THE TRANSATLANTIC MAGAZINE
The London Palladium
It's not too often that a famous US female comedian pays a visit to the UK. Joan Rivers comes every few years, Kathy Griffin was here a couple years ago, and just recently Chelsea Handler played her first London gig to promote her new book Uganda Be Kidding Me.
Handler's humor is not for everyone. While Rivers makes fun of celebrities and herself in a very biting yet hilarious way, Handler, star of E's Chelsea Lately, also likes to make fun of herself along with her friends in a way that's very funny to herself, but at times not too funny to us. At the show, Handler started off by making fun of her Lesbian roommate, who Handler says had asked her not to 'out' her, but she does it anyway while showing a photo of her on the large screen. Handler also talks about her 27–year old assistant, but she leaves lots of laughs for jokes about her father, and her bodily functions. She calls a heckler in the balcony her father, and she tells us that he's been in six different nursing homes in six years due to his predilection for hitting on the black nurses. Like father, like daughter, as Handler has been known to date black men and was actually dating 50 Cent for a time, believe it or not. And she tells the black people in the audience to smile so that she can see them.
But the one hour show was not just about making jokes, Handler was in town to promote her book. It is about her and her friend's trip to Uganda (a trip that she paid for, she tells us) and the funny situations that they got into. Even before they left for Africa, she tells us, Handler mentions that a friend of hers was nervous about getting raped when they arrive, but Handler says that she told her friend that the locals rape you right before you leave. Then we are 'treated' to photos of her trip to Uganda (all of Handler, of course), not photos of scenery or the big five, but photos of her naked ass sticking out of a jeep, going to the bathroom. Lovely.
Handler's humor works very well on her television show. She's given jokes to say thanks to her highly–talented writing staff, and she's accompanied by three different comedians every night (most of whom are more talented than her). And Handler has a fantastic television sidekick, Chuey Bravo, a 4'10" Mexican man who is the best part of her show (I say give him his own show). But on stage, Handler seems to be telling stories and jokes that are memorized and taken right from the book. Sure, she's got a loud voice and can outtalk anyone, but she didn't put much effort into the evening, or into her appearance that night as well, showing up on stage in tight fitting jeans, a casual black t–shirt, and her hair pulled back, a look most people would consider for around the house, and not a look for starring in your first London gig – at The Palladium no less.
The most highly anticipated stand up comedy show of the year was also the most disappointing. And at one hour in length, you kind of think what was the point of Handler coming all the way to the UK (she did a gig in Dublin the night before) to spend just one hour on stage.
On the first broadcast of her show after her trip to Britain she mentions her London show by saying 'To all the people in London who don't understand my humor, it's like an uncircumsized penis, it's an acquired taste.' And I add that Chelsea Handler is an acquired taste, but it's a taste that I no longer have the flavor for.