Most talk show interviews, if you didn’t know already, feature a casual-yet-contrived chat with a celebrity who just so happens to be promoting their latest film or television show or album or run for president. Chelsea Handler’s Netflix talk show Chelsea does things a little differently. In addition to in-studio interviews, Handler frequently takes her show on location, meeting people and exploring cultures and perspectives different from her own. Sometimes that location is her own dinner table. Ahead of season two of Chelsea, set to debut on April 14th, I spoke with Handler about her star-studded dinner parties and the importance of bringing people together.
F&W: What makes for a perfect dinner party guest list?
CH: You want people a) that are going to drink and b) that don’t necessarily know each other. I like having people that don’t know each other. I feel like that’s always interesting. And find topics that aren’t so specific to their career. I think everyone that’s a public figure is so used to talking about themselves in a way that’s a promotional tool. So it’s nice to get people talking about real stuff because, obviously, we have different parts of our lives. There are other things you care about.
Do you have more dinner party segments planned?
Yeah, we shot a lot of dinner parties. We shot so much I can’t believe we haven’t switched the show yet. Can’t we just use all this footage and I could just bow out?
How did the idea come about?
We did them for the [Chelsea Does...] documentaries and they worked out really well, so I wanted to incorporate them into my show. Last year’s were really successful so we just did even more this year. It’s more relaxed, you have two hours to unwind and to navigate the conversation into areas of particular interest.
Do you find yourself hosting parties like these in your personal life?
Oh, I have dinner parties all the time at my house. My house is an entertainment house. It’s not for children, it’s for adults. I’m a social person. I’ve had dinner parties for six people and I’ve had dinner parties for twenty-five people at my house.
What foods would you recommend or not recommend for good conversation?
Well the last dinner party we had Korean barbecue and that wasn’t great for conversation because you’re gnawing on a bone the whole time. So anything where you have to gnaw on a bone, maybe not. But I don’t think it’s food specific.
How do you choose the topics for each dinner?
I feel like if you choose one topic it turns into many subtopics. We did a sports dinner party one night with Russell Wilson, Kurt Warner, Aly Raisman the gymnast and Laila Ali... and it was this great cross-section of people. That was kind of all-encompassing of drive, ambition, training, doping and all the things that go along with that. I just did one in London with Naomi Campbell, Alexa Chung, Rob Delaney this American comedian who lives over there, and Rita Ora and we talked about the class system in England and the class system in America and how everybody grew up.
Do you like hosting people, or would you rather meet at a restaurant?
I always prefer to have it at my house because then we end up hanging out later than normal. We did a really fun education dinner party with my best friend Mary McCormack, Rashida Jones, Jim Parsons and Gabby Hoffman and that was really fun because we all hung out later than the dinner party and sat around, and my crew is there. We film so much at my house, there’s always a crew meal so we sit and eat together all the time. So it’s nice to use my house. It’s important to have over and to have them break it in. I think it’s one of the benefits of being an adult and getting too tipsy at dinner and you’re not out in public. It’s more intimate than a restaurant and it’s a safer place to be.
You’ve also taken your show to other countries like Mexico, Russia and Japan. Where are you headed this season?
We went to England, we went to Wales, we went to Paris. India was incredible, I mean the footage we have I can’t believe it. I took a Bollywood dance class. I’ve never been more humiliated in my life. I had more confidence playing rugby in England with a professional rugby team. But it’s fun. It’s fun to be out of your comfort zone. I like to do things I don’t know anything about.
The other day we went to Compton for this after school performing arts program and talked to all these kids. They do hip hop dance therapy and they taught me, or they tried to, hip hop dancing. And they all went around the room and told me why this after school program is so important. I’m basically trying to highlight things that need attention because of the administration, etc. There are all of these beautiful stories woven into the fabric of different parts of the world and it’s nice to show how much we all have in common and to also be really silly and stupid. We also shot in Montana with Native American Indians. They killed a bison and carved it up and we ate it raw.
How was raw bison?
You know, not great.
Why do you think it’s important to invite people to the table or travel to meet them?
For me, I think it’s important to be around people that aren’t like you, you know what I mean? To be open-minded and just constantly be challenging yourself and when you think you know and what you do know. Be open to people you don’t necessarily have anything in common with.
Is there a city you’ve lived in or been to-Los Angeles, New York, or somewhere abroad-that’s your “food home?”
Spain is my favorite place for food. I love jamón, I love everything about Spanish food, tapas, the small portions. New York is more exciting for me for food than L.A., but L.A. is where I spend most of my time so I go to the same five places. New York, I’m always trying something new. Spain, you can try anything and not have a bad meal. And surprise, the best Chinese food I’ve ever had was in India.
New episodes of Chelsea will stream Fridays on Netflix beginning April 14th.