clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Chelsea Instantly: Kara Swisher and Peter Kafka Chat With Netflix Star Chelsea Handler

In which the comedian/author informs us about topless tweets and "throuples" and her forthcoming Netflix shows.

Asa Mathat
Peter Kafka covers media and technology, and their intersection, at Vox. Many of his stories can be found in his Kafka on Media newsletter, and he also hosts the Recode Media podcast.

Chelsea Handler had a hit talk show on TV for seven years. Then she decided she was done.

When she comes back, in 2016, Handler will be doing a new show, for Netflix. The streaming service now has experience in producing its own dramas, comedies and documentaries, but it has never done anything like a talk show.

So both Netflix and Handler are treading new ground. They’re not quite sure where they’ll end up, she says.

“We don’t have a clear idea of what my talk show is going to be like in 2016, but I know what I don’t want to do, and I know what I do want to do,” she told me and Kara Swisher at the Code/Media conference last month.

This was, as you might expect, a pretty entertaining and wide-ranging conversation, so we’re presenting it to you in several different ways: You can watch the entire video, below, or read an edited transcript of our conversation. There’s also an audio-only version available, as well as an edited highlight reel.

Sharp-eyed readers will also note there’s some nudity below — workplace-safe, we think, but we work at a pretty cool workplace. Read on to see why we started there:

This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

You can see the full interview below:

Kara Swisher: We’re going to start off with a bang from our first guest here, who is a very well-known TV personality, and a writer, and all kinds of things, and …

Peter Kafka: Was recently in New Orleans.

Swisher: … was recently in New Orleans, as you’ll see. And we’re going to talk about a range of things. So, Chelsea Handler.


Chelsea Handler: Wow, hi guys.

Swisher: Thank you for coming with clothes on. But I want to know why you’re doing this.

This would be Handler’s recent series of attention-getting, corporation-taunting topless photos, which she has been posting on her Instagram and Twitter feeds, and which evolved into a one-woman protest about sexism and censorship on social media.

 On October 30, 2014, Handler tweeted out the photo that was pulled from Instagram.
On October 30, 2014, Handler tweeted out the photo that was pulled from Instagram.
Chelsea Handler/Twitter
 Chelsea Handler got some Instagram attention in Israel in January.
Chelsea Handler got some Instagram attention in Israel in January.
Chelsea Handler/Instagram
Chelsea Handler/Twitter

And here she is in New Orleans, as mentioned at the outset of the interview:

Chelsea Handler/Twitter

Swisher: Why don’t you talk about what you’re attempting to do — besides look fantastic, by the way.

I’m not trying to look fantastic. That’s just a byproduct. And I’m not also trying to sexualize myself in any way. The first naked photo I ever sent — it’s so funny that I’m talking about this at a conference as if it’s a serious topic — was of me on the horse. I was in Santiago, Chile, and my cousin and I were horseback riding with a group, and I said, “Oh, let’s do a topless photo where I can make fun of that Putin photo where he was riding topless. You know?

And so I took it, and I had never aired a topless photo on any of these social media outlets. I mean, I’m a Luddite when it comes to anything involved with technology. So [my cousin] put it [on Instagram] side by side with Putin on one horse and me on my horse, and we were laughing. Editing my topless photos with my brother, like any close family will do. And then my cousin, like three hours later through dinner, was like, “Oh my God, your photo was removed,” because she was looking at the Likes. And I said, “Removed? Why?” And she goes, “Because you’re topless.” And I said, “But he’s topless.”

Like, Putin is topless. He shouldn’t be topless. He’s trying to run a nation. I’m a comedian. What … because I have nipples?

Swisher: I believe that’s the reason.

I mean, because they’re bigger? You know, the meat around them is larger?

Swisher: Well, that’s questionable, but go ahead.

Asa Mathat

I mean, that is not fair. So then we started this whole conversation about, you know, what if I was a flat-chested woman? Is that okay to show? What if I show one nipple and not two nipples? You know, the idea that men can show … I’m not into showing anything below the waist. Obviously that’s a little bit more, you know, sketchy. But I think with that kind of argument that came up, I just thought, that’s such a silly thing to do. And then, not long thereafter, Kim Kardashian showed a picture of her whole naked body and her bare ass. I’m like, “Well, wait, why does she …” She is a mother. I’m not a mother.

Kafka: Well, she’s also an entrepreneur.

She’s an entrepreneur. Yeah, we’re all entrepreneurs. So she’s an entrepreneur and she’s allowed to show her ass …

Swisher: So Putin and Kardashian get the rights.

[They] belong together in Russia, deep in the heart of Russia. The whole Kardashian family and Putin can go on a long trip together.

Swisher: So what did you do about this? She got to show her ass, so then you did your thing.

I was like, well, that’s nudity. If you’re showing somebody’s ass, that’s nudity, and so then I just kind of mocked her picture, and then they left that up. I’m sure there were so many kind of discussions inside the walls of Instagram that were so stupid. Which also gives me a thrill that they have to sit there and talk about my ass. That they have to do that. You know, as professionals.

Swisher: Right, right.

Then I had to get creative. We were in Israel shooting stuff for a documentary kind of thing I’m doing — a docuseries I’m doing for Netflix — and I thought, “How can we get away with it?” I just wanted to be in more exotic locales. And now it’s just a way to rib them, and be like, “Now what are you going to do? You can’t take this down, because they put two little Israeli flag stickers up here. You can’t be anti-Semitic, can you?” So, huh.

Kafka: And Twitter hasn’t touched the last one at all.

No, Twitter is my new best friend, because I kind of went from Twitter to Instagram because Instagram is more user-friendly I guess. And Twitter sounded — it seemed a little bit older. So I went back to Twitter, and they don’t have a problem with nudity. They don’t have any rules about that. I’ve done different things with Instagram. I’ve shown one nipple. And they don’t really have a rule, either. They just don’t know, they don’t know …

Kafka: Are you talking to any of these platforms directly, and saying, “By the way, what’s your issue with my boob?”

Well, I talk to them in my Instagram messages. I’m like, “Hey, idiots, look at this, now what are you going to do?” I’m an adult woman. But there are young girls there that have their stuff — photographs put on Instagram, that they don’t know. Like girls from school steal naked photos or, you know, these pornographic, that’s illegal. That is illegal. And there was a girl on Instagram who had a naked photo, there was a magazine — the New Yorker a few months back — that had a naked photo of herself that her school classmates put up there that was up there for like four weeks. Four weeks. And her parents were complaining, and they didn’t take it down. But yet they’re alerted to take down a woman who has … I mean that’s my own free will. If I want to show naked pictures of myself, and my followers are choosing to see that, you know, I’m supposed to be catering to them. I don’t want somebody interfering with what I’m doing.

Swisher: So did you talk to them at all? Did you ever speak to Sheryl Sandberg or Zuckerberg?

No. I think I’ll speak to Sheryl. Mark Zuckerberg, from what I can understand, doesn’t speak. I think he only codes. I’ve gone up to Silicon Valley. I spoke with Dick [Costolo] at Twitter for a while about it, and they just don’t have a problem with it at all. But if you’re going to have rules, you need to follow them. You can’t have rules for specific people and then break them for the Kardashians.

Asa Mathat

Kafka: These things are not mutually exclusive, but how much of this is you trying to make a point and being angry or trying to point out hypocrisy, and how much of it is you just trying to stay in the public eye? You’re not on TV right now. This is something for people to talk about.

My break from not being on television is a godsend for so many reasons. And I’m not [on social media] to seek attention. And people are like, “Oh God, enough already with this girl.” I have plenty of attention. I was on TV for seven nights a week for seven years. It was too much attention. I wasn’t excited to see me anymore, so I can only imagine how other people felt. You know? This is a nice little break, because I don’t have to explain myself all the time. So, no, it’s not about attention. It was more about being silly and making a point, and then it got to be really wanting to make a point.

Swisher: Let’s talk about television now. I also want to understand sort of this idea of celebrity in the digital age, how you look at it. We had Tyler, the Creator, talking about wanting to come off of Twitter, come off of all of these platforms, and then do what he wants, which is what you’re talking about. Why do you feel subject to what their whimsical rules are? But you’re doing a new show. Correct? For Netflix.

Swisher: Why did you do [“Chelsea Lately” on E!]? Explain what you’re doing [on Netflix].

The subject matter I was dealing with on E!, you know, it was a fun way to get started and kind of have a great time. It was like being in junior high school. It was like running around, people throwing food at each other all day, and making jokes about celebrities that were silly and stupid. And then after a while I just was like, I’m so much smarter than that show was, and I wanted to be doing a show that was smarter than I was.

Kafka: You did it for seven years. At what point did you get to that point where you were tired of it? Was that year four?

About year two. I mean, you have such a familial vibe, and you work with all of these people, and they become your best friends, and they become family. They’re more than best friends, because family you can’t get rid of, and that’s how I felt about these people.

Kafka: I get deciding that you don’t want to do that show anymore. But why go to Netflix? Why not stay on TV? Why not go to a different network? Why not stay at E! and do a different kind of show? You had a million offers.

Because I felt like it was really important to be creating your own force, to be creating your own job. I didn’t want to go fill in at somebody else’s shoes that had done a job for 10 years. I didn’t want to go to one of the late shows, and be like, okay, now you’re going to plug me in here and tell me what to do. I want to create my surroundings, and that’s what we’re doing all the time right now, is figuring out what that next step is for me.

Handler discusses her reasons for working with Netflix in the video below:

I don’t want to be on TV five nights a week. It’s too much. It’s oversaturation. Especially if I have to keep sending out photos like this. So I want to do something that’s more mindful. I love learning about stuff I don’t know about, and I don’t have a problem admitting that I don’t know this stuff. So many times you’re around people who pretend that they know things that they don’t, and I find that to be like one of the most unattractive things in a person.

Swisher: Explain this show first. And when you think about being a creative force, how do you do that now in Hollywood? Talk about this show first — and is there a changing power dynamic going on?

Well, there’s a change. When I became a comedian, that was the greatest thing I ever did. It was standup. I didn’t want to do it. I was scared shitless.

Kafka: You did it later on in life, right? You didn’t start out as a comedian.

No, I started doing it. Way to do your history before an interview.

Swisher: I knew that.

Kafka: Kara knew that.

So I started doing standup when I was like 21 years old, and it was horrifying. Believe me it’s the scariest thing anybody could do — stand up there and make funny things happen, and people have to be on your side, and you have to earn them. And that got me into a door. I’m not answering it correctly in your order.

Swisher: No, that’s all right.

But it got me into a door where I could create my surroundings. I wasn’t being cast in a sitcom where they’re, like, “Okay, we need a funny girl that’s, you know, 27 years old or whatever, and she’s got to be pretty,” you know? I auditioned for that stuff all the time, and I never got jobs like that.

And then becoming a standup, people create a show around you. I got into positions where they were like, “Okay, we want to develop a sitcom about you and your family, about you and your life in LA, or we want to develop a nightly show.” That was never a goal of mine. And once you get that, you realize you’re the architect — you can decide. I hired and fired every single person that worked for me. Nothing went on the air that I didn’t want to. I could be as serious or as silly as I wanted, and I don’t ever want to ever not be in that situation again.

Swisher: You keep saying “controlling your surroundings.”

Yeah, because you’re the epicenter of it. You want to share that stage, to have people on. Everybody said [about “Chelsea Lately,” which featured a rotating panel of standup comics], “Oh, you can’t have comedians on with you, it’s going to take away from you.” No, no — it’s going to be great. Everybody should be able to share a space with another person, especially comedians.

Asa Mathat

It was very difficult in a surprising way, because comedians are used to being onstage with a microphone and no one interrupting them. So when you put them around in a group and they have to learn to listen to other people — I thought that was funny. So we did a lot of that, and that was fun and it’s exactly what I spoke of.

Netflix is so exciting to me for a bevy of reasons — the way that they conduct themselves, the way they get behind a project, the way that they’re super-involved in everything I do. And the thought process, and kind of having a think-tank together, and bringing me the right people I need to be around to get to the show that I want to do. We don’t have a clear idea of what my talk show is going to be like in 2016, but I know what I don’t want to do, and I know what I do want to do. So we’re just trying to find a format that’s going to speak, and something for everybody. I don’t want just my audience that was there at E! I want to grow up.

Kafka: When Netflix comes to you and says, “Here’s some ideas,” who’s doing that? People who have made TV before?


Kafka: Because traditionally they didn’t have a background in that.

No, it’s like, you know, they’re executives at E! But [Netflix Chief Content Officer] Ted Sarandos is very involved, I speak to him all the time, and Lisa Nishimura, who is also very involved. I hope I said her name right. We’re all constantly going back and forth. I have people who have been working with me on these four docu-specials that kind of gave me a year of not working straight through. We wanted a year so I could just kind of do something a little bit different and not go straight from a nightly show into another show.

Swisher: Talk about the docu-specials — we were going to get together in Silicon Valley and drive around in a car. They said I was going to drive you around in a car, apparently.

Yeah, we’re going to get together.

Swisher: Okay, good.

So don’t think you’re out of that.

Silicone Valley is Topic A, because …

Swisher: It’s being called “Silicone,” I really like that.

I know. I interviewed Reed Hastings for Netflix as part of this special. He’s like, “First of all, silicone are implants. It’s Silicon.” And I’m like, “Well, I’m glad I knew that before I start interviewing everybody all over town.”

Swisher: I think you should still say “Silicone.”

I am going to. Because it keeps slipping out. So we interviewed Dick Costolo. That’s another name. We interviewed all of these people around what goes on in the inner workings of Silicon Valley. How do you make an app? Who approves an app? What are venture capitalists looking for? You know, all the stuff that I don’t really know. Everything, every topic for any of these docu-specials — one is racism, globally racism, one is relationships, unconventional relationships all around the world, different relationships that work. There are things called “throuples,” where people live together and …

Swisher: What?

A throuple is a couple that has three people, and they all act as one unit.

Swisher: Those are my neighbors in The Castro. But go ahead.

And then one [special] is on drugs, on ayahuasca, and I’m going to do it on camera and get an MRI brain scan, to show people what you do if you take a Xanax and drink a glass of wine every night.

Kafka: This is your brain on drugs.

Yeah, this is your brain on drugs. We just picked four things that I thought, “Okay, this is what I could get behind.” And Silicon Valley is very interesting to me because now I’m on Netflix, and what is streaming? I’m not really sure. And if we are streaming, how are they planning on doing a nightly talk show with me if they can’t even air something that we tape the night before?

Kafka: What do you think is going to happen there? That’s one of the big questions about your show.

They’ll fix it before my show airs.

Kafka: Netflix is famous for saying, we’ve got a lot of data that helps inform our decisions about what we buy, what we don’t buy. Have they talked to you about what their data says about what you should do?

I’m sure it came out positive, because, I mean, we did make the deal. But I went to Netflix, the office, just to look at their algorithms. Like what pops up, if you watch, you know, a show on a women’s prison — “Orange Is the New Black” — all the things they recommend based on you watching that. And some of them are really funny. You could watch, you know, “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs,” and then they recommend that you watch the movie “Chef.” You’re like, “No, no, one’s an animated movie and one is an adult movie.”

Swisher: What came up with you?

What came up with my viewing? Nothing that exciting. It’s not like I’m into porn or anything.

Swisher: I don’t care.

No, I know you don’t care. But I’m not. For those of you who do care.

Swisher: When you think about the sort of Hollywood power structures you’ve been involved in at various points, has it changed because of the Netflixes, the Amazons coming with “Transparent”? Google might get into shows someday. All of these people making shows, and I think probably Amazon and Netflix have been the most aggressive. How does it feel, as someone who is a talent?

I have tons of actor friends who are movie stars or television stars, and I think there’s such a huge platform of areas to go. I mean, it’s just more. There’s more opportunity for everybody. Everybody wants to be in television now, which wasn’t the case 20 years ago.

Movie stars want to produce television, they want to be in television. Movie directors want to be in television, and it’s because there are going to be a million places like Amazon that are going to try and follow in Netflix’s footsteps, and that’s great. There should be. The more the merrier. I think network TV is so limited. There are so many parameters.

I don’t want somebody who has no sense of humor or personality or anything in common with me to tell me what he thinks I should be doing. It should be a creative outlet, and TV should be a creative outlet for what the creator wants to do, and then you can base that on how many people are viewing that. But there shouldn’t be somebody at the top that’s giving you notes on a sitcom that’s never been in a similar situation, or is funny.

Kafka: One thing that TV, broadcast TV and cable are good at is reaching a lot of people — distributing your stuff. Do you feel like they’re going to be able to get you out to the people who need to see you? Do you think they’ll be able to find you? Might you have a smaller audience once you move to the Web?

You know, everything is possible. I think the cachet of being at Netflix, for me personally, was the only option. It was the only option. They just get it. You go into a meeting, and I’m like, “This is what I want to do.” They get who you are, and they’re either into it or they’re not. I went on this vacation as soon as I ended my show on E!. I had three months off, and I just could have stayed away forever. I mean I was so happy not to have to read a New York Post to do my job, or to look at a Star Magazine and see Bruce Jenner … I just don’t want to ever have to see that again. I don’t care.

Swisher: I think you’re going to see that a lot.

You know? I mean, I do see it all the time, and I’m like, oh my God it’s him/her again. I don’t know what it is anymore, and I don’t care. I don’t care about that. And now I can say I don’t care, and people believe me. I’m allowed to be honest about it.

I came home from a trip. I went around the world. I went to China, I went through Spain, I went to French Polynesia. I did all of these amazing things, and I came home, and I was driving up Sunset Boulevard and just saw billboards of me from my [Netflix] standup special, “You’ve Got to Be Kidding Me.” And I thought, “Oh my God.” I mean I’ve been famous for a long time, but I was like, I’m famous. I’m like, this is so nice. Netflix — I had no idea they were doing this marketing plan.

Coming from a place [E!] where they had no money to market anything, and just thought you should be gathering your own audience and that there should be no reminder that your show is on. To get that kind of support is kind of all you need. You want somebody in there with you, pushing you and saying, “Yeah, we’ve got this, we’re proud of her, let’s do something together.”

Asa Mathat

Swisher: Do you see other celebrities moving? Until the success of “House of Cards,” really nobody was moving over there. Time Warner called Netflix, what was it? Latvia?

Kafka: The Albanian Army.

Swisher: Albanian Army.

Kafka: Or if they did, it was side projects, right? It was like you had a real movie, and maybe you do a Web short or something.

Swisher: Lisa Kudrow was sort of early to a lot of stuff. But very few were. What does it take to move those celebrities over more significantly?

Well, I think it’s just a natural progression at this point. It’s just about breaking that mold that they had about being, you know, a movie delivery service. And everybody knows it now. With “House of Cards” — look what happened with that show. It’s a great show. And it’s not like anything else on television. You know? HBO is a great network, and they’re changing their model because they have to catch up with that. So I think that’s just natural. People are going to want to be where the action is.

You know, when I turn on my TV, I always go to Netflix first. And I think a lot of people feel that way. And there should be a healthy competition. It shouldn’t be a monopoly, so I don’t think there’s any problem with Amazon or all of the other competitors that are finding their way around. There’s no problem with having more in the mix. The more the merrier. That’s better-quality television. I don’t watch network TV. I don’t ever watch a sitcom and go, “That was funny.” It’s not. It’s all so lame.

Swisher: Would you make little shows — like Vine, could you see yourself doing all of those things? Or do you keep saying, “TV”?

I think it’s all-encompassing. You kind of have to move around the platforms, and there’s all these different things. And that’s a digital space, too — something else that my team and I are working on. But you have to have a good, healthy digital space, and some people aren’t interested in that. You know, I’m a writer, I’m a performer, I can be an actor.

I don’t really want to be an actor. I don’t think I’m a particularly good actor. I like commentary. I like commenting on anything that’s happening around the world. I don’t want to be confined to one area of entertainment. So for me, it’s important to get my message across through blogging. I don’t want to write another book. I would rather just come home from a trip and be like, “This is my trip to Israel.”

Swisher: I was going to ask you about books. You’re a very successful author.

Asa Mathat

Yeah, but I’m not that great at it. I’m just successful because I tell the truth. Imagine if I was telling the truth, and I was completely in control of it. I don’t have any problem disclosing any of my personal information. Nobody is ever going to write a book about me, because I’ll write it first.

Kafka: So what’s on your mind, by the way? You don’t know what the show is going to be like. You do know you don’t want to talk about Kim Kardashian or Bruce Jenner. If it was today, what would you want to talk about?

I would like a healthy mix of everything that kind of goes on around the world, whether it’s global and serious news — the stuff that we’re dealing with in Syria, the stuff that we’re dealing with with ISIS — mixed with interesting stuff that’s happening in our country. Human-interest stories, the well-roundedness of a “60 Minutes,” but faster, quicker, cooler. I want correspondents going out in the field, getting information. It can be funny but it’s got to be sharp and it’s got to be edgy, and it’s got to have all of the right people around it. And I don’t necessarily need it to be the same thing. It could be three nights a week. We’re always having these conversations about it.

Swisher: It sounds a little bit like “The Daily Show.” How do you look a program like that?

It’s a little probably like that. I’m sure some people will compare it to “The Daily Show.”

Kafka: The John Oliver show.

Yeah, it can be that, but I don’t want it being me all the time doing that. You know? It shouldn’t all be about me. There’s so many talented people around me that I see all the time and it’s always good to infuse those shows with a lot of different energy and a lot of different space. You know, everybody is not going to like everybody, myself included. Everybody is not going to like me. So you don’t want it to be, you know, I don’t want it to be “The Oprah Show” where it’s just me talking, waxing poetic. That’s not interesting to me.

I like shows that move, that have pace, that you learn from. You know, like “Real Sports With Bryant Gumbel.” I love that show. I don’t even like sports, but I love those stories, because there’s such a human-interest component in it. And I think that’s the thing that I want to carry through. And you know, if the show comes on and it’s available three episodes that week, you don’t have to watch all three. I want there to be something for each different kind of person.

Kafka: Netflix is also famous for not disclosing how many people are watching their shows or giving any data. Are you going to want to know how many people are watching your show, and figuring out how to gauge whether you’re being successful or not?

I don’t know if that information is important. You think you want to know, but you have to really be careful about all of the information you know about yourself. It’s like going online and reading about yourself. That’s not really that constructive for anybody. And once you get out of that headspace, you can stay out of that. My sister emailed me an article the other day about myself, and I wrote her back, and I go, “Don’t ever email me articles about myself. I don’t want to read them.” And she’s like, “All right, all right. Sorry.” And I’m like, “Was it good?”

I love to read, I love to travel, I love to do all of these things. I can’t sit there on Instagram or Twitter reading comments about myself.

Kafka: What kind of feedback do you want when you’re producing the show?

The feedback I care about most is the people that are in my life and the people at Netflix. I take their notes. It’s such a different relationship than I had at E! already, before anything has even aired. We’re constantly communicating, we’re constantly emailing, we’re constantly in meetings. They’re bringing in people for me to meet. I’m suggesting people I want to work with. My manager [Hollywood heavy-hitter Irving Azoff] is heavily involved.

At E! I did what I wanted, and I didn’t listen to anybody because I wasn’t interested in what they had to say. Because I didn’t respect their opinions. So it’s nice to be involved in a show where I do respect their opinions. I respect Netflix. So it’s like going out with a guy that you’re proud to be seen with.

Swisher: Last question: What do you consume? You don’t look at Twitter, you don’t see your comments. You are active on Twitter, but you don’t look at it. You’ve been in Silicon Valley doing this show — what do you like about it and don’t like about it?

About what?

Swisher: Technology. A lot of this stuff that’s incoming. This is all about incoming toward you.

I’m a little old-fashioned. I know that might not sound right. I’ve very into reading the actual newspaper every morning. I get in my sauna every morning and I read the New York Times. I go to the Huffington Post. I read Jason Hirschhorn’s Media Redefined. I read something called theSkimm. I never watch the news, and obviously that’s going to end, too, with Brian Williams. I can’t imagine that there’s going to be another new influx of great newscasters. Now it’s kind of like, well, that’s a wash, too.

I read tons of books, too. When I went away, I came home, and I hadn’t read a newspaper, a local newspaper, for two months. I didn’t really know anything that was going on. I almost missed a huge story, and somebody told me. I just immersed myself in every book possibly imaginable, because I was like I can finally read something without having to be distracted by having to go to work.

What I like about Silicon Valley is the advantage that it gives so many people that didn’t really know. I talked to kids who were 9- and 10-year-old programmers. They were coding, and I thought that was fascinating. It’s amazing that there’s an idea, and you can make it happen, and you can have it come to fruition.

Specifically, what do I love at Silicon Valley? The energy. The energy that you walk into these offices, and people are all working on something. Nobody is sitting around. I mean they are playing ping-pong a lot, but they don’t seem to be sitting around. Social media — you have to use it as an outlet, and you can’t sit there and look at it all day long. You just can’t.

Swisher: All right, well let’s get some questions from the audience. Please get up. Come on. Don’t be shy.

Jason Rapp: You’re a really keen observer of people and human interactions, and you mentioned kind of the downfalls of bullying online. But could you talk a little bit more about what you think are some of the best elements of social media, and how we communicate, and what some of the other dangers are?

I think the best elements are, obviously, anything that’s going on in the world that needs people’s attention to fix. Like what happened with Boko Haram, and unfortunately our reaction, I don’t think, was in step with what happened. But alerting people that you can do something. And Kickstarter is a great example of people getting involved for something that they care about. If you want to make a movie, an important movie and you don’t have the funding, it’s great that you can go out and ask people to help you with that. It’s so much better for people who are unknown than for people who are known, because it gives everybody a voice. And I think there’s a very fine line between when that can be useful, and then get carried away, and people need to be respectful and cognizant of that.

Kafka: If you were starting out today, would you go like you did and become a standup comedian at the age of 21? Or do you think you’d be on YouTube or Vine or using social media to get out that way?

That’s tough to say. I like people in my face. I like that immediate response. I like to talk to people. I like to hear them. It might have been easier for me to start on YouTube if I had started now, and just released videos of myself. But I think there’s something to be said for actually walking the walk in any environment, no matter what happens with social media. Whatever your message is, you have to get out there and do it over and over and over again. When it’s good, when it’s bad, when it’s ugly, when you’re getting booed, you know? In order to reap the benefits of that, you’ve got to be out there, you know, really taking a hit and really learning how to do it. Otherwise you don’t know — how can you call yourself a comedian if you’ve not onstage all the time?

Asa Mathat

Swisher: How is celebrity for very famous people? You have a lot of friends who are big celebrities, how is social media affecting them? Because there’s so much.

They’ll be like, “Chelsea, can you tweet this?” Because they’re like, “I’m not on Twitter. I don’t do any of that. Chelsea, you tweet it.” I’m like, “You tweet it. I don’t even know this person.” And they’re like, “My friend is starting a business. Will you tweet that their business is starting?” Which, of course, I will. I like to help anybody I can.

But most of my really famous friends don’t do it. They’re just not interested. When you’re that much of a movie star, and your personal life really isn’t out there … They’re not me, I’m completely — you know, what you see is what you get. They’re trying to live a private life. So when some of them do go on Twitter, I’m like, “Well, now that’s over.” There’s no mystique left. So I can understand when a lot of them aren’t on Twitter, and I don’t think everybody should be on Twitter.

Kafka: Do you ever think about pulling back and offering less of yourself?

Yeah, I go through periods where — you know, when I was away, I didn’t do anything with social media for like three months and I was like, “Oh, that’s good.” If you’re promoting a standup special, if you’re promoting a movie, I get it. You want to get as many people talking about it as possible. And now there are so many different avenues to do that. You can go and promote yourself on a talk show. You can go and tweet and do funny things. And there are different marketing tools. So I think it’s useful, definitely. If you’re the kind of person that’s interested. Once you open that door, it’s hard to shut it.

Swisher: What devices do you use? Are you going to buy the Apple Watch?

I use Apple. My manager uses like a Samsung Galaxy or something, and he’s like, “Everybody loves it.” I’m like, You’re the only one who has one that I’ve ever seen.” So I don’t know why you think everybody loves it.

I loved my BlackBerry. It was hard for me to part with that, but once you get the human condition, you can get used to anything. So I have my iPhone.

Irving Azoff: [Off-mic] Hey, genius.


Azoff: Hey, genius. It’s a BlackBerry Passport.

You think I give a shit what that’s called? It’s big and it takes up half the car. So …

Kafka: These two are traveling companions.

And by the way, before that, whatever — BlackBerry Password — it was a Samsung Galaxy. And so enough people told him to stop using that.

Swisher: It’s Passport.

Or Passport.

Swisher: It’s not Password.

Yeah, see I just don’t care.

Kafka: We should let them go argue off stage.

[Azoff] has four phones. We’re driving down here, and he’s got four phones. One starts ringing in his briefcase or his, you know, man purse, whatever it is, and then he’s got two. I’m like, how can you even tell which phone? And one’s a flip, he’s still got a flip phone.

Swisher: I still have a flip phone.

Oh, you do? I’m sorry.

Swisher: That’s okay. Anyway, thank you Chelsea.

Kafka: Thank you Chelsea.

Swisher: I’m excited to run around Silicon Valley with you and terrorize the …

I know. We’re going to come back. We’ll have a good time together. It will be fun.

Swisher: All right, great, thank you.

Kafka: That’s all.

She’s still at it: Handler tweeted this photo yesterday.

Listen to the full interview below:

This article originally appeared on

Sign up for the newsletter Today, Explained

Understand the world with a daily explainer plus the most compelling stories of the day.