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Laughter: The Best Medicine for Chelsea Handler

The comedian, author, and talk-show host talks love, laughter, loss, and her new book 'Uganda Be Kidding Me.'
By Lauren Paige Kennedy
WebMD Magazine - Feature

Have you no shame, Chelsea Handler? The brutally honest comedian answers this question with an emphatic "No!"

Handler famously dishes it out with a take-no-prisoners style on her late-night E! talk show, Chelsea Lately. She gladly takes it, too. Whether she's mining her own love life, mocking her reputation as a boozy party girl, or serving up coming-of-age stories, the new Queen of All Media doesn't shy away from her foibles, missteps, and altogether humanness.

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It's fitting that Handler is also an author -- she's had four best-sellers, and her fifth book, Uganda Be Kidding Me, a collection of travel-inspired essays, hits shelves this March -- because her life is an open book.

"I don't take myself too seriously," the star says. "I think that's emotionally healthy. If you make a fool out of yourself, I don't think there's any point in feeling stupid about it. It's better to share it and laugh. Everything makes for a good story, in my opinion, after about 20 minutes. Even if it's horrendously embarrassing or humiliating, it's always funny."

As she chronicles in her second book, Are You There, Vodka? It's Me, Chelsea, she first knew she could be a comedian at age 21 after being charged with driving under the influence. When she was asked to tell a court-mandated class about her DUI experience -- which entailed spending the night in prison with female murderers -- she left her fellow offenders overflowing with laughter. The rest is comedy history. So is getting behind the wheel loaded, for that matter. "I got a DUI once," she told a panel of reporters. "I haven't gotten one since."

What sets Handler apart, then, is her total self-acceptance, warts and all. "I embrace my shortcomings," she says. "I don't have too many regrets. You have to embrace the things you don't like about yourself or the things you find embarrassing. You can't be like: I don't want people to know I did this! Who cares?"

Truth Be Told

She feels the same way about her love life, which she's not at all uncomfortable discussing. The comedian never married but has been in several long-term, publicly charted partnerships -- she dated former Comcast CEO Ted Harbert for 4 years, followed by an on-and-off flame, hotelier André Balazs, with whom she split for good in October – and she is the first to tell you she's enjoyed her fair share of romances.

So the double standard women often face when it comes to their sexuality doesn't sit well with her. "I feel like it's our duty as women to go out and get what we want," Handler says. "There's nothing wrong with thinking, 'That's a really hot guy!' And going up to a man in a bar -- which I actually did this weekend in New York City -- and giving him your phone number. It doesn't matter whether he calls or not. It matters that you put yourself out there and you don't really care about the outcome. I don't have any shame in that at all."

She's equally unguarded about her unplanned pregnancy at age 16, which she chose to terminate after pained reflection. While she doesn't joke about that memory, she doesn't hide from it either. Brokering in honesty, it seems, is Handler's business.

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