CLEARWATER — Going to see Chelsea Handler’s “Uganda Be Kidding Me” is sort of like looking over a girlfriend’s shoulder while she scrolls through her Facebook feed and mercilessly mocks her friends — assuming that girlfriend is ruthless, foul-mouthed, fiercely loyal and absolutely hilarious.
Yes, there were some men in the auditorium at Ruth Eckerd Hall for Handler’s sold-out performance Friday night, but overwhelmingly the evening felt like a giant girl’s night out, with lots of heels to match the woman they were there to see. At least one bar ran dry on vodka, which apparently was in high demand with a crowd that appreciates Handler, author of “Are You There Vodka, It’s Me Chelsea.”
Handler is out on tour in support of a different book, “Uganda Be Kidding Me,” her fifth since her writing debut with 2005’s “My Horizontal Life.” Her performance, like the new book, is part outrageous African travelogue and part opportunity to make fun of her friends, plus lots of photos. The insults come off just fine because Handler saves the worst for herself.
For every friend Handler ridiculed for cultural insensitivity on their African voyage (“You can’t just assume they’re going to rape us, that’s our safari guy”), came double the degradation at her own expense. There aren’t many women that can do 10 hilarious minutes on having pretzel remnants stuck to the roof of their mouth, or bring down the house with a gross-out tale of food poisoning and body dysfunction in the African moonlight.
The most unique aspect of this tour, though, are the photos that drive the story. They start tame and get increasingly wild, from cell phone shots of Handler “pottying” in the African bush to drunken nudes of herself with pills scattered about to one particularly shocking piece of geriatric pornography that came up during a bit about her father’s nursing home.
Handler handled the rowdy crowd expertly when they interrupted with shouts of “You’re my hero,” and lots of “Whoos,” shutting them down instantly when she flashed an evil eye and deadpanned, “This isn’t interactive.”