Chelsea Handler says Trump’s presidency motivated her to leave her talk show for activism

October 19, 2017

The Washington Post: Chelsea Handler says Trump’s presidency motivated her to leave her talk show for activism

By Travis M. Andrews

Meet the new Chelsea Handler.

The comedian announced Wednesday that she’s leaving her eponymous talk show on Netflix to pursue political activism, citing Trump’s presidency as a prime motivating factor.

“Like so many across the country, the past presidential election and the countless events that have unfolded since have galvanized me,” Handler wrote in a statement on Twitter. “From the national level down to the grassroots, it’s clear our decisions at the ballot box next year will mark a defining moment for our nation.”

Instead of returning to her show, Handler said, she will speak to colleges across the country in hopes of hearing from students and gaining “a better understanding of our political divide.” She also “joined forces” with Emily’s List, an abortion rights women’s political action committee, in hopes of electing more women into public office. Finally, she said she’ll campaign “for candidates who are fighting for women’s rights.”

Some of these travels will be turned into a documentary for Netflix, in which she will speak to “people of different ethnicity, religions and political philosophies.”

It’s impossible to know how popular “Chelsea” is since Netflix doesn’t release ratings. The show will continue through the end of 2017. Reviews were generally negative, with one critic calling it the “most narcissistic talk show in memory.” But despite the reviews, the streaming giant rarely cancels shows. Netflix has not commented on the ending of “Chelsea.”

Since Trump’s campaign and subsequent presidency, the comedian has become vocal about political issues, primarily those pertaining to women, LGBT rights and gun control.

Still, it might seem like an odd decision to those who don’t regularly check in on Handler’s career.

Her appeal to her fans is that she’s always been an open book, sharing personal stories about her one-night stands, DUI and relationship with alcohol.

She wasn’t usually political. If anything, she was viewed as offensive by some.

“Handler isn’t always known for her enlightened social views; she’s made widely criticized remarks about fat people and dwarves, for instance,” Vox once wrote. Some think her attitude toward alcoholism can be damaging to those who suffer from it. And instead of bringing up politics, the stand-up comedian’s breakout talk show, “Chelsea Lately,” generally focused on a sleazy, who-slept-with-whom brand of celebrity gossip.

But she said Trump energized her to become more politically engaged and informed.

“I’ve become a better person, and I’m more informed. I’m learning,” she told CNN’s Jake Tapper. “I have the Trump family to thank for that.”

Handler wove some of that political engagement into her Netflix show, mixing guests such as Amy Schumer and Blake Shelton with political leaders such as Democratic strategist James Carville and California Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom (D).

“I just feel a sense of responsibility, I think, more than anything else, to help people understand,” she told CNN about her show. “I know I certainly didn’t understand politics as much as I do now. I have a lot more to learn.”

Meanwhile her Twitter feed is now a constant barrage against Trump, most of her humor forgoing nuance for a hammer-like bluntness, as a recent tweet displayed, when she wrote: “Is there anyone dumber than @realDonaldTrump,” before also attacking his wife and children.

This new, politically charged Handler began to emerge during the presidential campaign.

After Trump announced his candidacy, Handler teamed up with Rock the Vote, a nonprofit aimed at getting young people to the polls. The organization registered more than 400,000 voters in 2016 through its online voter registration tool, Adweek reported.

She also began to discuss abortion rights both on and off her show.

In June 2016, for example, she wrote an essay in Playboy about having two abortions when she was 16 years old.

“Like millions of women, I can live my life without an unplanned child born out of an unhealthy relationship because of Roe v. Wade,” she wrote, pointing out that, “At least five states — Mississippi, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming — currently have only one clinic left within their borders.”

The day after the election, a sobbing Handler interviewed then Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) on her show, and said, “I’m sad. I’m disappointed, and I’m confused.”

Boxer empathized, before adding a bit of advice.

“My heart’s on the floor,” Boxer told her. “A lot of us are on the ground right now. But I have lived a little bit longer than you and the audience here, and I have learned how painful politics can be. But that doesn’t mean you run away. It means you pick yourself up, as the president said, and you fight even harder for your country, because it’s ours.”

Handler listened.

Just months later in January, donning a pink “pussyhat,” Handler led the Sundance Film Festival edition of the Women’s March in Park City, Utah.

“Don’t sit down and don’t be quiet,” she said at the March. “Get up, and you scream, and you yell, and you use rights. Because this is . . . bad. This isn’t the country I want to live in.”

She also tackled gun control on several episodes of her Netflix talk show, saying, “It’s time for us to start voting for politicians who do not live in the pocket of the NRA” and encouraging her fans to show up at the polls during the 2018 midterm elections.

In June, she hosted an awards gala for the Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence, where she was the night’s star honoree.

“I’m at a place in my life where I’m, like, wow, I want to do everything I can to make sure that I’m responsible so that I don’t ever look back at this time and think, ‘Why the f— was I sitting there on my bed? Why didn’t I do anything?'” she said from the podium.

Handler announced a mission statement of sorts on her Instagram earlier this year, which perhaps serves as the best explanation for her foray into the world of politics.

In it she discussed her privilege as a white, wealthy person, one who doesn’t need programs like Planned Parenthood or even medical insurance.

“I’m not Muslim. I’m not Mexican. I’m not black. I’m not gay or I’m not transgender,” she said. “But I know this country is based on inclusiveness, on welcoming people, on loving people that are not like you, on not worrying about how something impacts your life personally, but how it impacts all the people around you and all the people that aren’t around you.”

“And I will fight for it,” Handler added.