you loving and stand up these days. Fortune feimster she's I love her a girl to car, I mean, you know, there's always me

because of Netflix Netflix brought back for a lot of people so it's exciting to see all the people that are coming up when I was running in my newsletter during the election. I took a lot of political stances that I'd never taken before and I lost a big part of the audience and every day that I'd write some angry rant. I get an email from like the CEO of, saying hey looks like you need to meditate a little or hey, can I you going to take you to this microdosing weekend? I have to say mushrooms are coming up here. You're

going to want to start doing that. I will say that vape pen is needed for lack of knowledge about how safe they are not have taken the edge off what's going on in the world about your moving to cannabis and what is doing? For you personally, but also what you wanted to do for your audience that you're selling to. Contrast was in prison for the Cannabis. It was arrested twice and now I'm coming out with my own cannabis line. So there you go. There's another example I just I found it to be a huge relief. I was looking at the news and I was like addicted

in the beginning of the presidency and I was on it, you know a 24-hour kind of like, when are they going to drag him out of the White House in his Underpants and the you know, throw them in the Rose Garden like I thought that was imminent and after about a year, I was like living shit. This looks like it could go on for a while and you know being stoned and dealing with the stuff that's going on or being Stone and seeing kellyanne Conway is kind of funny on the news. Sarah Sanders came out one day. I remember for one of her press briefing and she had green

eyeshadow shrouding all one eye and nothing on the other eye and I was like, oh my God, even her make-up artist. He hates this woman. It just kind of made me laugh at all of it, even though it's it's not funny. But sometimes it is and it made me take a step back and realize that I was giving everything to this Administration and all my anger was at such a time. I needed to take back my life and Take Back Control. I wasn't want to give that Administration another year of my by Madness and I needed to get it under control very much. And is this

about is the Cannabis you about mental health? Is it about anxiety? Like what are you trying to accomplish with your line for women and first-time users people have had a bad experience with Edibles or bad experience with weed who are overwhelmed by it. You know, I think a lot of people need an introducer they need an introductory like Brandon say hey, I'm just going to take this one mg MGB how I feel and you need somebody to walk you through it and I've spent the last year-and-a-half two years, you know. Through weed and finding out what is good. What's light what's going to give somebody

the right as and not to be overwhelming not to be dosed like it used to be with Edibles. It's a whole new world and like so it's not going anywhere. It's becoming legal all across the country and for me, you know, I had trouble sleeping and I didn't want to take sleeping pills anymore. And so cannabis was that for me and for other people it's so helpful with anxiety, you know, it was just the stress of life and it's it's an end and I want women to being pulled into and empowered in the way that men are with cannabis, you know, so it's for women, you know from a woman and it's to help

people like hey come here. I've got a secret. This is how you do this, you know, you don't have to have five drinks at dinner. You can have one drink at dinner and have an edible and it's just everything's better. I still feel there's a stigma there. You know, I I guess I said on stage that I've used a vape pen before but it's not something that I would offer. I guess they're still is a stigma. You know, if you heard someone was on an SSRI or taking an opioid there's a there's certainly a stigma they are but yet

people I've had people say hey, can you get me a pain because I'm a run for office one day R. I don't want my employer know when when does that stigma go away to do is just something we're insurance companies have to cover it for medicine or where do you how do you see this trajectory working so that it becomes something that's accepted and people are reacting differently to it. You know, people are fly me and you could fly in and out of California FAA regulations with it. Like it's everyone's opening it up and I went

everywhere you go I travel with weed all the time and people like, how are you doing that? It's like cuz no one gives a shit and was looking for your gummy bears, you know, and it's like that's not what people at the airport are looking for those looking for bombs and mass amounts of So it's things that are you know, and especially with C know what we've learned about the opioid crisis in the last couple years. I mean, come on, we can't we're poisoning ourselves. Our government is giving us stop the poison ourselves. So if something grows out of the ground that looks like a much better

option than all of this synthetic bullshit. You see, I don't know if you follow this, but you see with the problems with opioids and sports for pain injuries and whatnot. Do you see it some point cannabis being something that's respected and and diagnosed, you know taking an edible for a football game. It's like that's not going to help you. So what's the problem if it helps with pain and it does CBD is pain is so helpful with so many people with arthritis and then she got it.

So you got podcast you've got books you're doing chores. You're doing stand-up you've done Stevie. I don't remember if you've done a film, you know the media. Is way different than it used to be where you had TV or film is the prize. How do you sort of rank what you're going to do with a podcast what you're going to do? Is it a book? I mean how important of those things is it? Is it the revenue opportunities in a podcast doesn't have fuel do them last or is it really just about the message in the medium? Really anything other than like, you know what I felt like

doing and how much of it I felt like doing and now I try to be much more thoughtful about the decisions I make and the and the creative stuff I'm doing I want to make a contribution, you know, you can't do that necessarily with every project but after argue that you can you know, like I can write a book about my experience with therapy and have it be a number one New York Times bestseller and how it affects teeth in a great way and people have responded the way I was going to therapy for the first time because I saw the difference that it had in you or is that it made in you, you know

the documentary I don't obviously I can pick whatever subject I want to make a documentary about but I want to be somebody that is that is always a learning and evolving and growing and challenging myself. I don't want to be comfortable. I want to be uncomfortable Especial Chelsea. Does you dealt with sex and drugs and and white privilege or dealing with racism but they're not overtly political news in politics inside of the the white privilege one as you taken. Stances were you worried about your audience? I know I lost a lot of my audience assuming that my audience thought like I did it

wasn't the case and maybe I took something that was more media focused and made it more political and that was my mistake. Were you worried about losing any your audience at all? I mean, you can't direct my behavior towards what my audience wants, you know to agree but not really, I mean that's not sincere or authentic or what you know, and and I'm not that type of girl and I've never been that type of girl and I don't think anyone expects that from me you worked

with Morgan Neville on some of these projects and I believe I just saw the missing Arcana Taylor Swift off at Sundance which Morgan did and there's a scene in there where he talks about how the the Dixie Chicks took a stance against Bush and it destroyed their career country music very conservative and for years. She was basically told you don't talk about that stuff and there's a scene Are her parents and her managers are basically imploring her not to make a statement about guns in the senate race in Tennessee because it will hurt her career and her audience and basically

says, you know, she was young 14 when she became a star and it took her a long time to catch up to 29 meaning she wants to take it an owner own career. That's an example of someone. I don't know if it's putting on the line but it has or has your management Irving or otherwise ever said or they know better. We don't think you should do this before those reasons for shopping center Ojo Walsh's wife and she came up to me and she said I just saw Irving and I was telling him how how much I like how loud your being on Twitter about Donald Trump and

she goes in Irving just said I was killing her career. So that's my manager representing me. Through a phase right now. I'm really pissed off. I'll come out the other side. You know what you know, you always do nothing for a minute. Everything is temporary especially if it's never too late to learn. It's never too late to change you like putting yourself in these uncomfortable positions. And you know, we talked a lot about what we read and what we watching. I don't think I've dealt with it is constructively as you do I seem

to like, you know, if you put me on Twitter and put a heart monitor on me, my resting heart beat would be 66. You put me on Twitter for 2 seconds. It's up at a hundred and I let an internalized me and yet and then I'll blame politicians Rob Lane Media what responsibilities do we have for our own information intake? I mean, I mean we need to be a little bit more if someone's like henna, can you tweet about this and it's like, you know, you need to know what the hell you're tweeting about and you need to know what you're supporting. You can't just say yes to all these different people

that are asking you things because you have to do diligence so that people can rely on you. And when you make a mistake say it I fucked up. You know, I didn't know what I was talking about here if you cuz you need to have credibility and I don't know what you know you sometimes I rethink them like it's his true. You know, we're all kind of questioning everything right now. So it to have a reliable sense of who you can go to for those new sources and which articles and news foundations are really the most reliable is important and that goes for I think individuals to you know, we want to steer

each other in the right direction not the wrong one. Basically every Community has their influence prison their Publications and it's likely that you're never going to see anything that you don't already agree with their conservative and I said give me 20, you know pendants that I don't read on a daily basis on the other side of the aisle that are insane so that I can actually test what I'm reading in my news because I know that I have a predisposition to want to agree with something and not check it.

Do you do that on your own? Will you go to Publications that you think are not of your frame of mine just to see what the other side saying but it doesn't last long cuz I just you know, I try to watch Fox News or read Fox News or Breitbart or some of those things just to understand that it's so angry making it's hard to like really get into it. What question I asked. You know, what you'll be here a lot about Fox. I used to work at News Corp before they split up and you hear about Talent saying, you know, I'm going to pull my show I'm not going to work with them. Do you need to be on the

same political spectrum is the people that distribute and and and and buy your stuff and should you boycott them or no? Yeah, we should probably be boycotting them to the reality of that happening. I mean how many people are going to forgo their salaries and say Suck it, you know, we should be boycotting Fox. I mean we should even if you're not in that division you get stuff to the broadcast network, but you're not on Fox News the overall parents and still think about that but I think we should be taking a bigger

stand and it's hard to create a movement as we all know, even though gratitude / seems to have done it with her eyes closed. I mean look at what she just created, you know, it's easier said than done. I mean sorry, it's not easier said than done. It can be done but we don't seem to you no have the forces joining two together. I personally I tried to start a bunch of things. Then you got a bunch of people on deck and then everybody's you know, it's very hard to do that. So it would be nice to have a more concerted effort. I'm going

to get baked after this. I'm going to laugh. Are you are you going to have time to Sorrento's in the afternoon? So probably afterwards but thank you so much for coming Chelsea Handler everybody.

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