After seven successful years of running the late-night talk show “Chelsea Lately,” comedian Chelsea Handler decided to take some time off to focus on other endeavors. In an interview with People magazine, she explained some her thought process. “A lot of people are scared to take a break. They don’t want to be off of anybody’s radar,” she said, “but I wanted to because I wanted to reflect on, ‘What am I doing now?’ I don’t want my life going 110 mph. I want to travel and have a life.”
Apparently, her time off wasn’t exactly an uninterrupted vacation. During this period, she created a Netflix documentary series, “Chelsea Does,” and composed her sixth book in less than 15 years. This April, Handler released “Life Will Be the Death of Me … And You Too!” her first memoir to date. In it, the talented writer gives an inside look into her childhood and what it was like being the youngest of six children.
Growing up, Handler belonged to a household that struggled to maintain a steady income where everyone was supported comfortably. Although some positive character traits developed from her family’s money problems, such as the motivation to have a strong work ethic in order to someday live a self-reliant lifestyle, there were times during her childhood where Handler felt neglected and lost in the crowd.
When she was 9 years old, Handler tragically lost her eldest brother, Chet, the one person who always made her feel special and safe. She details this event early-on in “Life Will Be the Death of Me … And You Too!” during the chapter “Death Valley.” Handler depicts her memory of him fondly, recalling “My brother always smelled like a bonfire. He smelled like the beach and the woods all at the same time. He smelled like home.”
Since she was the youngest and Chet the oldest, she describes them as “bookends” and partners in crime. Handler shares several recollections of Chet in this chapter, ranging from the goofy ways she would entertain herself by playing pranks on him even though he was 12 years older than her, to pretending to fall asleep in order to get him to carry her in the middle of the night. Handler says that these were some of the warmest moments in her life because they were the few instances during her childhood where she felt “looked after.” It was during these times that Chet’s little sister knew she was loved and cared for.
There is something painfully relatable about the way she paints the portrait of her memories. Whether you’ve gone through something similar in the past or not, the feelings she illustrates are entirely identifiable. One day, she and her sister came home from getting ice cream to find their mother sitting at the top of their stairs with a distorted face, looking like she had just been attacked. “You don’t believe these moments when they happen. You believe they have the wrong guy — that it was his friend, it wasn’t him. You brain is moving so fast thinking of all the things that have changed in just the blink of an eye — what it all means. It means we are five. Not six anymore. It meant our family was broken.”
Handler speaks about the thoughts that came to her during the weeks following this painful accident. From wondering why a neighbor would bring a bottle of red wine to her family when there was clearly nothing to celebrate, to crying her eyes out during bike rides simply so no one had to witness her crying, the youngest child was too juvenile to know how to properly react to a situation like this.
Being the born comedian she is, she thought that making her parents laugh would help ease their excruciating pain. She remembers purposefully trying to pee her pants to get her father to spank her, knowing that this always got him chuckling. Unfortunately, the pain of having to bury a family member never abandoned any of them, and there weren’t many laughs shared among the family from that day forward.
By remaining light-hearted about even the heaviest topics, Handler accomplishes what few writers can achieve during “Life Will Be the Death of Me … And You Too!” This book will have you laughing and crying simultaneously, and while it’ll pull at your heartstrings, there’s an underlying feeling that even Handler doesn’t take herself too seriously all the time. Fans have said that they enjoy this collection the best out of Handler’s books because of how raw she is in it. The praise on the back jacket of the novel repeats how thankful people are to feel like they finally get to know the real Handler after all these years.
Handler discusses a variety of topics in “Life Will Be the Death of Me … And You Too!” She moves very quickly, talking about the epiphany she had about a female president in the White House one minute, to experiences with hallucinogens the next. Handler told USA Today, “It turned out, the election represented to me the world being unhinged, which was exactly what happened to me when my brother died when I was nine years old.”
Although her disdain for President Trump is palpable, and ironically got her to revisit some of her buried childhood trauma, Handler doesn’t foresee politics in her future. She humorously adds that, “No, I can’t survive on that salary.” If one good thing came out of Trump’s presidency for this specific woman, it was the ways it shaped her new outlook on fame and spreading awareness about things that really matter.
Handler refuses to settle on one career for the rest of her life. For example, she already has a cannabis brand under wraps, estimated to launch sometime this summer. This past weekend she tweeted, “Today is April 20. And the fact that I, as a white woman, get to talk about how much I love cannabis while thousands of people of color are currently penalized for it is not lost on me. We have to do better, and we have to start by expunging these records. #Happy420”
Following the release of her latest novel, the highly-acclaimed author is currently on a comedy tour making stops all-across the country. She’s also working on a Netflix documentary that’s coming soon about white privilege, hoping to become a stronger advocate for people of color.
Through and through, Handler ponders the meaning of life and the messages she’s sending with her platform in “Life Will Be the Death of Me … And You Too!” She’s working hard to release content that makes people think about their actions and how it impacts the world around them.
The No. 1 New York Times’ best-selling author is back, and this time, she’s letting us know that our loved ones matter more than anything, and we must engage with the world as activists with open minds.