What happens when the most caustic woman in comedy is interviewed by the nicest guy in rock? A lot of jokes about cocaine, and a few confessions.
On Monday, Chelsea Handler, former host of Chelsea Lately and burgeoning Netflix star, sat for a Q&A with Dave Grohl, all-purpose rock & roll mensch, at SiriusXM's studios in New York. The interview will be broadcast on Thursday as part of the station's "Town Hall" series, and promoted Handler's first Netflix original comedy special, Uganda Be Kidding Me, a riff on her international travel adventures that debuts online on Friday (and is based on her book of same name).
The Foo Fighters frontman Grohl is no stranger to Handler's bawdy humor – he appeared on Chelsea Lately several times during its seven-season run on E!, even guest-hosting a full week of the talk show in 2013 – and was gleeful at the prospect of putting his friend in the headlights. Settling in adjacent to Handler in SiriusXM's sleek, glass-enclosed studio – a futuristic construction he aptly likened to the "smoke-quarium" of an airport – Grohl swigged from a beer and crowed, "Now I get to torture your ass for an hour, just as you did the first time I met you!"
Handler, nursing her own cocktail, had no problem turning the tables on her inquisitor. In fact, in the course of the 50-minute chat, both she and Grohl confessed a few wicked stories. Here are the top five:
1. Handler and Grohl's friendship had a prickly start
At the SiriusXM studios, the pair grinned as they lobbied various vulgar insults at each other. However, their dynamic wasn't always so facile – in fact, Grohl was initially stung by Handler's caustic humor.
"I'll clue you in on some of the great moments of our relationship," Grohl said drolly to the studio audience. "One of them being me going on vacation in Hawaii with my kids, having the time of my fucking life, and then a picture of me shows up in, like, Us [Weekly]. The first person to take a picture of that and send it to me was you – to say, ‘Wow, you're fucking fat.'"
Handler was predictably unapologetic, even years after the offending incident. She replied, "Listen, your body's not your strong suit, and you know that. It's your personality and it's your music, but your body is not something that you should be flaunting around."
Grohl wasn't done airing his grievance. "So I texted her back and was like, 'Look, this is it. I'm going to be nice to you. I want to be friends. Say something nice,'" he recalled. "I didn't hear from her for six months. Nothing! I was pissed."
Handler then offered something of an olive branch, however gnarled. "If I had pictures of myself on a beach, they wouldn't be great either, but I don't do that purposely," she reasoned. "I just thought you'd be smart like that."
2. Dave Grohl is a font of paternal insight
In the first years of Chelsea Lately, Handler gained traction by interviewing reality show stars – even though, at SiriusXM's studios, she reiterated her hatred for those programs. Grohl shared her vitriol, as well as a compliment. "I have three daughters and I struggle to find role models for my kids in popular culture," he told Handler. "In watching you in the middle of all that, I always thought, 'I sure hope that my kids grow to appreciate someone like you, rather than some of those other fucking nimrods that are on television.'"
This segued into a discussion of the preferred musicians of Handler's childhood (Steely Dan, Fleetwood Mac) and, naturally, more cocaine jokes. (By the end of the interview, there were a good half-dozen interludes of these.) "How many references to cocaine can you make in the span of one hour?" cried Handler. "You do cocaine with a person one time, and then they bring it up every time you do a public interview!"
As it happens, Grohl has abstained, but he was happy to pass along some narcotics advice bestowed on him by his rock elders. "I swear to God, on my fucking life, I have never done cocaine. I did a lot of drugs when I was young. I stopped doing drugs while I was still pretty young, but I never did that," Grohl insisted. "But one old rock star once told me, 'The heroin is for your knees. The cocaine gets you onstage. And the booze makes it fun.'"
3. Handler didn't play hard-to-get with Netflix
Handler's new deal with Netflix includes the rights to Uganda Be Kidding Me and four more comedy specials next year. Handler called the segments "fish out of water" experiments. "I'll go to Silicon Valley and ask questions that I really don't know the answers to," she explained. "Like, 'What the fuck is an app? And how can everyone make one? Why are there so many and why don't I know how to download one?'"
She also admitted to Grohl that she pursued the Netflix deal. "This Netflix thing happened in the perfect way: I approached them," she said. "I like that I went to them and they didn't come to me. It's like a guy hitting on you. I'm like, 'I'll let you know.' If I'm into you, you'll find out about it."
4. The finale of Chelsea Lately was pandemonium
Handler's late-night show ended in August with an oddball performance befitting the series: a celebrity-heavy parody of "We Are the World" with lyrics repurposed to reflect the host's boozy joie de vivre. Dozens of famous faces – including Gwen Stefani, Jennifer Aniston, 50 Cent, Sammy Hagar, Melissa McCarthy and Tim Gunn – joined Handler onstage to croon the ribald farewell ode.
Grohl, ever the pal, was also in attendance of what he called "the most fucked-up Hollywood Squares shit I've ever experienced in my entire life." He recalled first walking onto the set, saying, "I smell weed and I see Wiz Khalifa. Then there's Buzz Aldrin and he's like, ‘Can I take a picture?' Then I wind up in the back with Rick Springfield and Bobby Brown…. I saw [Sammy Hagar] and was like, ‘Thank God there's another weirdo here.' I clung to him."
Handler burst into laughter recalling the scene. "Someone handed Miley Cyrus a joint and Kelly Osbourne was in the front [saying], ‘I'm sober! Who's smoking?' [and] covering her nose so she wouldn't inhale the weed. I was like, ‘This is a disaster.'"
Amid the chaos, Grohl heard a familiar voice, and seized the opportunity to confront a nemesis. "It was Olaf from Frozen [actor Josh Gad]. I heard his voice and was like ‘hrrrgggh!' because I have to listen to that every fucking day of my life with my kids," he howled in mock rage. "I turned around was like, ‘You're that fucking guy!' and he was like, ‘I'm so sorry.'"
5. Handler's comprehension of astronomy is…limited
Despite palling around with Aldrin, however, Handler has a pretty concerning grasp on the cosmos – and she freely admitted it. "Sometimes I ask questions that I'm really embarrassed by. Like, I didn't know the moon wasn't the sun up until two years ago," she said nonchalantly as Grohl stared at her in astonishment. "I thought they were the same.
"I was in Africa and the [guide] was pointing at the constellations," she continued. "I [asked my sister], 'Is the moon not the sun?' She went, ‘What?' I said, 'I thought when the sun goes down, the moon comes up.' And she goes, 'Don't ever say that again out loud.'" As the audience laughed, Handler concluded with a chuckle, "I'm still not really clear what goes down between the moon and the sun."
Grohl had his retort locked and loaded. "Maybe it's because you stay up all night doing blow and then you're like, ‘What's that other thing? It's so bright out here!'"