In this week’s New Yorker , critic Nancy Franklin takes on women in comedy . She spends a minute extolling the virtues of Betty White’s fantastic SNL performance, but the piece is mostly about E! late-night TV hostess Chelsea Handler. Handler’s show is called Chelsea Lately , and Franklin says Handler’s bad-girl persona is the most interesting aspect of the program (read Slate ‘s Troy Patterson on Handler’s “drunken-slattern shtick” here ). While I believe Franklin is right that Handler is more charismatic than her C-list stable of guests, I was intrigued by the fact that Franklin described Handler-who is also the author of three memoirs-as “self-centered”:
Handler doesn’t seem to have the same interest in other people that she has in herself; it’s unlikely that she would light up the way Jimmy Fallon did a few weeks ago when he had the Bee Gees (the two surviving ones, that is) on his show. Wit and self-centeredness, not enthusiasm, are the hallmarks of Handler’s show, as is a certain kind of naughtiness.
Though the criticism is not unwarranted, it’s worth noting that it’s also typical: Women who write memoirs are criticized for being self-centered or narcissistic with far more frequency than male memoirists. Franklin neglects to mention the reason that Fallon might have been psyched about the Bee Gees-it’s not necessarily because he has any innate interest in other people, it’s because Fallon impersonated Bee Gee Barry Gibb when he was on SNL . It will be interesting to see if Handler’s enthusiasm for her guests is heightened when her guests become, well, actually exciting . I wonder if Jimmy Fallon would seem enthusiastic if he were interviewing ex-Bravo TV has-beens rather than the mega pop-stars he used to imitate.
Photograph of Chelsea Handler by Angela Weiss/Getty Images.