Published on August 8th, 2009 | by Sharilyn Johnson


Chelsea Handler vs. John Mayer

Full disclosure upfront: I’m a fan of John Mayer’s. A fan of Chelsea Handler, not quite as much, particularly after this week.

Until now, I figured Handler sniped at Mayer the same way she snipes at other celebs. Everyone is fair game, and eventually the Chelsea Lately roundtable will have at ’em. Like so, when she was joined this week by Chris Hardwick, Jo Koy, and Renee Gauthier (fresh from the Just For Laughs New Faces shows in Montreal) to have a collective Mayer hate-on.

Fairly harmless. But the trouble I have comes at 0:38 of that clip where Handler says she had no problem with him until he started talking, which would be like if she decided to pick up a guitar.

Still, it appears like a typical snarky statement on the surface, but based on Mayer’s subsequent statements on Twitter, Handler has had an ongoing hatred of Mayer’s foray into standup comedy.

@johncmayer She once told me it was cocky of me to try my hand at comedy. Like I’m supposed to begin every joke with “here’s one that might not work…”

@johncmayer “Now, I’m just a musician and comedy is not my forte, so bear with me, but true story, I got into a cab today…”

@johncmayer If Chelsea Handler wanted to dabble in singing and playing guitar, I’d give her props for it. (I do talk too much though.)

@johncmayer I promise that my wanting to have fun in life and make people laugh will never cut into @chelsealately’s livelihood.

That last one killed me a little bit inside, I won’t lie.

Back when CBS announced the development of a John Mayer comedy/variety show, I outlined my supporting evidence of Mayer’s validity as a comedian in a post entitled In Defence of Comedian John Mayer. I also outlined how I, too, was cynical at first about Mayer’s “right” to waltz into the Cellar and go on stage, but how quickly I realized he wasn’t just fucking around.

I think it’s pretty obvious that he has positive intentions with this. He does want to have fun. He does want to explore comedy in a serious way. Through these standup sets and his Twitter (which does make me laugh), maybe he’s trying to reclaim the type of intimate connections he had with audiences before he became a full-blown celebrity? That’s simply a wild guess on my part. But I think there’s nothing negative about any of this.

So who voted Chelsea Handler the Comedy Gatekeeper? I’m guessing a lot of people posed this question directly to her, because all she could tweet back with was:

@chelseahandler Listen people, I have a hit show on a low level cable network to worry about. I don’t have time to explain why John Mayer isn’t funny.

It’s not about whether he’s funny or not. If “John Mayer isn’t funny” was her stance, this wouldn’t be news, because she ain’t the first to say as much. It’s news because she seems to be questioning his right to try to be funny.

I have a big problem with this.

Of course, I’ve seen a lot of people who probably shouldn’t be doing standup — and a lot of these people come right out and ask me for feedback. But I would never, ever tell a new comic to just quit. The only time I would do so would be a) if I thought they were causing themselves more stress and pain than the results alleviate, or b) they completely disrespect the stage, the process, and the art. Otherwise, it’s not my place to say who should or shouldn’t get behind the mic if they’re inspired to do so. (I might think it, but I’m not going to say it.)

Am I wrong? Is it ever okay to be so vocally dismissive of someone’s desire to get behind the mic?

As for Mayer, it seems he’s used to being criticized enough that Chelsea Handler isn’t going to keep him from doing what he wants to do. We’ll leave that to CBS.

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About the Author

is the author of the book Bears & Balls: The Colbert Report A-Z. Called "one of the city’s most discriminating comedy critics” by NOW Magazine, Sharilyn has been covering comedy for longer than she cares to admit. She served as the comedy reporter for Winnipeg's Uptown Magazine for five years, and was the host of the radio show Laugh Tracks for three seasons. Her work has also appeared in the Toronto Star, the Winnipeg Free Press, The Apiary, and on CBC Radio's national comedy programs LOL and Definitely Not the Opera.

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