There's no shutting up Chelsea Handler. She's got a big mouth, and it's exactly what many fans love about her. Her talkshow, Netflix's Chelsea, is becoming increasingly political, and she's utilizing her station as a woman with a stage to broadcast strong sentiments about equality for women, the pay gap in Hollywood, and, the thing that seems to flow from her lips more often than quick-witted one-liners — the President of the United States. "I want to only talk about Donald Trump right now," the comic tells me in her on-set office after a recent taping of Chelsea in Los Angeles.
According to Handler, it's not only her personal want but her responsibility to use Chelsea, which debuts a new episode every Friday on Netflix, as a means of discussing current political and social issues. Take, for instance, the line-up for today's show: Feminist comics Sarah Silverman and Lilly Singh, Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards, and Silicone Valley's Thomas Middleditch (who uses his time to talk about the social issue that weighs on him — climate change). These aren't fluff interviews.
"Every day you wake up and the news just gets worse and worse and scarier and scarier," Handler laments. "If you have a platform — this is the time to use it. Not doing so is a real waste of everyone's time. We have to continue to lash out. Not in a violent way, but in a very outspoken way. Women really have to stick their necks out."
Handler is someone who feels the immediacy of her mission, and she doesn't have a moment to waste. As we chat, I follow her around her office and into her dressing room. She asks me to help undo her zipper as she dresses for her next engagement. She trades her skirt for a pair of pants and colorful heels, but her shirt — appropriately embroidered with the word RESIST in huge, bold font — stays. She wears her alliance proudly, a set of ideals that is loud and salient and appropriate for all occasions. "Being informative and responsible in this medium... that's what I want to accomplish," she says.
Handler practices what she preaches. Her show, her social media platforms, and her overall brand is one big middle finger to the patriarchy — and the president. And this isn't going to stop any time soon, regardless of the resistance she faces from conservative publications and the like.
"It's scary all the time. But once you do something five or six times, you get used to being scared, you power through it, and it's fine," she says. "I remember in the beginning when Trump was elected and my family was like, 'God, don't you think Chelsea's really sticking her neck out?' And I was like, 'Really? What else would you expect me to do?' What's comforting is that there are so many other people who feel exactly the same way that I do. I'm not out there by myself. I'm like, 'OK. You can go after him, and you're not the only person that's doing that.' I'm not going to be bullied, you know? Not by him."
And yet, there is one part of Trump's presidency Handler actually embraces. Seeing the silver lining, Handler expresses how Trump's rise to power has forced her to become more educated and involved, and she's grateful for it. "I've learned so much in the time he's been elected," she says, walking to her desk — her Bernese Mountain dog, Tammy, trailing behind her. "The kind of stuff I didn't know anything about before. Now I'm really informed. Like, I know how much funding goes to Planned Parenthood. So the one of the good things that has come from this is that people are getting so much more informed."
And the most taxing part of her show isn't overcoming the fear of speaking up, or staying up to date on current events. According to Handler, she says the hardest part of filming Chelsea is simple: "not turning into a complete fat f*ck." (Joking aside, it's worth mentioning that while Hollywood is becoming increasingly informed, politically speaking, unfair expectations surrounding female performers' appearances remain.)
But Chelsea is, after all, an activist, a performer, and lest us forget — a comedian. And in all seriousness, Handler does have one additional piece of advice for women sticking their necks out to speak their minds. "Look out for each other," she says.
And in 2017, when women still face seemingly insurmountable disadvantages that the presidency appears not to be addressing, we could use this wise reminder. Women may not have Trump as an ally, but they sure as hell have each other.