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What we learned from the premiere of Chelsea Handler’s new Netflix talk show

Chelsea Handler. (Washington Post illustration, Saeed Adyani/Netflix)
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Comedian Chelsea Handler’s Netflix talk show debuted early Wednesday morning, and the first person we saw was … Chris Martin? The Coldplay singer performed “Everglow” as a tribute to Handler, who he said would be taking the show’s stage for the last time.

When Handler appeared a few minutes later, she cleared things up for anyone who may have been confused. “This is actually the first show. It’s not the last show. So, it’s supposed to be like a hello song.” (Maybe she should have called Adele instead.)

“I’m finally getting to do the exact kind of show that I’ve always wanted to do, so thank you, Netflix,” the host told an in-studio audience before admitting that she didn’t exactly know what kind of show she wants to do. The gist — as Handler has said in press releases and a trailer for her show — is that she’s treating her Netflix gig “as the college education I never got.”

“I believe that we should never stop learning and I recognize the irony of me saying that since I accidentally missed a few days of high school and then all of college,” she said.

While “Chelsea” is taped in Los Angeles, the show will also include segments that feature Handler interviewing people across the United States and around the world. She gave fans a preview of what to expect from her talk show with “Chelsea Does,” a four-part documentary series that debuted in January on the streaming service. She’s also been very vocal about “Chelsea” being a departure from her E! show, “Chelsea Lately,” which ended in 2014 with Handler on not-so-great terms with the network’s parent company, NBC Universal.

What Chelsea Handler gets right and wrong in her Netflix episode about race

“Chelsea” airs Wednesday, Thursday and Friday on Netflix, with episodes posting to the streaming site at 12:01 a.m. Pacific time. Here’s what else we learned from Handler’s “Chelsea” debut.

There will be no monologues.

Handler’s comments about her education (or lack thereof) sure sounded like a monologue. Here’s an excerpt:

I’ve also managed to raise two healthy and happy dogs as a single white female. Do you have any idea how many obstacles I’ve had to overcome? I’ve avoided getting pregnant — most times. I’ve purchased cars for people that I felt sorry for. I bought my old makeup artist a horse and then I fired her. The point is, I’m amazing. Thank you. I’ve done a lot. I’ve learned a lot and I’m ready to learn more.

But then she added:

I’ve learned that I don’t want to do a monologue anymore and that’s why I’m going to go sit down. I know this seems like a monologue, but this is not a monologue. This is an explanation. And if you don’t know the difference then you can log out or log off or f— off or whatever.

She’ll say whatever she wants.

Handler delighted in being able to tell potential viewers to “f— off,” something she couldn’t have done on her previous show (at least not without a bleeping effect). In the trailer for “Chelsea,” she happily reassures a woman who says, “I don’t know if I can say that on air,” in response to a question about Donald Trump. “Oh, you can say anything,” Handler tells her interviewee. “It’s Netflix.”

Handler also took a dig at Angelina Jolie — territory that’s not unfamiliar to viewers of Handler’s former E! show, “Chelsea Lately” or Bravo’s “Watch What Happens Live,” on which Handler once referred to the actress as “a demon.”

While talking to her friend Drew Barrymore during the show’s premiere, Handler — who is also known to be good friends with Jennifer Aniston — said “I think most women support women. If you’re a girl you should kind of like other girls and if you don’t, your name’s Angelina Jolie.”

There will be celebrity guests …

In addition to Barrymore, who brought along bottles of rosé from her wine label and talked candidly about her divorce from Will Kopelman, Handler chatted with rapper Pitbull about his passion for education and the Miami charter school he founded. Pitbull was also recruited to help Handler fine-tune her rap skills, which she has apparently been showcasing on Snapchat.

… and non-traditional talk show interviewees as well.

U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr. gave Handler a quiz to assess her level of knowledge, despite her lack of a college education. Handler got most of the questions — which ranged from sports to history —  correct, but the “Uganda Be Kidding Me” author very noticeably forgot to name Africa during a question about the seven continents.

King also shared that he lost his parents, both New York City school teachers, at a young age and that education helped him cope with their deaths. “School saved my life,” he told Handler. “School is the reason I’m alive today.”

There will be skits — and cross-promotion.

The first episode was titled “Appetite for Instruction,” and a skit introduced “Netflix University” as a budget-friendly alternative to the traditional college experience, with cameos from Netflix series stars such as “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt’s” Ellie Kemper, Laura Prepon from “Orange Is the New Black” and “House of Cards” actress Robin Wright.

Another skit poked fun at Netflix algorithms, promising that if you liked “Narcos” and “Legally Blonde,” you’ll love “Chelsea.”

She’s going to get more political.

“Chelsea” is executive produced by Bill Wolff, who spent time at “The View” and also served as an executive producer for “The Rachel Maddow Show” on MSNBC. Handler confirmed that the election will be a frequent topic of discussion on “Chelsea.”

Now, from what I can gather, I’m almost positive that this is an election year, so you might not know it but you need me,” Handler said as images of Democratic presidential front-runner Hillary Clinton and GOP front-runner Trump flashed up on the screen. “Without my insight, how will the American electorate ever be able to decide between a highly qualified woman with impeccable credentials and a bankrupt, misogynistic racist orange a–hole?”

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