Chelsea Handler on her late-night TV status: “No One Puts Baby in Parentheses”

Chelsea Handler has presided over a raucous, ribald and riotous late-night comedy talk show since the summer of 2007, rotating in three different panelists each weeknight to make fun of the tabloids and their targets on E!’s Chelsea Lately along with her sidekick, Chuy, and her own writing staff — who received their own spin-off mockumentary series, After Lately, running for three seasons on the cable channel.

I almost put After Lately within a parenthetical.

But as Handler herself notes in a new essay today on The Huffington Post, she is not about to let her or her writers be relegated to an afterthought.

Her essay, “No One Puts Baby in Parentheses,” responds to a New York Times article by Bill Carter about Jimmy Fallon taking over The Tonight Show.

Understanding all of that, I obviously didn’t expect or want to be a focal point of the piece, and I really just appreciated the photo of me at the top of the article placed alongside my late night contemporaries that featured my new haircut — the feedback has been overwhelming. What bothered me was that when I was listed in a paragraph with the late-night hosts, I was the only name put in parentheses. Mr. Carter wrote, “(The only female host in late-night is Chelsea Handler, 38, on E!).”

I wanted to confirm what a parenthetical suggests, so I looked up the definition. The first few definitions that came up were: incidental, subordinate in significance, minor or casual.

The particular paragraph I was mentioned in was about the competition Jimmy faces for younger viewers. Depending upon whose research you look at, I share the distinction of having the youngest average viewership with Colbert, The Daily Show and Conan. So from a purely statistical standpoint how, in this paragraph, could I only be mentioned as an aside? Was it because I’m a woman?

I don’t expect everyone to like me or my show, or even watch my show — most nights I’m my harshest critic both professionally and personally. And while much of the press has kindly acknowledged my contribution to the late-night landscape I feel over the years, several media outlets have marginalized my presence in the late-night game. I imagined my sustained on-air presence would eventually triumph over any possible gender biases. Plus, I don’t have the energy or desire to pick a fight with every journalist. I think anyone who has ever heard me speak knows how I’d rather spend my leisure time.

I’m speaking up with the awareness that some will roll their eyes or dismiss my point. Yet it would be a disservice to all of the hard working women in entertainment, including Joan Rivers, who was the first woman to have her own late night show. Not to mention how this minimizes the efforts of the 100+ staff members who work hard on my show every day.

And just as I don’t want to be inconsequential in any late-night discourse, I also don’t want to be singled-out and lauded merely because I am successful “for a woman.” I only want to be acknowledged for having worked hard to build an equally significant audience and fan base to those of my peers. I believe the success of any woman should never be qualified by her gender.

This isn’t about Bill Carter. This is about being noted as a parenthetical, reaffirming what I feel has been an underlying, yet consistent inconsistency with how I am handled as the only woman in a traditionally male field. My only goal when I started this show six-and-a-half years ago was to offer viewers another voice to end their day with (even if my show is on E!). That’s the appropriate use of a parenthetical.

Read Handler’s full essay at The Huffington Post.

Chelsea Handler is going back out on a new stand-up tour this spring, “Uganda Be Kidding Me.”

Chelsea Handler’s Uganda Be Kidding Me Tour

  • 03.05.2014 DAR Constitution Hall Washington, DC
  • 03.06.2014 Quicken Loans Arena Cleveland, OH
  • 03.07.2014 Citi Wang Theatre Boston, MA
  • 03.08.2014 Theatre at The Garden New York, NY
  • 03.09.2014 The Chicago Theatre Chicago, IL
  • 03.11.2014 Alex Theatre In Conversation with Gwyneth Paltrow Glendale, CA
  • 03.14.2014 Sands Bethlehem Event Center Bethlehem, PA
  • 03.15.2014 The Fox Theatre Atlanta, GA
  • 03.21.2014 Davies Symphony Hall San Francisco , CA
  • 03.22.2014 Comerica Theatre Phoenix, AZ
  • 03.28.2014 Verizon Theater Dallas, TX
  • 03.29.2014 Bayou Music Center Houston, TX
  • 03.30.2014 Bass Concert Hall Austin, TX
  • 04.04.2014 Fillmore Miami Beach Miami Beach, FL
  • 04.05.2014 Durham Performing Arts Center Durham, NC
  • 04.11.2014 Bellco Theatre Denver, CO
  • 04.12.2014 Scottrade Center St. Louis, MO
  • 04.13.2014 Target Center Minneapolis, MN
  • 04.18.2014 Paramount Theatre Seattle, WA
  • 04.19.2014 Keller Auditorium Portland, OR
  • 04.25.2014 San Diego Civic Theatre San Diego, CA
  • 04.26.2014 The Forum Inglewood, CA
  • 05.02.2014 Starlight Theatre Kansas City, MO
  • 05.03.2014 Fox Theatre Detroit, MI
  • 05.09.2014 Ruth Eckerd Hall Clearwater, FL
  • 05.10.2014 Consol Energy Center Pittsburgh, PA
  • 05.22.2014 Casino Rama Entertainment Centre Orillia, ON
  • 05.24.2014 Mohegan Sun Uncasville, CT
  • 05.25.2014 Caesars Atlantic City Hotel & Casino Atlantic City, NJ

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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