Thank God for supporting casts.
Sticking to the format of her hit talk show “Chelsea Lately,” Chelsea Handler brought her star troupe of comedians along to warm up the audience before she took the stage at the Wells Fargo Theatre on Thursday.
Brad Wollack, Heather McDonald and Josh Wolf (respectively) took the stage and stole the show from their headlining boss. (Click here to read our Why So Serious? Q&A with McDonald.) In fact Handler, who seemed to be suffering from some sort of skin rash with giant red blotches covering her face, seemed to be off her game, complaining she wasn’t drinking (her signature vodka) because she was afraid it would worsen the undetermined skin irritation.
She did, however, pour herself a large plastic cup of vodka and gulp it down before the show’s end.
Still, it seemed autopilot kicked in and the 36-year-old comedian had no problem taking comedy back to that old familiar place. The place where cheap shots and easy racial jokes seem as fresh as the first time you heard them. Back when toilet humor actually held shock value (middle school).
Handler started her set with a smattering of jokes targeted at blacks, Asians and homosexuals. Nothing groundbreaking. She poked fun at the facts that she has very few black fans in the audience. There apparently was one black fan that attended her book signing in Boulder early yesterday and promised to be at her show that night. Handler then called out her name and asked her to “smile” if she was in her audience.
Then it was onto Asians and jokes about being bad drivers and placing inadvertent “r’s” in words that have none. “Oh my RrrOD! You’re CheRree HanRrdler!”
She rebutted by saying that she, too, was a bad driver — being female, blonde and Jewish.
The show then moved into a haze of narratives about performing oral sex for the first time, not making the cheerleading squad in high school and mistrust of people who don’t mix alcohol and prescription drugs.
The funniest part of the show was Handler having to constantly scream out to the audience that “Chuy” (her Hispanic little person sidekick) wasn’t at the show, after fans kept begging to see him take the stage. All in all backing up the idea that Handler’s fans are in it for the supporting cast, who returned to the stage to salvage the show by answering audience questions. You get the sense that the three comedians have the same “tongue-in-cheek” love for their boss that most office workers do.
Chelsea Handler may indeed be funny, but she seemed to be phoning it in last night. Her supporting cast did more than provide support; they held up the show like Atlas.
Evan Semón is a Denver freelance writer and photographer and regular contributor to Reverb. See more of his work.