In Chelsea Handler’s new Netflix docuseries “Chelsea Does,” the comic does … things.
And in the episode dedicated to drugs, Handler ignores her neurologist-friend’s advice and mixes Ambien with alcohol, she throws an extravagantly stoney dinner party with infused foods and passed joints, she talks frankly about addiction and she even travels to Peru to do ayahuasca with a couple of friends.
As culture critics have pointed out, the show has its imperfections. And the episode on drugs swings wildly from hammered to thoughtful to silly to studious to irreverent to emotionally vulnerable. Fans of Handler’s off-the-cuff comedy will dig it; those hoping for a little more depth might be left wanting more.
The drugs episode had its highlights. At the giggly, cannabis-fueled dinner party, one of Handler’s pals brings up the subject of stoned sex.
“What makes it different?” one of the females asked, quite seriously.
“You’re gonna find out tonight,” one of the males responded, to great laughter.
That’s when Chelsea Handler chimed in with her own experience:
“When I’m stoned, I don’t ever wanna do anything sexual,” Handler deadpanned, to the surprise of some of her friends. “I don’t.”
Some other interesting moments in the “Chelsea Does Drugs” episode:
• My dog knows I’m high: When Handler takes Ambien after a few stiff vodka cocktails, she illustrates a point many have made before — that her dog Chunk knows when she’s high, and he judges her for her altered state.
“Chunk looks at me with judgment,” Handler said, clearly a little messed up. “I don’t know if you can see him, but he fucking looks at me and he knows, like every moment is like, ‘Are you fucked up? What’s your problem?’ If I am really fucked up, he is so judgmental. And it’s like I wish he could do drugs so he could understand what it’s like to be judged.”
The next morning, Handler admitted to her neurologist-friend that she didn’t remember doing a drawing test the previous night where she’d drawn members of her family and talked about her brother, who died when she was 10.
“That’s my dad, my mom,” Handler said, looking at the oversized drawing with fresh eyes. “That arrow is for my dead brother? That’s so fucked up.”
• ‘I’ve partied a lot:’ In talking with a drug and addiction researcher, who told her that heroin and nicotine are among the most addictive drugs, Handler admitted: “I’ve partied a lot. Obviously, you can tell by my face.”
• Does Chelsea Handler have a drug problem? Back at the weed dinner, Handler mused on the plausibility of her “drug problem.”
“I’ve never really thought I’ve had a drug problem,” Handler said, “but I know other people have thought I’ve had a drug problem.”
She then asked her pals if they were ever concerned about her, and some of them said they had been. One of them said, “There was a point in time there where … I thought you did.”
Handler’s response: “I’ve done a lot of drugs, but I’ve never been like, ‘I have a problem.’”
• What heroin feels like: When Handler interviews a woman in a rehab facility who talked frankly about her addiction to pills, the comic asked the addict what doing heroin felt like.
“It feels like being in your mother’s womb,” the woman responded. “It feels safe.”
Handler then admitted that she doesn’t know if she would seek help if she recognized that she had a problem.
• What a Peruvian ayahuasca ceremony looks like: Fans of altered states are likely familiar with ayahuasca, and they’ve heard stories of the faithful traveling deep into Peruvian jungles to small villages where a shaman greets their boat and, eventually, administers the psychoactive tea — inspiring a head-trip unlike any psilocybin mushroom.
I don’t want to give away too much about this segment, because it’s the episode’s undeniable high point. Handler and two friends go through the ceremony with varying results. Of course they all vomit, but most people do. But their real-time reactions to the drug make for compelling television, especially if you’ve ever been curious about the South American rituals.