pop culture, Review, television

REVIEW—CHELSEA & THE FUTURE OF THE TALK SHOW

Season 1, Episode 1

Grade: A

When you’re a comedy kid growing up, you study comedians. When you’re an unfunny comedy kid, you really study comedians. When I was a kid, I watched clips of Dane Cook obsessively—relax, this was when we were all on that Cook train, you liars—and then I moved on to people like Mike Birbiglia, Demetri Martin, Jim Gaffigan, Loni Love, Amy Schumer, Gabriel Iglesias, Tina Fey and Bo Burnham. But a huge influence on my comedy and my writing and my funniness—besides Lorelai Gilmore—was Chelsea Handler.

After Chelsea Lately ended, Chelsea Handler went soul-searching. She did a bunch of standups—Uganda Be Kidding Me—and books—Uganda Be Kidding Me—and then the hilarious and insightful docuseries Chelsea Does.

And more than anything else, her new Netflix “talk show”, Chelsea, feels like a natural extension of Chelsea Does, which in turns is a natural extension of Chelsea Handler in a way that Chelsea Lately never was. During Lately, you could always feel the tension, the vague bitterness that Chelsea had towards E! and the sense of a caged tiger pacing behind bars.

Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 1.44.06 PM.png

Source: Netflix

Chelsea made no bones about the fact that she kinda fucking hated E! and felt like an idiot doing Lately. And something she made very clear on the first episode of Chelsea, centered around education, is that she hates feeling like an idiot.

In a year of trying to “shake up” the talk show game, Chelsea manages to succeed where others have failed. And by “others” I know that you know that I’m talking about Kocktails with Khloe. Now, don’t get me wrong—I would take a bullet for Khloe Kardashian in a way that I would never for Chelsea Handler—but Kocktails felt like a total money-funded passion project, aimed at giving a new network star quality and a ratings boost.

In a similar way, Chelsea feels a little indulgent, and is the first step Netflix is taking at live-streaming rather than binge-worthy season drops. But Chelsea is smart and funny and not talking itself too seriously, whereas Kocktails always felt like it was a little too aware of the cameras. In the first episode, Chelsea does—but doesn’t—do a monologue, and sits behind a—very fancy, black—desk, turning it into a “meta, breaking the fourth wall” version of every late night talk show. And it feels almost on purpose—like Chelsea knows that she’s going to get compared to everyone else, so why not beat them to the punch?

Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 1.44.54 PM.png

Source: Netflix

Some of the show was a little weird—the “Netflix University” faux-commercial was boring and didn’t feel cohesive—but Chelsea had some fucking impressive guests. Her first guest was the U.S. Secretary of Education, John King. At first, when he was testing her on basic education, it felt a little like “This is about you but it’s really about me,” but after that, the interview is actually interesting. They talk about the need for education, personal mentors, and other cool stuff. After that, Chelsea brought out Pitbull, who spent twenty minutes trying to chase down Chelsea’s dog Chunk, who was loitering in the background like a beautiful teddy bear. Pitbull is starting a charter school in Miami—Slam Academy—and continued on the theme of “teacher mentors.”

Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 1.46.32 PM.png

Source: Netflix

I think this could really be Chelsea’s strong suit. Since it’s a three-times-a-week digital stream, rather than doing “trending topics” like Lately, Chelsea could do much better by connecting pop culture to a larger episodic theme, similar to each documentary of Chelsea Does. Like, who the fuck would’ve known that Pitbull would’ve started a charter school? And also how he got his nickname “Mr. Worldwide?” It’s cool.

Side bar: they did that thing I hate, which is having the first guest sit in on the second guest’s interview. You had the U.S. Secretary of Education watching Pitbull try to be BFFs with a dog. It always seems so awkward, like when Bill O’Reilly had to stay while Jimmy Fallon interviewed Lorde, and I was like, “Who tf is Bill O’Reilly?” and my mom was like, “Who tfudge is Lorde?”

After Pitbull went back to his kennel—someone stop me, please—Chelsea brought out Drew Barrymore. She began by talking about how she, like Chelsea, didn’t really receive an education, but how that drives her. She read the dictionary as a kid, which is the ultimate nerd-out. The conversation veers towards Drew’s divorce, which was surprisingly honest and raw and real—a testament to the intimacy of the stream—and then how she wants to be a cheerleader for women by discussing divorce, and raise her daughters to be awesome women. The interview felt fun and fresh, unlike when talk shows bring on guests who are forced to hawk their latest project.

Screen Shot 2016-05-11 at 1.45.15 PM.png

Source: Netflix

In one episode, Chelsea made me do what Kocktails couldn’t accomplish in twelve—make me want to keep watching. I want to see what the next topic is, and who she brings on. I want to see what this turns into.

Keep on, keeping on Chelsea.

Advertisements
Standard
Humor, Life

A MILLENNIAL’S GUIDE TO FRIENDSHIP IN THE DIGITAL AGE

Growing up as a millennial can be a unique experience. You have the constant fear of someone bringing up a bad photo of you from seventh grade, or your mom trying to friend you—my mom does not because she “doesn’t want to see what’s on my page”—or your crush reading a message you sent but not responding.

There’s a lot of articles online about dating in the digital age, or doing your taxes in the digital age, or applying for jobs in the digital age. But there’s really nothing dedicated to being friends with someone in the digital age. And not capital-f Friends. We’re not talking Facebook friends—the idea of Facebook friends overlapping with your actual friends is basically an urban myth.

So since I have to guide you into the light—not in an angel-y way, but in a cool way—on other issues—race, gender, what to order at McDonald’s—then it’s only fitting that I guide you through this process. So are you ready? Are you ready? Let’s go!

Here’s rule number one, right off the bat. Group chats are literally Satan’s asshole, but they’re a necessary evil. Just, for the love of all things holy, put it in Facebook so I can at least mute the conversation. I’ve turned a deaf ear to at least half of the groups I’m in.

Rule number two: Do your civilian duty and take yourself off “private” in your social media. The very fact that you’re on social media implies, at least a little bit, that you’re a fame monster (Buy ARTPOP on iTunes). We live in the age of media-stalking, so just assume that someone wants to get a cute look at you.

In fact, the Golden Rule of Social Media: Do unto your social media as you would wish others to do unto theirs. I.e. if you’re stalking, you better open up the digital gates so people can return the favor.

Rule number three: Follow people back on Twitter and Instagram. The only time it is acceptable to not follow people back is if they’re strangers or if you’re a celebrity. If you’re not a celebrity, and I follow you, it’s because I know you. Don’t throw shade and not follow me back. That happened to me once. I met a really cool girl, had a good conversation with her, and then followed her on Twitter. She didn’t follow me back, and now she is on my List. You’re not Madonna. You can afford to alter your ratio. I’m stretching out an olive branch.

Rule number four: But conversely, don’t feel obliged to Favorite, Like, or Retweet everything I do. Sometimes I have an off day and my tweet is a little sloppily crafted. You don’t have to placate me with a flurry of Likes. Save those for when I’m really funny (which is 99 times out of 100).

Note: This does not apply to Instagram. Like my Instagram or I will hunt you down and gut you like a fish.

Rule number five: I will allow you to crop me out of photos if you look really good. I don’t anticipate it happening often, and be careful how you crop. If it’s a simple group chat, go nuts. But if we’re entwined in some sort of gymnastics, and you crop the living sh*t out of the photo to the point where if you click on the photo, it’s just a small square of your face surrounded by black, then we have a problem. I understand that good photos are like shooting stars—they happen only ever so often. But have some sense of decorum.

Rule number six: Landscape, never portrait. Don’t play with fire.

And because I need to preserve my sanity, rule number seven: keep conversations to one medium. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had a conversation with a friend in Facebook, and had a separate, distinct conversation with the same friend over text. Okay, it’s only happened twice. But still, it’s a thing.

Rule number eight: Ghost with integrity. If and when you decide to stop being friends with someone, it’s a little harder than just ducking or avoiding them on the street. No. Now that we’re living in an age where nothing ever dies online, you need to learn how to ghost with grace. Ghosting is basically—it’s a trend, and I’m hopping on the trend—when you slowly slip out of someone’s life. You take longer to answer texts. You can’t FaceTime anymore. You “forget” to tag them in your popular blog posts that everyone loves but is too afraid to say that they love, so they ask things like “What’s the Wunderkindof?” and “Oh, I didn’t know you blogged” and—oh, I’m projecting. It’s fine when you want to ditch people. We’ve all done it. Just be smart about it.

Rule number nine: Tag me, but don’t drag me. I look good from approximately two angles. So I can’t tell you how visceral the fear is when I see that little notification pop up in the “Photos of You” tab in Instagram. You can tag me in your photos—actually, please do—but realize that if it’s an unflattering angle or me doing something “hilarious,” that you are putting your life, the lives of your future children, and the life of your iPhone at risk.

Also side bar: No one ever looks good in “funny photos.”

And lastly, rule number ten: social media isn’t a substitute for quality time. Yes, I love tagging Jenny in funny Instagrams, or texting Shelby whenever something salacious happens in the celebrity world, or g-chatting (gay-chatting) with Marco, or sending ambiguous emojis to Mitchell. But that is just a complement to being with them. So rule number ten-b: don’t let social media rule your life. Let me rule your life. Through social media. I understand how confusing this might be. Just give me your Social Security number and everything will be okay.

Living in the digital age is hard; everything should be quicker and more immediate, but it often ends up lost in a haze of misinterpretation. Did he mean to send me that winky emoji? How long is too long for me to return someone’s text? What is “fam” and how is it being used in the vernacular? All of these things are questions that I know that I have.

Ew, bye.

Standard
Love & Romance

THE ART OF DATING: PAINT-BY-NUMBERS OR SMOKE-AND-MIRRORS

Has the art of dating been lost? Have we evolved past dating with the inundation of social media hookup apps? First, second and third base have WiFi signals. Everything is digital and nothing hurts.

I was talking to my coworker Amanda and we were dishing about bad dates. Awkward encounters, awkward kisses, awkward last moments. For both of us, we have experiences with going on dates with people who we had texted previously. Hers was Tinder; mine was Grindr.

aa7101f0eadddace3a4bd3f9b2f4a13e

For me, he was goofily cute over text. Shy, clever, flirtatious. In person, he was a fumbling robot. He made bad jokes and couldn’t meet my eye. Not in an endearing, “He finds me too beautiful to look at” way. It was more like a “I’d rather be anywhere but here” way. All of the quirks I had enjoyed over text I realized were carefully edited versions of a truly awkward person.

For her—from what I remember. Frankly I’m not the best at listening—it was flint and steel and no spark. He fell flat.

We’ve grown accustomed to dating online. We’ve become used to existing online, and the days of “Hey darling, wanna go steady?” have morphed into Netflix and Chill and no strings attached and casual hangouts that have as much romantic confusion as Michael Jackson’s Neverland. Too far? That’s how serious I am.

I’m bad at romance. I’m uncomfortably aware of how I’m trying to be suave and sexy and effortless. I make a much better friend than date, and I’m kind of a shitty friend sometimes. I’m unable to see real romance staring me in the face, and the romance that I do attempt is fodder for blogs where I do that thing where I laugh so that I don’t cry.

Me @ myself

Me @ myself

But I like the idea of old-fashioned, gin & tonic romance. Straight-up. Simple. A little brisk and a little jolting but undeniable. I asked someone out on a date once. I mean, I’ve done it multiple times. But I actually said the word “date.”

“Would you want to go to dinner sometime?” I asked.

“Yeah!” He said, and I knew that this could be a casual friend dinner. I could escape with my dignity and my class.

“As—as a date,” I added, and I saw his eyes shift kaleidoscopically as the dinner took on a different color and texture. And instantly it had lines and numbers and a set of crayons to choose from to shade in the suddenly defined shape.

And I liked it. I liked the un-ambiguity. The Date. Not a hangout. Not a casual friend thing. A date. Four letters. Solid. Romantic. Unmoving.

We ended up at an upscale casual restaurant and wore variations on the same outfit and we argued about Miley Cyrus and he never returned my text for another date. But even though that didn’t end up—well, let’s get real, it was a flop—it was a date. A finite one, but a date nonetheless.

cargopants

“Would you like to go out?” I asked another boy. He looked at me with a measured gaze. We had been around this carousel before.

“In what way?”

“In a romantic context,” I answered. He said no, it wasn’t me it was him. But I knew that he wanted me to finally say it. To define it in a way that I hadn’t had the courage to before. To name it.

relationship-5

I think we’re all scared shitless of rejection so we don’t define it. Plausible deniability. If it’s not a date, then it can’t end badly. Hangouts don’t end badly. They just end. But dates—there’s a definite ending. It’s like a choose-your-own-adventure book where if you skip to page 110, you get a second date, and if you skip to page 135, you get a pint of Ben & Jerry’s and spend two hours overanalyzing that joke you accidentally made about the Hindenburg.

So we hide behind vagueness and romantic smoke-and-mirrors. Dodge. Deflect. Retreat. Live to fight another battle. Ask out another person to an ambiguous, amorphous “thing” that they’ll wonder what it is and you’ll wonder what it is.

But the problem with vagueness is that it leads to vagaries—sudden, unexpected changes (look it up). You didn’t set parameters, so you don’t have expectations. You don’t know how you want this to end. So you don’t invest. You retreat. You live to text another day.

But in the end, you’ve actually lost. You’ve lost the tingling electricity that goes with making a complete ass out of yourself by walking up to that cutie. You’ve lost the impetus. You’ve lost that chance at human connections and fallibilities. You’ve given all that up for safety and security and Facebook-stalking.

giphy

And I’m saying “you” but we all know I mean “we.” I mean “I.” They said setting boundaries is good for raising children, and for raising dogs. And hell, kids and puppies seem happy enough. Who are we to judge? Set some boundaries. Define. Flip to the page in the dictionary and point to it and say, “Yes, that’s what I want us to be. Friday night. Dinner.”

I’m bad at coloring. But I think I’d like to have those lines to know when I’m shading outside of them.

Standard