Chelsea Handler Says Her Career Ambition is Due To ADD

In a new interview with Marie Claire @ Work, talk show powerhouse and best-selling author/screenwriter Chelsea Handler said, “I don’t like to be that aggressive or ambitious,” she says. “I know it doesn’t seem like that, but I don’t feel like, ‘Oh God, I’ve got to do this, I’ve got to do that.’ I have severe ADD, and I’m constantly looking to amuse myself.” Is it possible that her awesome career is a result of not taking enough ritalin?

Now, she may be saying that for comedic emphasis but with Chelsea it is probably true. According to one Harvard study, roughly 4.4% of adults have ADHD — and about 40% of those people are women. Some women we talked to said their ADD made them better at their jobs just not in very traditional and typical ways. As David Neelman, CEO and Founder of JetBlue, has said, “If someone told me you could be normal or you could continue to have your ADD, I would take ADD,” says Neeleman, who foregoes medication to manage the condition. “I’m afraid of taking drugs once, blowing a circuit, and then being like the rest of you.” Perhaps Chelsea is one of those people.

But it still seems hard to believe that she is going to write all of her success off as lack of focus. Since it debuted five years ago, Chelsea Lately has become the most popular late-night talk show among women 18 to 34, a clutch demographic for advertisers and it generates $40 million in ad revenue a year, according to The Hollywood Reporter. She also started a behind-the-scenes postshow called After Lately this year , played Reese Witherspoon’s best friend in This Means War and wrote four best-selling books that have together sold nearly 3 million copies. And then there are the sold-out comedy tours and a production company, Borderline Amazing, with nine projects in development, including a comedy for MTV and a series about a lippy 12-year-old based on Handler, according to Marie Claire. She is estimated to be worth about $22 million from all of this. As journalist Hampton Stevens wrote of the comedian for The Atlantic:

“Chelsea Handler is not a businesswoman. To paraphrase Jay-Z, Handler is business, woman. The New Jersey-born comic is conducting an all-out entrepreneurial assault on American mass media. And winning.

She’s written four bestselling books, mostly detailing  her drunken sexual escapades and dysfunctional family. Three of those books went to number one on the New York Times‘ bestseller list. One of them, Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang, debuted at number one, and her national stand-up comedy tour in support of the book raked in another $10 million. She has her own publishing imprint, and her own production company, Borderline Amazing. She’s been on the cover of Playboy, posing for a non-nude pictorial inside, and Forbes named her one of the World’s Most Powerful Women.

Not too shabby for a self-described “drunken slut.””

Though maybe she does have ADD as now she is talking about covering less celebrity issues and moving on to more serious topics, like politics. ”There was a period of time when I started getting antsy and was like, ‘Ugh, I can’t sit here and gossip anymore,’” she said in the interview. “I want to talk more about politics and human-interest stories, like when somebody shoots somebody else at a drive-through over Chicken McNuggets–stupid stuff like that.”

She also wants to help other people get ahead. In an interview with Redbook she said, “‘I read this cheesy quote once: “Blowing out someone else’s candle doesn’t make yours glow brighter…’We women have to stick together… I’m very much about letting other people shine, because it makes us all shine brighter. I like having a fraternity. I like girls and boys together, misfits and underdogs – I love underdogs.” Comedian Whitney Cummings who is developing a talk show that will be produced by Handler said to Marie Claire ”She doesn’t want to have other people be less than her,” says Cummings. “She wants everyone around her to succeed.”

When asked about what decisions led to her current level of success Handler told Metro “To always trust my instincts, to always believe I have something to offer — no matter how meaningless or stupid it may be — and to never listen to anyone who tells you ‘no.’” Well, if this is what you get as a result of having ADD, we should all be so lucky.

Photo: Michael Carpenter/

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