Chelsea Lately comic brings gig to San Francisco

Brad Wollack says he has “the greatest gig you could possibly have.” Not only is he a staff writer and occasional cast member of the E! Network cable show “Chelsea Lately,” his boss, Chelsea Handler, is on the cover of Playboy this month.

“She has no qualms baring her breasts for comedic value,” Wollack says of Handler, who hosts the mock talk show series, which airs nightly. He then quickly admits he has done the same in the name of comedy.

Also in the name of comedy, Wollack and several of his “Chelsea Lately” confreres will appear together Dec. 5 at San Francisco’s Warfield Theater for a night of tag-team standup.

“We’re just our general idiotic selves,” Wollack, 31, says of the show, which features four other “Chelsea Lately” funny folk. “Entirely neurotic, entirely immature, and we had no career before Chelsea. Those are the common threads. What you get and what people respond to are the personalities from the show, live.”

The show will be a homecoming for Wollack, a native San Franciscan and former Congregation Sherith Israel bar mitzvah boy.

He spent countless hours involved in sports and other youth activities at the Jewish Community Center of San Francisco. His first job was as a 15-year-old intern at KPIX, where he got to tag along at local coverage of Bay Area sports events.

“It was a great town to grow up in,” Wollack says, “though it could use a few more Jewish delis.”

There’s no shortage of delis in Los Angeles, where Wollack now lives. Since striking out for Hollywood, he earned a 2004 Emmy nomination for his work on “The Wayne Brady Show,” and has written for all sorts of network and cable sports and comedy shows.

But coming aboard the “Chelsea Lately” wave has thrust him into greater prominence. Now he is one of several Jewish writers on the “Chelsea Lately” staff, among them Handler herself.

Brad Wollack

That explains the frequent inclusion of pointedly Jewish humor in the show’s sketches, some of which Wollack proudly claims credit for.

Like the Shabbat dinner sketch, which featured Handler, three non-Jewish show staffers and, at the head of the table slicing the challah, famed rabbi and author Shmuley Boteach.

“Shmuley wanted to come on the show,” Wollack recalls. “I said, ‘Why not do a Shabbat dinner?’ This shows what a media whore he really is.”

He jests.

One thing he doesn’t kid about is his respect for Handler, who grew up with a Jewish father and Mormon mother, and who identifies as a Jew.

“She is so inherently funny,” Wollack says of Handler. “And not just when the cameras are on. She can host, she can write, she does standup. She is a unique talent.”

She is also, apparently, a uniquely talented prankster. Once she punked Wollack by convincing him that someone had filed a sexual harassment suit against him, and that he would have to be terminated.

He thinks that was funny. Anyway, he has too much love for his boss to get mad. Wollack appreciates the shot Handler has given him.

“On most shows you’re exclusively a writer or a comedian,” he says, “or a writer with comedy on the side. Chelsea allowed us to do both and succeed at both.”

As the show grows in popularity, so, too, should Wollack. Wherever his career takes him, he seems to be enjoying the ride. But no matter where he ends up, he says he will always leave his heart in San Francisco.

“I can’t give up my allegiances,” he says. “I’m a big 49ers, Giants and A’s fan. So I spend a lot of my time very depressed.” 

Brad Wollack and the comedians of “Chelsea Lately” will perform 9 p.m. Dec. 5, at the Warfield Theatre, 982 Market St., S.F. Tickets: $25-$40. Information: (415) 345-0900.

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Dan Pine

Dan Pine is J.'s news editor. He can be reached at dan@jweekly.com.