What late-night TV gender barrier? Chelsea Handler is global

Staff Writer
Columbus Monthly

CULVER CITY, Calif. (AP) — After being the only woman in late-night TV during most of her seven-year run on "Chelsea Lately," Chelsea Handler was ready to talk about something new.

So she took on a global talk show. Her thrice-weekly "Chelsea," which launched in May, airs in all Netflix territories — 190 countries — a first for the company and for Handler, and a challenging undertaking for both.

"What if that's the conversation?" Handler asked after a recent taping at Sony Studios. Her beloved dog, Chunk, and new larger, fluffier adoptee, John, are roaming around her office, which looks like a chic, modern, all-white living room.

"So it's not about me being the only woman in late night. It's about me doing the first global talk show that anybody's ever done. And I'm not a man or a woman, but the first person to ever do a global talk show."

All Netflix original programs are available to its worldwide audience. But unlike "House of Cards" and "Orange is the New Black," where an entire season is produced and subtitled episodes are released at once, Handler's show is taped live and made available three times a week. So in the 30-hour span between each taping and international broadcast, "Chelsea" is edited for the screen and translated into subtitles in 19 languages.

"It's an absolutely new thing for us," said Lisa Nishimura, Netflix vice president of comedy programming. She describes the international distribution of "Chelsea" as a "massive technical task: which is to go live worldwide simultaneously as quickly as possible."

Addressing a global audience has allowed Handler and her team to delve into a wider array of subjects than the pop-culture focused "Chelsea Lately." Handler has said she's treating her new show like the college education she never had, and using it as a platform to raise issues of personal importance.

"If you had your own show, you would talk about things you care about, too, and that's exactly what I'm going to attempt to do," she said. "That's the only reason I'm still doing a show; because I have the advantage and the license to have creative control over everything I do."

She wanted to understand the American electoral process, so she invited Sen. Barbara Boxer and Rep. Nancy Pelosi to be guests on her show.

"I've learned what a super-delegate is, finally," Handler said, adding that international audiences seem as fascinated with American elections and government operations as she is.

She acknowledges a different, less outrageous approach with politicians than she takes with celebrity friends, who remain a staple of "Chelsea."

"There has to be a level of respect and courtesy," Handler said, both because she wants the conversations to be illuminating and because she wants other politicians to appear as guests. President Barack Obama is the dream guest: "I think he's just the best."

On Wednesday's episode, Handler sits down with former Mexican President Vicente Fox. Preparations included a visit to Mexico City and extensive research into his political past and history with drug cartels.

Handler said she may produce future shows from other parts of the world, and the U.K. Netflix has committed to a 90-episode run.

"What we're focusing on in the future is everything that's just fish out of water," she said, "everything that doesn't feel comfortable or stuff that I don't know."

Nishimura said Handler is "incredibly curious" with a particular interest in "what connects us."

Handler thinks she's a fit for the job because she sees herself as the embodiment of the American dream and a representative of "a new generation of women who are bad-asses."

She just happens to be the one with an international talk show.


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