Comedian Chelsea Handler got candid about her move to Netflix on Friday, saying $10 million couldn’t keep her at E! and because she no longer respected the network. “I like quitting, it’s a strong move,” she said at TheWrap’s first Power Women Breakfast in San Francisco.
The TV personality also gave new details about a four-part documentary series she is currently making for Netflix, saying she visited the Twitter offices topless recently for one episode. “You can walk down the street topless in San Francisco,” she said. “I know because I did it. It’s not comfortable.”
She added: “I was walking into the Twitter office to interview [CEO] Dick Costolo, and he allows nudity on Twitter so I figured why not? So I took my top off walked into the building and waited for him on the balcony. He said ‘You need to put your shirt on before I come outside.’”
Handler spoke to a standing room only event for more than 100 women executives at the intersection of entertainment, tech and business who gathered to discuss “The Future of Entertainment In a Tech-Driven World.”
Handler had harsh words for the network where she worked for six years. “It was E! I don’t have a lot of respect for them,” she said. “It was a great opportunity to give my friends jobs, it was a great experience and I’m grateful and I appreciate it but it was time to move on. I wanted to talk about things other than Lindsay Lohan, there was only so much I could take.”
She added: “I want to be somewhere where I respect the people I’m working with.”
Handler said her new documentary series will be about Racism, Marriage, Silicon Valley and Ayahuasca, the hallucinogenic drug. Handler said she’ll steer clear of celebrities and focus on topics that she’s curious about. “It’ll be like a younger, hipper, cooler ’60 minutes’… I want to immerse myself in things I know nothing about.”
Handler also spoke about being a powerful woman in a male-dominated entertainment industry.
“It seems like a man’s world so it’s nice to see all these women gathered here today,” she said to the packed room. “My whole ethos has been half the people I hired were women which is a natural thing to do. I don’t want to put men down, I just want to bring women up and make it an even playing field.”
Quitting, Handler said, can be a powerful move, as in the case of giving up her late night talk show. The entertainment industry was sure that she wanted to do another talk show, but she did not, she said.
“Sometimes you literally have to step in and save yourself because no one else is going to do it,” Handler told the room, admitting she was burned out at the cable network. “I can get $10 million a year for the next five years but it’s never been about the money for me. Of course it’s great side effect of doing this but I never make a decision based on money. I did it once and it was the biggest mistake and I’ll never do that again.”
Handler was joined at the event by speakers Kara Swisher, co-executive editor Re/code and Ruth Vitale, CEO CreativeFuture and hosts Karen Appleton, SVP Global Alliances Box and TheWrap’s Editor-in-Chief Sharon Waxman. Vitale spoke about the problem of pirated content and how it has threatened the underpinnings of the content industry. Swisher countered that Periscope and Meerkat do as much to amplify content for creators as hurt them. “You can’t stop the tide, you just have to figure out how to be a part of it,” Swisher said.
While speaking to a room full of tech-savvy women who were live-tweeting the event, Handler admitted “I don’t know anything. I drive a Tesla and don’t know how it operates. I can’t turn anything on in my house. I’m not stupid but as far as that goes I don’t have the patience.”
And despite her Luddite leanings, she’s adamant about not using an assistant to do her social media updates — “I’m a control freak that way” — and will probably never follow the advice to post at least once a day. “Who says this, the Instagram Police?”
As much as Handler shies away from social media, she’s also really good at using Twitter, Facebook and Instagram to make a point. “I had no idea there was a nudity thing about Instagram,” she says of the infamous topless shot she posted that was subsequently removed by the mobile photo app and became a matter of public debate.
Ultimately, Handler will do things her own way whether or not the Internet is watching. “I’m scared but I’m less scared than anyone else,” she declares, a statement that extends from leaving her high-profile talk show to tackling her confusion surrounding technology. “I’m slowly learning how to use the things in my house. It’s ridiculous, if I can afford to have a house like that I should know how to use it.”
TheWrap’s first annual Power Women’s Breakfast in San Francisco brought together many notable women in the Golden Gate City and beyond, Bonnie Pan EVP of Programming Maker Studios, British Counsel General Priya Guha, Jessica Herrin CEO and founder Stella & Dot, Hillary Mickell co-founder and CMO of Foodily, Sukhinder Singh Cassidy founder and Chairman Joyus, Ruzwana Bashir CEO and cofounder Peek, Heather Podesta founder & CEO at Heather Podesta Partners, Anja Manuel Managing Partner and Principal RiceHadleyGates, Linda J. Calhoun Executive Producer Career Girls, and various representatives from Twitter, Dolby, Airbnb, Zynga, Pixar, Indiegogo, LinkedIn, Lyft, the San Francisco Chronicle, eBay, Pinterest, Deloitte, JP Morgan and the San Francisco Film Commission.
The event was sponsored by Box, Bank of America and CreativeFuture, with special recognition to Bay Area Women in Film, Surf Air and The Four Season San Francisco. An auction to benefit the Joyful Heart Foundation included luxury items from Ferragamo, Joel Bernstein, The Plumpjack Group, The Four Seasons, Montane Designs Candles, and Marrin Costello jewelry.