Heather McDonald

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Photos By: Melissa Bring

Heather McDonald has had a long and diverse career within the world of comedy. She currently travels across the country as a highly in demand stand-up comedian. She was once the host of a late night TV show, All About Sex. McDonald is also an author—she released her debut book, You’ll Never Blue Ball In This Town Again, in 2010. She served as a screenwriter for the Wayans Brothers film projects, White Chicks and Dance Flick. She currently hosts her own podcast, Juicy Scoop. The podcast allows McDonald to delve into celebrity gossip in her own hysterical way.

Her most famous gig is probably working on Chelsea Lately as a staff writer, story producer and regular on the show. McDonald became a trending topic recently when some comments she made upset her former friend & boss, Chelsea Handler. McDonald was a guest in late January on the podcast Allegedly with Theo Von & Matthew Cole Weiss and she had this to say about her time working with Chelsea Handler—“lived in fear, one-hundred percent lived in fear!”

McDonald didn’t stop there and she had plenty more to say about her time working with Handler on her show, Chelsea Lately—and not much of it was positive. Handler was upset about what her former employee had to say and Handler claims that any fear McDonald felt was due to her going behind her back and trading stories to the tabloids. Handler spoke to Howard Stern a few weeks ago about the situation with McDonald.

I got the chance to speak with Heather McDonald about her comedy career and if she thinks she will ever speak to her former friend, Chelsea Handler, again.

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Can you talk a little bit about how you got your start in the industry? Why did you decide to go after a career in the world of comedy?

As a kid I knew I could imitate people and I knew I was funny. I knew that was special but…the only standups I saw on TV were gay or just not me. They were very unattractive or very self-deprecating. To me, I was like, ‘Who would ever want to marry a female stand-up comic?’ I knew I wanted to get married and I knew I wanted to have kids. I just didn’t know how I could do it.

In high school, my music teacher told me I should be a stand-up comic. I thought, ‘How would strangers find me funny?’ All the jokes I would do were about people in my world. I didn’t understand how a stranger could find me funny. I took a class on how to be a stand-up comic and I learned how to make strangers laugh. I then got it, if you set up a story properly you can make it relatable to people who don’t know you personally. It took a class to make me understand that. Comedy classes are really helpful.

Is the feeling you get from performing addictive? Do you think you are addicted to the response you get from an audience? Is making a connection through comedy a really important part of it for you?

I remember as a kid watching this talk show where people could call in and speak to the guests on the show—the guest on this particular show was Eddie Murphy. This woman called in and said to Eddie Murphy, ‘Five years ago my son died and that day I said I would never laugh again. That night I saw you on Saturday Night Live playing Gumby and I laughed.’ That left such an impression on me. It was the worst day of her life and he made her laugh. It’s not curing cancer but comedy really moves people and can help people. Throughout my career people have told me they watched Chelsea Lately during their chemotherapy and it helped them—that kind of stuff is really important.

How has social media changed comedy? It’s obviously made it easier to connect with fans but is there more risks involved now when it comes to possibly offending a group of people?

I definitely think it’s worth it to be a little careful. I am more careful with my tweets and my social media posts than I am with my stand-up or podcast. When people are watching my standup or listening to my podcast they are watching or listening to the whole thing. I’m not as worried about a flippant line that can be taken out of context because they are seeing or hearing the whole thing and getting who I am—they get that I am joking. But, with a tweet you can get yourself in trouble. It’s not worth it. If I post something and I don’t get the right reaction I will delete it. Things went really weirdly politically correct a few years ago but I think the pendulum is finally swinging back—people were just like, ‘This is fucking ridiculous, we can never say anything again?’

HOLLYWOOD, CA - FEBRUARY 13: Actress/comedian Heather McDonald (L) and comedian/television personality Chelsea Handler attend Heather McDonald's book party for 'My Inappropriate Life' at The Emerson Theatre on February 13, 2013 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images)

HOLLYWOOD, CA – FEBRUARY 13: Actress/comedian Heather McDonald (L) and comedian/television personality Chelsea Handler attend Heather McDonald’s book party for ‘My Inappropriate Life’ at The Emerson Theatre on February 13, 2013 in Hollywood, California. (Photo by Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images)

You got yourself into a little bit of trouble recently when you made some comments about your time working with Chelsea Handler on her show, Chelsea Lately. You have apologized since then for your comments—was the whole thing a big misunderstanding as far as you are concerned?

I did a podcast on December 10th, 2015 (Allegedly) and I was being brutally honest. It did not occur to me to be dishonest when he (Theo Von) asked the question. We were talking on the podcast and he commented that when he visited the show (Chelsea Lately) people seemed really scared. I told him, ‘I was scared every day that my job could end.’ Whatever I said, I said…they (Allegedly podcast) took a little clip from that and gave it to TMZ and they made this salacious headline out of it. They made it seem like I was afraid for my life, I saw it and I was like, ‘Holy shit! I look like such an asshole.’ They made me seem like I was running around like a Syrian refugee. No, I had a fabulous job. I worked with this woman and I went on the road with her. I was just being honest about what it’s like to work in Hollywood. Yeah, sometimes someone would be gone [from the Chelsea Lately staff] and that could have been me at any time. At any time this could be it and I was nervous and edgy while I was there because of that. I thought I was being honest and showing vulnerability.

Did the widespread backlash surprise you? A lot of people in the media really went after you hard.

Everyone was like, ‘What an asshole. Why didn’t she just quit.’ The women on The Talk (a daytime talk show) were like, ‘I don’t understand why she didn’t just quit.’ Oh, I’m sorry…there aren’t a million on air television shows for mother’s of three, like me, that I could go to. Is there another Chelsea Lately show I could go to? It was an ignorant thing to say. I don’t think anyone should be quitting their job in America…I really don’t.

What people don’t get is that in Hollywood if you quit or speak up…that can prevent you from getting another job. That’s why people didn’t speak out against Bill Cosby. Nicolette Sheridan (former star of the television drama, Desperate Housewives) sued Marc Cherry (creator of Desperate Housewives) and she hasn’t worked since. I had no reason to sue Chelsea Handler but when I spoke up a year and a half after the show was over…it was incredible [the backlash].

She made up a lie, that I traded stories [to the tabloids about her], because she was so mad at me. She listened to the podcast (Allegedly) and it made her mad. I was driving and listening to her interview with Howard Stern because I listen to him everyday and it was a ridiculous claim she made. He said to her (Handler), “Have you brought up to her (McDonald) that you knew she was trading stories to the tabloids? She said, ‘Yeah, we talked about it.’ No, I have never heard that rumor and I was never told this. She was never in those magazines for anything salacious because she shared everything on the show (Chelsea Lately). I was in those magazines maybe four or five times in a decade.

I didn’t know what to do when everyone was attacking me for being a loser because I said I was afraid. I wanted to die. It was the worst thing that ever happened to me. I’m a middle class person who is trying to be a stand-up. I want to be in a writer’s room again but now everyone thinks I am going to go around the corner and sell a story for $50 dollars. It was crazy.

Were you surprised that being honest got you in trouble with Chelsea Handler? She is known for her brutal honesty and for sort of being an open book. Was it weird that sharing your feelings about your job would get you into so much trouble with her and her supporters?

It’s a little frustrating that she can be so honest all the time and a year and a half after the show ended I wasn’t allowed to be honest. We aren’t currently close, and I was asked about it, and I answered honestly. If she heard it and I said, ‘Yeah, we talk everyday,’ that would have pissed her off more I thought. Why can’t we all just be honest? I never thought people would be sad to hear we aren’t friends. We don’t hate each other. We just aren’t close anymore.

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Having your own show is a stressful thing—and there was a lot of pressure on Handler during her time with Chelsea Lately. Do you think a lot of the problems you two had was a result of the stressful environment—rather than anything either of you did?

It’s just the way our personalities meshed. Other people that worked on the show didn’t feel fearful—because they had a different personality than me. I can’t be the only person whose heart beats fast when they get pulled over by a cop or gets nervous when a certain person calls them. When my manager calls I instantly think it’s something bad. I can’t be the only person that feels that way and that was what I was revealing about myself.

Do you wish you never said anything?

If I could go back I never would have done the podcast [Allegedly]. I don’t see the silver lining. I don’t want the publicity. I don’t care that I was trending on Facebook and Yahoo—I couldn’t even look at any of it because it made me look so awful.

Some of the hard-core fans felt they had to attack me and side with her. But, some fans were like, ‘You said nothing wrong and you were respectful.’ It’s has been a life changing two weeks and it has taught me a lot about my career and myself. People were like you could sue for slander—I’m like, ‘Really? I would like to work again.’ I’m not going to sue because she said something about me on Howard Stern.

Do you think it’s possible Chelsea Handler truly believes you traded info about her to tabloids to get yourself exposure in them? Is there any chance she isn’t lying and actually believes it?

What was crazy about the whole thing [she said I did] was the exaggerated character I played on After Lately (a mockumentary that took a behind the scenes look at the Chelsea Lately crew) would do something like that. There was a storyline about a picture of my vagina showing up on the internet and Giuliana Rancic’s character said it was her vagina and my character was pissed that she didn’t get the publicity for her vagina. Part of me was like, ‘Is Chelsea remembering After Lately scenes?”

Someone on Twitter wrote me, after watching Chelsea’s documentary (Netflix’s Chelsea Does) about drugs, ‘I think she’s remembering After Lately episodes. And I was like, ‘She is!’ There was one scene in an episode where Jennifer Aniston was a guest star and my character asked Handler’s character about Aniston’s house. When Chelsea was on Howard Stern she said, ‘She would ask me about Jennifer Aniston’s house.’ Do you really think I give a shit about Jennifer Aniston’s house? I have three kids in Catholic school. I don’t care about Jennifer Aniston’s house—it was a character. It’s strange because it was a scripted show but we were playing ourselves—so for her to throw out that accusation—it’s easy for people to believe it. It was a hard lie for me to defend.

Do you think you will ever speak to Chelsea Handler again?

She made it clear she didn’t want me in her life anymore and I have respected that. I would embrace [speaking again]. If she called me right now I would pee in my pants and probably not answer to be honest. I would listen to the message and if she said, ‘Heather, this is ridiculous. Lets grab lunch.’ I would be thrilled to make up and explain my position. I wouldn’t even be like, ‘Why did you say that about me?’ I would just say, ‘I think you are remembering an After Lately episode.’ I really want o believe that. I don’t want to believe that she thought for four years I was sneaking around her back. I don’t think she did. I think she was mad and [that story] popped in her head.

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