“We’re not saving lives or anything, but if you’re going to be in this business, then you should want to be as interesting as possible, and make interesting choices, and keep it compelling.” It’s January, and we’re in her Bel-Air home, an expansive, well-appointed property: white walls, neatly arranged atlases, a coffee-table book as tall as a toddler mounted on a music stand and opened to a Dolly Parton spread.
She’s invited me to join her poolside on more comfortable wicker furniture, and she sits with her knees pulled to her chest.
She’s dressed down, even more casual than the plainclothes she tends to prefer for stand-up tours: a baseball tee and some ripped jeans.
“Everybody running that network was so fucking dumb, and I didn’t respect them,” she says. “No offense to everybody I used to work with.” Yes, she says, “that’s a wrap on Chuy,” and no, none of this has anything to do with her 2010 split from Ted Harbert, former CEO of Comcast Entertainment Group, which oversaw E! (Handler is single at the moment.) Nor was she interested in the duck-duck-goose of the network late-night circuit, no matter how badly it needs a dose of diversity. It starts filming in May, and will grapple with bigger issues and feature more out-of-the-studio moments.
“I don’t want to fill someone else’s shoes,” she says. “I just said, ‘Listen, I’m up for anything,’” she told director/executive producer Eddie Schmidt (This Film Is Not Yet Rated) and executive producer Morgan Neville (Twenty Feet From Stardom), both of whom came up with the format for the docs and shot them consecutively, starting in the spring of 2015, so that Handler’s experiential arc with each subject was genuine. I want you to push me to do stuff I’m not comfortable doing.” This includes meeting up with an ex she hasn’t seen in two decades, confronting a white supremacist, going on blind dates arranged by clueless matchmakers, and ingesting the hallucinogenic brew ayahuasca in Peru and enduring the bodily excretions associated with it.
She adds, “She’ll tell people they’re full of shit right to their face.” But if you’re famous in part for being unafraid to say bad things about celebrities, becoming a celebrity yourself is kind of an occupational hazard. (Khloé sits at the “Silicon Valley” dinner table.) And so, when it came time to figure out a next move, “I wanted to do something as far away as possible from what I was doing,” says Handler, who called it quits at E!