Handler was born in Livingston, New Jersey, the youngest of six children of Rita (née Stoecker), a homemaker, and Seymour Handler, a used car dealer. Her American father is Ashkenazi Jewish; her German-born mother, who came to the United States in 1958, was a Mormon. Her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer in 1989, and battled the disease for over 15 years before dying of it in 2006. Handler was raised in Reform Judaism and had a Bat Mitzvah ceremony. She summered in Martha's Vineyard, where her parents owned a house.
Chelsea Joy Handler (born February 25, 1975) is an American comedian, actress, writer, television host, producer and activist. She hosted the late-night talk show Chelsea Lately on the E! network from 2007 to 2015, and released a documentary series, Chelsea Does, on Netflix in January 2016. Between 2016 and 2017, Handler hosted the talk show Chelsea on Netflix.
Handler has two sisters and three brothers; her eldest brother, Chet, died when he was 21, in a hiking accident in the Grand Tetons in Wyoming. She was nine years old at the time. At age 19, she moved from New Jersey to Los Angeles, California, where she lived in her aunt's home, in Bel Air, and pursued acting while working as a waitress to support herself. At 21, Handler decided to pursue stand-up comedy after telling her story about driving under the influence to a class of other offenders, who found it funny.
In April 2006, Handler began hosting The Chelsea Handler Show on E!, which lasted two seasons. In 2007, Handler performed with Comedy Central's Hour Stand-Up Comedy Tour across the United States. Her stand-up comedy has also been televised on VH1's Love Lounge, Comedy Central's Premium Blend, and HBO's broadcast of the Aspen Comedy Festival. She was a guest on Red Eye w/ Greg Gutfeld and The View, and she co-hosted The View on August 2, 2007, and September 5, 2008. On August 18, 2010, it was announced that Handler would be the host of the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards (VMAs). The announcement was surprising to many, including MTV representatives, who claimed that the final decision was unexpected. This made Handler the second woman in the history of the VMAs to be the sole host of the ceremony, behind Roseanne Barr, who hosted in 1994. The event took place at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles on September 12, 2010.
In 2006, Handler began dating Ted Harbert, who oversaw E! as the former CEO of Comcast. On January 25, 2010, Handler confirmed, via her late-night talk show, that she had broken up with Harbert.
In 2007, Handler appeared in the Internet-based program In the Motherhood with Leah Remini and Jenny McCarthy (since January 2008). On September 8, 2008, it was announced that ABC would be turning In The Motherhood into a series starring Jessica St. Clair, Megan Mullally, and Cheryl Hines.
In July 2007, Handler began starring on her own half-hour, late-night comedy series on E! titled Chelsea Lately. The show proved to be a hit by averaging more than a half-million viewers since its premiere (much more than the average for a late night cable program) and having clips on YouTube with more than one million views. In a 2008 interview, Handler said, "the worse the guests are, the more pathetic they are, the funnier the show is." Chelsea Lately was broadcast weekdays on the E! Network in the U.S., Canada, U.K, Australia, Germany, and New Zealand. After more than 1,000 episodes, the final episode of Chelsea Lately aired on August 26, 2014.
Handler has written six books that have made the New York Times Best Seller List, five of which have reached number one. Her first book, My Horizontal Life: A Collection of One-Night Stands (2005), describes the variety of sexual encounters she has experienced throughout her life. Her second book, Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea (2008), a collection of humorous essays, hit the top of The New York Times Nonfiction Best Seller List on May 11, 2008, with a print run of more than 350,000. She went on a nationwide tour to promote her third book, titled Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang, which was released on March 9, 2010. Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang hit Number 1 on The New York Times Nonfiction Hardback Bestseller list for March 21, 2010.
Handler has her own columns in Cosmopolitan and NOW, a UK celebrity magazine. In May 2009, she was the host of the 20th Annual GLAAD Media Awards in San Francisco. In June 2009, she was named as Grand Marshal of the 2009 Los Angeles Pride celebration "for her visible and vocal support of equality". In July 2010, during a tour stop in Salt Lake City, Handler took part in the "I Am Equal" photo documentary project in memory of her mother, Rita, who died from complications of cancer. Along with her photo being added to the documentary and accompanying photo mosaic, she also shared a "Photo Story" with a message that inspires people to take chances in life. In March 2012, she hosted the Human Rights Campaign Gala in Los Angeles.
Handler appeared on one of the two covers for the December 2009 edition of Playboy. Inside the magazine, Handler posed for a non-nude pictorial. She was also featured on the cover of Shape in April 2010, The Hollywood Reporter in June 2011, on Redbook's March 2012 issue, and on the cover of the September 2012 issue of Marie Claire.
In 2010, Handler and Tom Brunelle became producers of Pretty Wild, a reality series centered on the lives of the Neiers sisters. Her production company, Borderline Amazing Productions, and New Wave Entertainment produced the series. It was canceled after one season.
In 2010, Handler was ranked on the Forbes Celebrity 100 at No. 98. In 2012, Time named Handler one of the 100 most influential people in the world on their annual Time 100 list.
In 2010, a leaked sex tape of Handler was being offered for sale. After news of it became public, Handler said on Chelsea Lately the tape "was made as a joke" more than 10 years earlier, adding, "I put it on an audition tape for a comedy club, because I'm a comedienne, and I've been showing it at birthday parties for fucking years." That same year, Handler attended a dinner party at the house of Jeffrey Epstein, a convicted sex offender American socialite alongside Katie Couric, Woody Allen, Charlie Rose, Prince Andrew and George Stephanopoulos. Handler was invited by publicist Peggy Siegel, primarily positioned as an opportunity to have a dinner with Prince Andrew, Handler later stating : "It was just one of those weird nights".
On November 15, 2010, it was announced that Handler's publishers gave her her own publishing imprint, Borderline Amazing/A Chelsea Handler Book. She also signed a three-book deal with the imprint, the first of which is called Lies That Chelsea Handler Told Me, where her coworkers and family members discuss their experiences with Handler, which was released in May 2011 and also hit the top of the bestseller list.
The show had a spinoff, the mockumentary After Lately, in which the various cast members, writers, crew, guests and even "hangers-on" of Chelsea Lately are shown bickering over trivial matters and competing for airtime on the show. They also are shown seeking personal approval from Handler, who appeared in very few scenes of the program, and was always portrayed as having open and utter disdain for everyone beneath her. After Lately debuted on E! on March 6, 2011. Guest stars included: Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Aniston, Jay Leno, Tori Spelling, Jenny McCarthy, Sharon Osbourne, Dave Grohl, Johnny Knoxville, and Jane Fonda.
Handler has become executive producer of several talk shows aside from her own. In 2012, Handler became executive producer through Borderline Amazing for a weekly half-hour talk show on E! hosted by Whitney Cummings. Titled Love You, Mean It With Whitney Cummings, it debuted in November 2012, but was canceled after four months, in February 2013. Later that same year, Handler produced Ross Mathews' new talk show on E!, Hello Ross. The show was canceled after two seasons, in 2014. In 2015, Handler produced Josh Wolf's The Josh Wolf Show, which debuted in June 2015 on CMT. The show was canceled in 2016.
In 2012, Time named Handler one of the 100 most influential people in the world on its annual Time 100 list.
Are You There, Chelsea? was an NBC sitcom based on Handler's 2008 best-selling book Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea, which aired from January 11 to March 28, 2012. On May 11, 2012, the network canceled it after only one season. Laura Prepon played main character Chelsea Newman, a cocktail waitress, while Handler portrayed Chelsea's born-again Christian sister Sloane, a married, conservative, new mom who had little in common with her carefree sister. Dottie Zicklin (of Dharma & Greg) and Julie Larson (of The Drew Carey Show) were creators and executive producers. Handler served as executive producer, along with Tom Werner (of That '70s Show), Mike Clements (of The Life & Times of Tim), and Tom Brunelle (of Chelsea Lately).
On October 3, 2013, Handler confirmed her breakup with hotelier Andre Balazs on her talk show Chelsea Lately, after the couple had dated on and off for two years.
In November 2017, Hulu began developing Unspeakable, a new dramedy based on Meghan Daum's 2014 book, The Unspeakable: And Other Subjects Of Discussion. Handler had optioned the book at Working Title Television in 2014. The show, starring Mary McCormack in the lead role, focuses on a 45-year-old woman trying to find her authentic self while navigating through difficult subjects. Handler will executive produce with Liza Chasin and Andrew Stearn, with collaboration from McCormack and her husband, Michael Morris.
In early 2014, Handler released her fifth book, Uganda Be Kidding Me, which was number one on The New York Times Best Seller list for two weeks. That same year, in June, Handler did the stand-up show Uganda Be Kidding Me: Live, which was then released on Netflix in October 2014.
Handler was a vocal supporter of the 2016 presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and was critical of her opponent Donald Trump. In 2016, she told The Daily Beast that a Trump presidency would be the "end of our civilization".
In 2016, Handler filmed a documentary series for Netflix titled Chelsea Does, consisting of four episodes on marriage, Silicon Valley, racism, and drugs. In May 2016, she began presenting her new Netflix original comedy talk show Chelsea. Handler said she envisioned a show more serious than Chelsea Lately: "I would like a healthy mix of everything that goes on around the world, mixed with interesting stuff in our country. The well-roundedness of 60 Minutes but faster, quicker, cooler." The first season streamed Wednesday, Thursday and Friday each week; season 2 streams every Friday. In October 2017, Handler announced that the show will be concluding after its second season, as she wishes to focus on activism.
In October 2017, it was reported Handler had partnered with TNT to develop a potential drama series based on Jarrett Kobek's book, I Hate the Internet, as executive producer, together with Studio T, Studio 8's Katherine Pope, Michael Morris, and Kobek. The series will examine the phenomenon of internet discussions and dialogues and what impact it has on one's values and relationships.
In March 2018, Handler signed a multi-year first-look deal with NBCUniversal, in which she would develop programming for Universal Television and Universal Television Alternate Studio.
In August 2018, Handler revealed she had begun working on a documentary for Netflix examining the concept of white privilege and the impact it has had on her life's trajectory. Titled Hello, Privilege. It's Me Chelsea, it was released in September 2019.
In February 2019, Marvel Television and Hulu announced an expanded partnership for several new animated series based on the comics' off-kilter characters. Of the four planned, Handler would produce Marvel's Tigra & Dazzler Show, together with Jeph Loeb and Erica Rivinoja. The series was planned to be based on the story of two "woke" superhero best friends, Tigra and Dazzler, as they fought for recognition. However, in December 2019, Rivinoja and the series' writers departed the project after creative differences, leaving Handler and Loeb remaining on the production team. In January 2020, Marvel Studios scrapped the series.
In April 2019, Handler published her first memoir, Life Will Be the Death of Me, through Penguin Random House. The memoir focuses on her experiences during her year of self-discovery. She embarked on a comedy tour to promote the memoir. Universal TV acquired the rights in September 2019 to adapt the book into a television series.
In May 2020, Handler announced she will produce and star in a stand-up special for WarnerMedia's HBO Max. In it, she will discuss her life experiences regarding family, friendships, and therapy. Her manager, Irving Azoff, and Allison Statter will also join Handler in producing the special.
In June 2020 she posted to her social network account a video of the controversial Louis Farrakhan, later apologizing for it.
In September 2020, Handler executive produced and sold two comedies she developed at Universal: Blair, sold to HBO Max, follows a judgmental young woman who is at her own rock-bottom, and Wiped Out, sold to Peacock, chronicles a woman's quest to rebuild her life after her existence is erased from the world following a passing black hole.
On October 23, 2020, Handler appeared on the The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon. In reference to 50 Cent endorsing Trump for re-election, she said that she "had to remind him that he was a black person, so he couldn't vote for Donald Trump". Handler's comments were condemned as racist and she publicly apologized the next day.