For much of Chelsea Handler’s storied career, she has been Jay Leno busy.
The veteran entertainer has hosted a talk show (E!’s “Chelsea Lately” and Netflix’s “Chelsea”), worked as an actress (“Are You There, Chelsea”) and as an author (“Are You There Vodka, It’s Me Chelsea,” which inspired the aforementioned sitcom). “Chelsea Lately” ended as Handler focused more on her activism.
Handler, 44, said she went into therapy after Donald Trump was elected president. Handler has dialed back after her sessions, which prompted her latest book, “Life Will Be The Death of Me,” released in April. She will perform at the Durham Performing Arts Center May 18 for her “Sit-Down Comedy Tour” and talked to The News & Observer about her brother’s death and how she is handling with the current political climate.
Q: Since comics are losing gigs over what they have to say — Kevin Hart lost his Oscar hosting job and Gilbert Gottfried no longer works for AFLAC, due to a joke — there is a price to pay for being rebellious. However, you still thumb your nose at the establishment. Were you always rebellious?
A: I was a rebellious kid. I went through a rebellious stage from when I was 11 until I was about 20. I finally calmed down a bit. But I’ve always had this rebellious streak and it’s served me well in my career. I was never one to hold back when it came to performing or calling someone out.
Q: Another side of you was revealed via your book. How cathartic was writing the book?
A: It was very cathartic. I spent much of my life blocking out trauma, which isn’t good for anybody. When my brother died when I was 9 years old, I just blocked it out. You can’t go through life not dealing with the deaths, which changes your life.
Q: How has your life changed since you went to therapy and wrote the book?
A: I’m happier. There are a couple of things that have helped change me for the better. I love to ski. That just takes me away from everything. It’s great exercise and it helps me mentally. I also meditate, which has helped me more than you can imagine.
Q: When you recently appeared on “Real Time with Bill Maher,” you discussed how cannabis has helped alter your life for the better.
A: Absolutely. I rediscovered cannabis when I couldn’t drink when I was so angry. Cannabis opened my mind up and actually led me to meditation. The crazy thing that led me to cannabis, meditation and my book and my new and improved outlook on life was Donald Trump. If I didn’t get so depressed over his election, my life wouldn’t have changed in such a positive manner.
Q: But that doesn’t alter your view on Trump.
A: Of course not. We desperately need to make a change. So much is at risk now. We need to get out and vote in 2020. It’ll be interesting to see who the candidate is but regardless, that candidate will be a better choice than Trump.
Q: How does your family feel about being being fodder in your books?
A: They’re used to it. I’ve written some things that aren’t exactly complimentary but I’m honest. I can’t help but be honest with my books and I’m honest onstage.
Q: What is the most significant thing you learned from your experience writing the book?
A: It’s important to grieve to get that out of your system. You have to deal with it. But we can’t grieve forever. What we need to do is to honor those who have passed away. If you grieve and honor them, it’s a way of fixing yourself.
I’ve helped myself so much by doing that and seeing a therapist. I’ve made time for that, and I’m a much more together person now. Seeing a psychiatrist has helped me in so many ways. It’s hard to believe that I’m in better shape than I was before Trump took office. I was so upset when he was elected but the reality is that for me, he’s been a blip in the radar.
Yes, I can’t wait until a new president is elected, but you can move on with your life after a horrible president is elected or people in your family die. Life really does go on. I’m in a great space. I get to go on tour without having a (television) show. Life has really been liberating.
Who: Chelsea Handler
When: 8 p.m. May 18
Where: Durham Performing Arts Center, 123 Vivian St., Durham
Info: 919-680-2787 or dpacnc.com