Chelsea Handler is the queen of late night comedy and a master at turning her life’s most ridiculous stories into best-selling books. Speaking at the MAKERS Conference in Palos Verdes, California, Handler retold the familiar story of how getting a DUI at the age of 21 sparked her career in stand-up. Her crippling fear of speaking to the class kept her in the back of the room for weeks, but when she got called on for the final day of DUI school, according to the comedian, she just “couldn’t shut up.”
After being told that it wasn’t a stand-up comedy class, Handler eventually found her way to one — saying to herself, “well I can’t really do anything else, so I better try that.” Handler is now the only female comedian on television with a late night talk show, “Chelsea Lately” on E! (seven years and counting), and has the only writing staff in late night comedy that is split 50/50 male and female.
It’s an often-paraphrased statistic that many people would rather face a firing squad than speak in public. Handler shared her thoughts on fear and how the memory of her mother propels her, quite literally, ahead:
“I think there are different phases of fear. And I have experienced so many of them,” Handler told the mostly female audience at the MAKERS Conference, which is focused on bringing together the voices and stories of prominent female leaders.
You get fearful just when you least expect it. I talk to an audience for a living — that’s what I do on my television show and that’s what I do when I go on tour. You don’t think you’re going to get scared. But all of a sudden it hits you and you get that shaky leg syndrome.
I remember doing Radio City Music Hall a few years ago. I was on a book tour and I had sold out four shows, which is supposed to be one of the greatest moments in my career. It is something I had dreamed about. But I was backstage and I was so scared. These people were all paying money to see me and I was terrified. 5,000 people and I was shaking.
And then you walk out — and whether or not you believe in god — but my mother passed away many years ago, and sometimes when I have those moments, I definitely feel like my mom has her hands on my shoulders and is like, ‘Move forward. You can do this.’
The moments that come around that you’ve dreamt about for your whole life — they can really scare the shit out of you. But you go out there and you do it and you’re okay. Most of the time you’re okay. And if you really do have a meltdown, then you just need to sit down [laughs]. Which I’ve also done.
Click here to read the 5 Lessons Chelsea Handler Can Teach Women About Getting Ahead from the Makers Conference.