For the record, interviews really don't make me nervous. Perhaps it's the decades of interviewing everyone from Nobel Prize winners to serial killers, but more likely it's the fact that the truth is the truth. All that said, when I was invited to interview Chelsea Handler in front of a standing-room-only audience at the Sun Valley Film Festival, I felt the proverbial butterflies. While I immediately said yes, I reminded myself that Handler doesn't suffer any fools and is, more often than not, the smartest person in the room. Simply put, I knew I had better bring my A game if I was going to sit a few feet away from one of quickest wits on the planet.
Before the event, publicists offered me an advance copy of Life Will Be the Death of Me, Handler's full-on, emotion-packed memoir. The book, which will hit bookshelves Tuesday, April 9, is devastating and unlike anything Handler has written before. Then came March 14, the date of my in-the-spotlight conversation with Handler on the stage of the Argyros Performing Arts Center in Ketchum. It's a major understatement to say I had over-prepared for the moment. I stepped into the spotlight, was greeted with polite applause, and began my from-the-heart introduction. I spoke of Handler's wildly popular television shows, her five bestselling books, her unbridled honesty and her newfound, heartfelt desire to share her path toward healing.
"It's an unforgettable book," I said, building to her big introduction. "And its title is..."
Then, it happened. Every ounce of blood in my body rushed to my head, muscling out any brain cells from my cerebellum.
"And the title of this jaw-dropping book is..." I paused, then blurted out, "The title is Death Will Be the Life of Me."
I felt myself turn white. My eyes froze, I forgot to breathe, and in the nanosecond after the words crossed my lips, I knew I had botched the title of the book.
"IT'S CALLED LIFE WILL BE THE DEATH OF ME!" Handler screamed from just offstage. The audience burst into laughter, and my head hung so low that it practically detached from my body. Handler walked out to a thunderous ovation from the still-laughing audience as I begged for mercy. What followed was nearly an hour of tender, tearful, joyful, hilarious conversation that I will not forget anytime soon. Here are a few excerpts.
In your memoir, you say that your dad used to tell you there was usually a line or two in any book that could summarize or define it. As I was reading through your memoir, I continually changed my mind, saying to myself, "That's the line" or, "No, that's definitely the line." Ultimately, I decided the line was something your mother told you just before she died: "You don't know your own strength. Please use it for something good."
This book came after a bit of an emotional breakdown after the 2016 election, and I needed to see a psychiatrist. It was like a rug had been pulled out from under me, and my outrage was really high. I was mad all day long. I would go to work, film my TV show, go home and scream, "Can you believe this happened?" I spent my first three sessions with my psychiatrist bitching about Donald Trump being president. It felt good. Then, what we uncovered in the following sessions was my adult outrage was part of a long-held outrage from my childhood, when my brother died, and how everything was unhinged.
You were 9 years old then, and it seems a big part of you remained 9 years old for many, many years to come.
The very last thing my brother told me was, "I'm never going to leave you with these people. Don't worry. I'm not going away. You're never going to be without me." Then he died when I was 9. Through much of my life, I was like, "I'm independent. Get away from me. I don't need anybody. I'm the only person I can rely on."
Your brother died when he was 22 years old. Twenty-two years later, you were faced with the loss of your mother.
When my brother died, it felt unrecoverable, like I would never get over it. When someone is snatched from your life, you think there's no amount of therapy that can make you feel okay. Twenty-two years later, when my mom died, she wanted me to help her die. I wanted it to be over with, because I didn't want her to suffer and she'd struggled with cancer for so many years.
I'm certain that I won't be the first to tell you that I was not prepared for your book. Your fans know your brilliant comedy, but this is so personal and unexpectedly poignant.
I didn't want to write another silly, stupid book. I needed to do something authentic, something meaningful. Look, I've made a living by oversharing in my comedy, and I wasn't really planning on writing anything like this unless I had something to say.
You write that, before therapy, you had lost the joy from your life.
What I realized by talking to my therapist was that I was always running, running, running. Never stopping. I just couldn't sit still. My therapist told me over and over, "You have a deep, deep injury. Stop pretending. You're not going to be any use to anybody until you are any use to yourself."
Can we talk for a second about Robert Mueller?
I'm obsessed with him. I've always been attracted to older men, so watch yourself. He's a Marine, and that's hot to me. He's an older man who can still keep his act together. He has a six-pack under that suit. I'm sure of it. In fact, it's probably an eight-pack.
Are you a little afraid of what the Mueller Report might not include?
Not at all. I think we have a criminal on our hands. And anything that we suspect the president of doing, he's already done. That report can't come soon enough. I'm very horny for that report. I'm like a cat in heat.
Your book is quite remarkable, and it's one of the few books that I can't wait to read again, as soon as possible.
At the very least, you might want to read the title again.