Culture

Can Chelsea Handler Shake Up Late Night?

Chelsea Handler has an unofficial Master’s degree in shock. Now, can she do something about the staid late night landscape?

The former E! personality is all about pushing people out of their comfort zones. She was the brassy blonde in charge long before Amy Schumer hit the scene. Her popular memoirs talked about her drunken days (and nights) sans apology.

With titles like, “Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea” and “My Horizontal Life,” the comedienne made no bones about being bawdy.

Shtick or honesty? Who knows?

For a while, it was refreshing if only for being different. Today, with Handler, Schumer and Sarah Silverman all rushing to be the best bad girl in Hollywood, it’s become predictable.

So the time is just right for a new part of Handler’s career. She starts it this week with her new, thrice a week Netflix series. New episodes will be released every Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

“Chelsea” won’t be a repeat of her E! show, which wallowed in gossip and tabloid chatter. Handler vows to open the conversation up to subjects that intrigue her, from societal norms to the Electoral College.

Next page: View the trailer

The show’s trailer shows a very unconventional approach. No band. No traditional monologue or couch. She’s talking to real people in addition to the promised celebrities like Drew Barrymore and Gwyneth Paltrow. She has a desk, but that’s about it. And yet we’re already seeing some boilerplate Trump bashing via an orange-faced pinata.

How … conventional.

The late night landscape already features more than its fair share of liberal comics. Noah. Colbert. Meyers. Kimmel. Wilmore. Bee.

Will Handler follow that path? If so, it will be disappointing for more than merely ideological reasons. Why not blaze a fresh trail, one that’s intellectually curious about both parties and their ideas? She doesn’t have to wear a red “Make America Great Again” hat. Just don’t insult half of your audience. Ask Comedy Central how that approach is working out for its ratings picture.

Handler’s past political banter shows a far from nuanced mind at work. For example, she lazily called both Sarah Palin and Karl Rove “really stupid.” Yet her recent “Chelsea Does” series of mini-docs showed a more thoughtful side of her persona. Her conversation about political correctness featuring activists from a variety of groups proved compelling TV.

If Handler needs a content guide, why not recall the best of Howard Stern’s interviews? Set aside the shock jock’s lesbian queries. His interviews often pushed past broadcast limits and let the subjects reveal their true selves.

Netflix, that commercial free haven, could let Handler do just that. If she manages that, she truly will bring something novel to the talk show wars.