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Chelsea Handler on Acting, Netflix and Grapefruit

Chelsea Handler has written five books filled with personal anecdotes and observations, so there’s very little about her that hasn’t already been dropped into the public arena. Even so, she can hold an audience rapt with a few tidbits from her personal journey from New Jersey teen to soon-to-be Netflix series host.

Handler held forth with Esquire writer-at-large Scott Raab last week at Hearst Corp. headquarters in New York as part of a series of talks held for the benefit of employees (Handler was also featured on the cover of a recent issue of the magazine) . She discussed her rocky start, waiting tables for about six or seven years before nabbing parts in shows like “The Practice”; her desire to challenge herself professionally; and the way she eats her favorite fruit. Below, a few highlights:

 *She feels she’s much better suited for a talk show than the lead of a scripted drama or sitcom: “I wanted to be an actress, then I realized I wasn’t very good at it,” Handler quipped. “You’re not being as creative as I would want to be. You’re not writing your own part. You are not writing your own material. It was really important that I do that. Can you imagine what I would be like if I didn’t have this show (her recently ended “Chelsea Lately”)? Id be, like, foaming if I didn’t have an outlet.”

*She’s much happier after a performance than she is in the middle of one. “I like walking offstage,” Handler noted. “ I like knowing that I gave a good show, everyone is happy and I get to go and have a cocktail.” Performers are supposed to feel best in the midst of doing their thing in front of an audience, she said she realized, but “that’s not my favorite feeling.”

*Her Netflix series is quietly being readied. Handler declined to offer much detail on the work she is preparing as part of a pact with Netflix but reaffirmed her interest in creating something that takes an in-depth look at specific subjects, much like “60 Minutes,” but with a hipper lens and quicker pace.

*She hated waitressing but understands why people do it. “It’s definitely getting your training wheels in life,” she noted, after telling the story of how she chased after a group of diners upon discovering one of their tablemates had collected money to pay the check and then stiffed her. She was fired for doing so. “Now I can’t leave a restaurant without leaving $100 on a $7 bill,” she said.

*She loves to eat grapefruit in a way that is probably best not done in public. “I love grapefruit,” Handler said, “I like to suck the juice out of it and so I have to do it in private, mostly. I don’t know if you’ve gotten the message, but I’m not the most elegant woman in the world.”

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