For the nearly 1 million viewers who tune in to watch “Chelsea Lately” every night on E!, host Chelsea Handler is the equivalent of a catty best girlfriend whose barbed opinions on celebrities are like a copy of Us Weekly come to life, only way, way funnier.
Since she started hosting the half-hour show in 2007 as a relative unknown, Handler has grown to become one of the most in-demand female comedians on the stand-up circuit, launched a successful career as a humor author and, most importantly, landed the gig as host of the 2010 MTV Video Music Awards , making her the first XX-chromosome holder to get the gig in 15 years.
But what do you need to know about Handler before tuning in?
She really, really likes rappers: Handler has made no secret of her infatuation with rappers, batting her eyes and indulging in long hugs and flirty conversations with everyone from Snoop Dogg to Fat Joe, Pharrell and the most consistent object of her affections, T.I. The King of the South paid a visit to Handler just before he went away to prison for a year on weapons charges in 2009, during which she apparently came through on her promise to send him adult reading material. After he was sprung, she asked him about his time behind bars in June when he made a return visit. She also recently replaced the usual gaggle of comedians on her nightly roundtable with a trio of rappers that included Rick Ross, Lil Jon and Big Boi.
She sells tons of books: Two of Handler’s three books have hit the #1 slot on the New York Times Best Seller list, including 2008’s essay collection “Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea” as well as this year’s “Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang.” Her salacious 2005 memoir, “My Horizontal Life: A Collection of One-Night Stands,” was on the best-seller list for 80 weeks.
She’s appeared alongside “Hangover” star Ken Jeong in a TV show: Handler was part of the ensemble cast of the short-lived Oxygen reality comedy series “Girls Behaving Badly,” which also featured Jeong. She was a correspondent for the first run of Jay Leno’s “Tonight Show” and has appeared since 2007 on the Web series “In the Motherhood,” which also stars her real-life pal, Jenny McCarthy.
Justin Bieber totally tried to score a date with her: Despite a 20-year age difference, a then-15-year-old Bieber got very comfy with Handler when he appeared on her show in 2009, just as his career was beginning to take off. In addition to a series of sly winks, Bieber gave the host some advice on how to flirt, and they bonded about getting B-12 shots in the butt. “I think you’re a lot cooler than they are,” Bieber said when asked if he’d rather be hanging with friends such as Usher and Justin Timberlake. “You seem like a really sweet boy — don’t let this town ruin you,” she said. “So, tonight at 7?” he responded with a smile.
Handler will work the mic at this year’s Video Music Awards, which air live from Los Angeles on September 12 at 9 p.m. ET. This is the first time the L.A.-based star will host the event, where celebs like Lady Gaga, Eminem, Drake, Usher and Katy Perry are up for Moonmen. Among the performers set to hit the stage are Kanye West, B.o.B, Florence and the Machine and her former flirt buddy, Bieber.
The talk-show diva is the latest in a long list of comics to handle hosting duties at the VMAs. In 1985, Eddie Murphy took the cameras backstage at Radio City Music Hall and surprised guests with an impromptu visit to the ladies’ room. Arsenio Hall presided over the festivities four years in a row, armed with a collection of DayGlo suits and a quick wit that sparked the requisite barking chorus from the crowd. Fellow late-night comic Jimmy Fallon kicked off his 2002 hosting duties with an amped-up musical number. Chris Rock helped MTV turn 20 in 2003, delivering a memorable opening monologue that rivaled the infamous Madonna/ Britney Spears/ Christina Aguilera smooch. Potty-mouthed Brit Russell Brand flexed his skills on two different coasts, hosting in Hollywood in 2008 and returning the next year to helm the 2009 VMAs’ New York City homecoming.
The 27th annual MTV Video Music Awards will be broadcast live from the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles on September 12 at 9 p.m. ET.