In the New York Times bestseller You’ll Never Blue Ball in This Town Again, she regaled readers with hilariously uncomfortable tales of sleazy Hollywood types and casting couch nightmares. This February, Chelsea Lately writer and performer Heather McDonald returns with a second book—fittingly titled My Inappropriate Life—in which she introduces us to her husband, Peter, her three Catholic school-educated kids and a charmed-but-irreverent life in the San Fernando Valley. The self-proclaimed “Real Housewife of Woodland Hills,” McDonald proves that it’s not easy to balance fame with family time, particularly when you’ve got a husband who’s terrible at collecting gossip, mean neighborhood moms who judge your potty-mouthed career and co-workers who just love practical jokes. We took a moment to chat with Heather McDonald about the new book, her longstanding stint on Chelsea Lately and her very real friendship with the Kardashian clan.
A lot of the book deals with you balancing your career as a comedian with your family life. How on Earth did you find the time to crank out another book?
It was really hard, but I obviously wanted to take advantage of the opportunity. My first book ended at about 30, when I got married, and I have so many funny stories about being married with kids and working on the show. The majority of the book I wrote in three weekends when I took Fridays off and my husband took the kids to Mammoth. I didn’t drink, got up every morning at 6 and just wrote as much as I could. I did miss out on going to Mammoth all last year, but now my kids are older and I just went with them. I liked it so much more! They’re older, so they can ski, and I actually had a good time! [Laughs]
So you just cranked it out in a couple weekends’ time.
Yeah, I had an outline and knew which stories I would tell. I always tell people, it really is about getting the words down on the page. I would just try to get as much written down as I possibly could. Doing it by myself, sitting in my house—I’m never alone in my house—I really enjoyed it. I really had fun doing it. It was just hard to squeeze in time-wise. But when there’s a deadline and you’re getting paid, you’ll find the time. [Laughs]
For those who read your first book, how does My Inappropriate Life compare? Would you call it a sequel?
Yeah, it’s totally a sequel. My sister’s in it—she was in the first one as well. Peter’s in it—my husband. In Blue Balls, I was in the beginning of my career, and I had some funny stories about being taken advantage of and doing weird stuff for creepy people in Hollywood. This definitely is a sequel.
A lot of the stories in the book are personal, and some are a bit humiliating, I’d say. Did you ever stop and say to yourself, this story may be a little too embarrassing to put in the book, or was nothing off-limits?
You know, I am pretty honest about my shortcomings and my embarrassing moments. It’s funny—you read the [galley, a press copy], and I just got the hard copy. In the galley, there’s that really odd picture that I took where I’m totally topless [and pregnant], basically doing nudity, with my nipples showing. My 10-year-old son and my step-daughter who’s 13 were going through the book, and of course they show the 6-year-old the naked picture, and he’s like, “Oh my God!” They ask, “Wait, Mom, is this going to be in the library at school?” And I’m like, “No, it’s an adult book, don’t worry about it.”
And then I start to go, “Oh my God, is it a mistake that my editor put that picture in? I have no shame. I’m like, who cares, it’s just so weird looking. But my nipples are showing. Is this going to keep me out of Walmart or Target? But then the book came, and the editor did fuzz out my nipples.
So I come back and I’m like, “Look, my nipples have been fuzzed out! Look, Mackenzie!” And they’re like, “Oh, yay, your nipples have been fuzzed out!” And my 6-year-old was like, “Oh no, darnit, I wanted everyone to see Mom’s nipples!” [Laughs] I bet there’s not a lot of mothers who can say they’ve had a conversation like that with their kids.
I’m really excited for you, because I hear that you sold a pilot based on the book to FOX. Can you tell me about that?
Yeah, we’re in the middle of writing the pilot now. We’ve got about one more week before coming up with the final that we’re going to send in, and it’s been great. It’s been a really great process. Chelsea’s producing it too, and I have a co-writer and a showrunner, and he’s very experienced in the sitcom world. It’s going to be single-camera, which I love.
It’s my life, a woman who is exactly me. The only thing I changed were the kids’ names, because my showrunner said that would be healthier. Other than that, I have an Asian step-daughter, I have two boys, my husband’s name is Peter, the kids go to Catholic school and I work on a late-night cable sketch show, so it’s like, we’re not wealthy but I have this fun, famous job. But it’s also an inappropriate show—it’s not appropriate for kids, it’s very politically incorrect and raunchy.
It’s cool, because so many times when they take someone from stand-up to a sitcom, they always go, “Oh, but you’re going to write a sports column, or you’re going to work for the local news in Denver.” And we played with those ideas, but I was like, that’s not why my life is funny. My life is funny because I work on this type of show, and I live in L.A., but my kids go to this conservative Catholic school where I went also. So there’s that weird thing where I see mothers who I went to classes with and there’s this weird judgment, and I think they should be more impressed by me and they’re not, so I get kinda bummed. [Laughs] So I’m really happy that every aspect of my life is in the pilot.
You’re probably best known as a writer and panelist for Chelsea Lately. How did you first get involved with the show?
Well, I had written on a couple pilots and done a show on MTV, so Chelsea knew who I was, and we were doing stand-up shows together. I had just finished working with the Wayans brothers on White Chicks, and I was getting back into stand-up—I hadn’t done stand-up in, like, seven years while I was having kids after I got married. So I started doing stand-up again and kept running into Chelsea. My friend said to me that Chelsea was going to be doing another show on E! that was going to be every night. She said, “What a grind. I wouldn’t want to write on a show that’s every night.” And I was like, “Well, I would!” So I immediately emailed Chelsea. I asked if I could submit, and she said sure.
We were friendly but we weren’t really close, and then we became really close. I got hired to write on the show for 13 weeks, and I said, “OK, we’ll see what happens after this. This should be fun.” It turned out to be great, and it continued on, and I opened for Chelsea on all of her book tours, and then I contributed to the Lies that Chelsea Handler Told Me book, which was a totally unexpected surprise that also turned into a tour. And then with After Lately—we’re filming that now, and the third season premieres Feb. 25—that is just so much fun. We just love doing that show. It’s just funny how opportunities have presented themselves, like the first book and this second book. As busy as I was, you’ve gotta make it any way you can make it, because you never know when it’s going to all come crashing down. [Laughs]
Speaking of After Lately, how does the show compare to the actual inner workings of Chelsea Lately?
Well, all of the storylines are based on stuff that has happened. When we’re not in After Lately production, we’re constantly like, “Oh my God, that’s a good After Lately storyline.” Yes, it’s exaggerated for comedic purposes, but all the personalities are obviously our own, and the scenes are heavily, heavily improvised. We do them several different times, we change what we’re going to say, which also makes us crack up a lot and makes the taping longer.
Something I’ve been curious about—on Chelsea Lately, you guys poke fun at the Kardasians quite a bit, and you stage sketches where you all impersonate them, sometimes a little viciously. But you’re actually really good friends with the family in real life, aren’t you? How did that come about?
Well, I met them before I worked on Chelsea Lately, and before they were on E!—actually, both our shows started around the same time. I met them through some other friends, and they have a shop in Calabasas. Of course, when I met them, I was like, “Oh my God, it’s Kris Jenner from the O.J. [Simpson] trial!” I was really intrigued, and I remember the first meal I had with them, I was totally asking a million questions to Kourtney about O.J. and whose side they were on. [Laughs]
Yeah, so then we became friends. Sometimes it’s hard when the show makes harsh jokes about them, but I never do. If I’m on the roundtable and it’s a Kim topic or whatever, I’ll make a joke, but it’ll never be mean, because I don’t really have anything mean to say. They’ve never been anything but awesome to me, and I think they’re great. And I think as a mother, Kris couldn’t be smarter. She’s figured out a way to keep all of her kids making money near her and with her. I don’t even scrapbook—can you imagine having eight seasons of a reality show of you and your kids? That’s a mother’s dream! [Laughs]
They’ve been really supportive, and they come to my shows. What’s funny is that people don’t believe it or they think that I’m lying or I’m a kiss-ass. They really do keep a very small, close group of friends. Every time I go to their Christmas Eve parties, it’s the same people who have been there for five years.
When I’m portraying them, whether it’s Kris or Khloe, I don’t do anything that I know they wouldn’t laugh at themselves, so that’s how we’ve remained friends. And they do have such a good sense of humor about the whole thing.
Last, I can’t not ask you about the nickname “Heather Long-boobs.” How on Earth did that happen?
First of all, I have extremely good boobs.
I know! I’ve seen your nipples!
That’s right! They’re not bad, even pregnant!
Years ago on the show, the first season, we would do this thing called “Pop Culture with the Oldies,” and Chelsea would show pictures of stars or whatever [to the elderly] and ask, “What do you think of these people?” One of the pictures was Chuy in a tuxedo and me in a really low-cut gown. Chelsea showed the picture and asked, “What do you think about this regular-sized person being with this little person? What do you think about her long boobies touching the top of his head?”
It was just a funny line that she said, but it stuck! Chelsea just started saying it, and it totally clicked, although I don’t think she’s called me “long-boobs” in two or three years, because she’ll just get tired of things and move on to something else.
I feel like when I would do stand-up, people would be looking for long boobs or a cameltoe or would wonder, “Wait a minute, her boobs don’t look that long. Did she get a boob job?” So sometimes when I get up, I say, “Let’s talk about the elephant in the room. I don’t have a cameltoe, and I don’t have long boobs.”
My Inappropriate Life: Some Material Not Suitable for Small Children, Nuns or Mature Adults is available in stores on Feb. 5.