April 13, 2022

Orange may be the New Black. But is Chelsea Handler the New…Kindness?

In the months that I’ve been writing for Elephant Journal, I never thought I’d write a story that would bring two completely opposite brands together: Elephant Journal, of the wellness, kindness, spreading positive energy to the world brand; and Chelsea Handler, of the caustic, take-no-prisoners, unapologetically rude and brash to the world brand.

I love Elephant. In the eight months since I published my first article here, I’ve found it eye-opening to know that such a platform exists in today’s cynical and, often, bitter world. To know that there is a community here that genuinely supports one another with encouragement, good energy, and kindness. Lots and lots of kindness.

But see, I also love—love—Chelsea Handler.

And with Handler, call her what you will, the one thing she’s not known for is being kind. Or gentle. Or patient. Or mushy. She is an in-your-face, everyone-is-fair-game, screw-you-and-the-whole-world kind of comedian.

Over the years, I’ve watched her make fun of everyone, including her own family. In fact, some of her most brutal jokes have been at her own father’s expense. I’ve seen guests on her talk show shrivel up and cringe with embarrassment when she’s gone off on a rampage. Unsurprisingly, there are many who loathe her for her meanness and “hate-filled” humor. Many of my own close friends refer to her with words that are probably not kind to utter here.

So, although she hasn’t shown much kindness, I’ve continued to love Handler.

That’s not to say that I haven’t winced or cringed when she takes people apart. I used to religiously watch her E! late-night talk show almost a decade ago and have sat through her stark tirades as she went in on everyone, including her then ex-boyfriend Ted Harbert, who was still her boss as CEO and President of E!

I was in awe of her. It took cojones to continue working for the same man she’d dumped, and then to make fun of him on his own network.

Then there was 50 Cent, whom she dated for a New York-minute and then dumped. She’d often make fun of the many expensive presents he sent to “woo” her back, which she’d subsequently return to him saying, “I can buy my own Bentley!”

To me, Handler was someone who’d made it as a comic in a notoriously male-dominated field, lived life on her terms, made fun of men for a change, and called it like it is. What’s not to like? Don’t get me wrong: I hoped she’d be a little nicer with her comedy, but I still loved her even when she wasn’t.

And while I’ve wanted to write about Handler for a while, I knew I could never write about her on Elephant. Their respective brands just didn’t match, at all.

Until one day, they did.

So, what changed?

Turns out…Chelsea Handler did.

Since 2021, ladies and gentlemen, there is a new Chelsea Handler in town. She’s still funny and snarky AF, but she is also someone who is…mushy. And kind. And gentle. Yes. Color me stunned when I started noticing a brand-new Handler posting gushy captions on her Instagram about being in love, being hopeful, and wanting everyone to keep the faith. These are the topics I would normally find on Elephant, but for them to come from the mind of Handler? Never, I thought.

And since it’s Chelsea Handler, I couldn’t even be cynical, shrug my shoulders, and think that she’s become a gentler, kinder person because of some dude in her life. She ain’t changing herself for no man, I thought.

So, I was flabbergasted, gobsmacked really, when I realized that it is (at least in part) because of a dude.

I almost fainted when I realized her 180-degree turnaround was not just because of some random dude, but Jo Koy, a comedian who is known for being gentle, patient, and kind.

To back up a bit, I saw Koy many times as a guest on Handler’s talk show back in the day. I always thought he had to be the nicest person on the planet (or a masochist) because even when Handler was brutal to him, he always smiled and took it. I don’t remember one time that Koy was even able to finish a sentence because Handler would cut him off and then make fun of him. But he never took offense, and it seemed like the more she made fun of him, the more he came back.

So, I was shocked when Handler professed her love for Koy last year. And since then, in one of her many mushy posts about finding and falling madly in love, she said this on Instagram:

“Do you know how hot it is to have a man be turned on by my honesty, strength, and confidence? Someone who loves the fact that I’m not going to take anyone’s sh*t and isn’t intimidated or emasculated by my fierceness? Jo has renewed my faith in men. For everyone who is still looking for their person, do not adjust who you are or make yourself smaller to find them. Be patient and never settle for anything less than you deserve. Your person is coming and sometimes—they’ve been standing in front of you the whole time.”

In another post she said:

“Just sitting here in Mallorca thinking about how grateful I am to have so many people that I love in my life, to live the life I do and to be going on tour doing what I love. And that I’m finally in love, with the best kind of guy there is. There is hope for everyone! That kind of stuff.”

How did any of this even happen? I kept asking myself, like a lunatic.

Handler falling in love is not the big news here. Her falling in love with a gentle, soft, sweet, and incredibly kind person like Koy is. Sure, opposites attract and all that. But Handler has known Koi for over a decade. The Handler of 2010 didn’t even seem to find him attractive, even though he’s said he’s loved her for years. But the Chelsea Handler of 2022 does.

So, what changed?

I’m guessing that Handler herself has. In the brashness and immediacy of her rise to comedy superstardom, the mean streak present inside her was allowed free reign. But I’m guessing that life happened to her, like it does to all of us. These days she seems mellower, calmer, and kinder. Maybe the realization finally struck that it’s easy to be cocky and arrogant but it’s infinitely harder to be gentle and kind and still be a rockstar comedian, like Koy. According to the Hollywood Reporter, “pre-pandemic, his Just Kidding tour made him the second-highest-grossing comedian in the world behind only Jerry Seinfeld.”

I’m chuffed to bits. Handler and Koy are now working and touring together and are considered comedy’s new power couple. They’re both openly lovey-dovey with each other, and the most recent image of Koy adjusting Handler’s train at the Oscar’s red carpet has made even the worst of the Scrooge-types go “Awww!”

I’m not sure how long this persona of Handler’s will last. I constantly find myself waiting for the other shoe to drop. Can someone really go through a complete 180 when it comes to who they are? Can the perennially snarky, caustic, no-sh*ts-given Handler go through a sea change in her basic personality? Can any of us? Yes? No? Maybe?

Obviously, no one knows.

But for as long as this nicer and kinder Handler lasts, I’m all for it. As I get older, I’ve witnessed myself calm down. I know I want to live the rest of my life doing good, being happy, and spreading joy as much as I can. I have no tolerance for meanness or pettiness anymore because life is too short. Maybe that’s what happened with Handler? Maybe.

Or maybe Handler found that at the end of the day she was just another girl standing in front of a boy looking for love and happiness, and found it in someone who was there all along? Maybe.

Or maybe Handler found that she can be funny and nice and that these qualities are not mutually exclusive. She can be snarky and caustic in her comedy but also be uplifting and empowering, and, most importantly, kind in her actual life. Maybe.

Yeah. That. I’m going with the last one. The one where she realized she can let the world see her kindness.

This one’s personal because I recently found that I can be kind as well, and I’m liking how that makes me feel.

So, let’s welcome Ms. Chelsea Handler as a new, fellow traveler in the world of kindness. Also, welcome to Elephant.


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