It’s been about four months since the first episode of Chelsea Handler’s Netflix talk show was released, but the comedian feels they have already found their groove.
As the streaming company’s first talk show, “Chelsea” had to evolve before viewers’ eyes, and in real time.
“I feel like I was digging into something like unknown territory for me, and trying to kind of do something that was breaking with the format of a traditional talk show,” Handler, 41, told Business Insider.
Handler didn’t want to use the classic late-night talk show format of a monologue, guests, musical guests, etc. It was a definitely a process of experimentation for several weeks.
“I feel like we clicked in about six weeks in. Or I clicked in, personally, on a performance level,” she explained. “And now, it’s just everything keeps falling into place.”
Although the show streams just three new episodes a week, it’s a full-time job for Handler and the show’s staff.
Business Insider got a rare look at a day with Handler behind-the-scenes of her talk show at the Sony Pictures Studios lot in Los Angeles.
Here’s a look at what a taping day for Netflix’s “Chelsea” is like:
'Chelsea' showrunner Sue Murphy runs this meeting. They go over the show rundown and allow staffers across different departments -- such as writers, talent, field, social media, PR, and research -- to coordinate efforts.
And Handler says she has a morning ritual.
'I have like an arugula salad at 8 o'clock in the morning with turkey and hummus in it,' she said. 'And my whole production is disgusted by me. That's pretty much my ritual.'
During this time, Handler tries to shape a segment so that viewers really learn something new.
'Luckily now, there are so many other shows where you're playing games or you're singing songs or stuff,' she said. 'It's an opportunity to have a real conversation, and to have fun with it. So we just try and find areas that they haven't really touched upon yet, and then ways to kind of get into a deeper conversation in a shorter amount of time, depending on who I'm talking to.'
10:03 a.m. PT: In her office on the Sony Pictures Studios lot, Handler takes a call with 'Today' show producers regarding an upcoming appearance.
Handler stocks her office fridge for survival and it comes in handy in times like this one.
'The refrigerator is stocked with some primary ingredients that I go through all day,' the host said. 'Like I've got all my meals, I've got all my drinks and beverages in there. So it's stocked a little bit like 'Sleeping with the Enemy.' There aren't a lot of free minutes in the day.'
10:45 a.m. PT: Handler supervises the editing of a field piece (segments shot outside the studio) for the show with, from left, Karin Hoving, Dan Maurio, and Blake Webster.
'I love editing,' Handler told us. 'It's nice to kind of hit the comedy and tighten up a piece and make it play better, or remember things that you said that aren't necessarily in there that you want placed back in there. So, that's a process I enjoy.'
12:11 p.m. PT: Handler meets up with her 'glam squad' -- makeup artist Monika Blunder, left, and Christine Symons on hair. Handler's dog, Tammy, tags along.
'I don't ever do anything. I can't put makeup on at all,' Handler said. 'No, I just come in and then they fix me.'
It takes Handler about an hour-and-a-half for hair and makeup.
'It's easy when you have the same people,' she explained. 'It becomes quicker and quicker. I can't sit still for very long anyway.'
12:33 p.m. PT: Handler rehearses for the show, though she gets pre-occupied with her dog, Chunk. But Handler has to get back to work.
Handler gives her dog, Chunk, the freedom to roam around the set during filming. Her other dog, Tammy, recently got in on the action, too.
'Like once a week, I let Tammy on and she usually is even better than Chunk,' Handler said. 'Chunk sits perfectly in between the sofa areas in the main interview area, so that the audience sees him. And he's not trained or anything. He just does that on his own. And then Tammy got up, like the first time on the show, just got up on the table between me and the interview -- just like to block your view of Chunk. So, they're having a war.'
1:20 p.m. PT: Handler takes a photo with social influencers and that day's show guests, from left, Flula, Anthony Padilla, Ian Hecox, and Mamrie Hart.
Like most of her guests, Handler hopes to find out something she didn't know before. On this day, she has invited some top social media influencers.
'Social media is a huge new wave, so I try to be as open to it as possible,' she said. 'It's not like something you can't participate in. You have to. I have to, with my job. It's interesting. Everybody's able to make a career out of doing things that wasn't even possible years and years ago. So, it's really cool to see it, and it's always better to embrace something than to be like, 'No, I'm too good for that.''
1:37 p.m. PT: Handler and Chunk meet up with Kate Upton, another guest on that day's show. Why not post to social media?
In the first video below, Handler and Upton test out some fast food, in their bras. And in the second video, Chunk gives fans a look at the world from his point of view:
(video provider='youtube' id='rO-UB5517WI' size='xlarge' align='center')
Handler doesn't have a ritual that she does ahead of taping.
'Right before taping, you're always bombarded with last-minute notes, and saying hi to the guests, and making sure you know what you're doing right at the top, but it's really hectic,' Handler said. 'There's never really any down time or alone time. And if there is, I'm usually checking my phone or answering emails or something. It's like the less I prepare for something, it's almost better. Whenever I over-prepare, it's like I'm a little too stiff, so I just try and stay really kind of loose.'
Handler opens pretty much every episode with the very nonchalant greeting, 'Oh, Hello.' She said that wasn't planned.
'Oh, that was an accident. Yeah, I did it as a joke once, it was funny, and then I just kind of kept doing it,' she said. 'And then I forgot about it, and then one of the writers was like, 'Do that 'Oh, hello,' thing again,' and I was like, 'Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah, that's funny.' And then, I just kind of did it. You know, I think all of those signature things always happen accidentally.'
In preparation for a chat with the audience, the producers scour the group of people waiting to be seated in the audience.
'The producers let people know to not be shy and to raise their hands,' Handler explained. 'So I think whoever is going to speak, if somebody feels confident about telling their story, they know who they are. I don't know who those people are going to be, but the people know who they are going to be. And they're usually seated in the first few rows, so it makes it less complicated.'
Transitioning between segments and guests has been a work in progress for the show, but Handler thinks they have worked it out.
'It was a little weird at first because there were no commercials, but then we just figured out the way to make it flow within the format of this show,' Handler said. 'Before, it was a little choppier and just felt under-produced, because I just wanted it to be. But then I realised it just didn't look right, and it didn't feel right, so now it's better. We just fade out and go to whatever the next transition is, and we have transitional pieces built in throughout the show instead of walking from one place to the other on camera.'
Since the show is taped, the show can do re-shoots. Handler tries to limit those in favour of the natural flow she envisions for the show.
'We rarely shoot things over again, unless I really flub a line, or if it's an introduction that I flub,' Handler said. 'If it's somebody's movie and I'm mispronouncing it, then yes. But no, it's my call usually. If I don't like the way I do something, I'll be like, 'Let me do that again slower,' or speed it up or something.'
2:29 p.m. PT: Handler prepares for the day's final segment by reviewing notes and getting some final hair and makeup touch-ups.
Since Netflix doesn't have to answer to advertisers, it's pretty flexible about episode lengths for its shows. But according to Handler, they played with episode length for a while.
'Taping an episode flies by. It's only 30 minutes,' Handler told us. 'We usually go a little bit longer. Episodes have been between like 30 and 40 minutes a lot. But I like that, because if it goes that long there's no reason to cut it for time. If it's interesting and it's all working and there's energy, then I don't mind it being a little bit long. In the beginning, we were trying to keep it to 30 minutes. And now it's a little bit longer, but I don't think it should be over 40 minutes. You know, I want it to be digestible.'
An original #Girlboss herself, Handler is happy to support guests who are empowering other women. It doesn't hurt that Omaruso's book and life are being made into an upcoming series for Netflix.
'Obviously, I'm a girl, so you want other girls to empowered, and you want girls to get confidence, be strong,' Handler said. 'So that's a very natural theme, being who I am. It's not like it's some original idea. I just try to embrace all walks of life in that arena, and all girls, and whether they're similar to you or dissimilar, even if they're not people you'd necessarily hang out with, I think it's a strong, positive message to always support that, to always highlight people who have huge success stories, and people that are going after something, and that have a unique voice.'
While the day's show taping is over, Handler's day continues with Netflix's International Female Tastemaker Event. Netflix flew in female bloggers and social media mavens from all over the world to meet Handler and some of the 'Chelsea' producers.
The next day, the women will spend time with the stars and producers of '#Girlboss.'
Although the event is over, Handler's day isn't done and she's been going since about 7:30 a.m.
'Usually I go into post-production after the show, and then I'll edit for about half hour or an hour, look at different pieces,' Handler said. 'And then I go back to the writers and we talk about the next day. And then I go in with talent and we talk about pitches or people who are available to come on, or ideas that they have of explainers, whether it be like science or football. Sometimes we tape after a show. We do a field segment. But I'm usually in the office until around 5.'
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