When David Letterman launched his “Late Night” show on NBC in 1982, I’m quite certain that his first guest was not then-U.S. Secretary of Education Terrel H. Bell, a staid and sober policy wonk if there ever was one.
But this week, the comedian Chelsea Handler debuted a new kind of late-night talk show on Netflix, and her first guest was U.S. Secretary of Education John B. King Jr., a relative hipster compared with some of his predecessors.
Handler, the author and comedian who has hosted previous late-night shows on the E! cable channel, said on Wednesday’s premiere of “Chelsea” that she views the show as a chance to continue her education. (She hosted a four-episode documentary series on Netflix last year, “Chelsea Does,” that included a visit to a school computer class.)
“I believe that we should never stop learning,” she says on the show. “And I recognize the irony in me saying that since I accidentally missed a few days of high school and then all of college.”
Appearing before a studio audience, Handler told a few jokes before taking a seat at a desk.
“I finally sprang for a desk because I’m finally getting the college education I never got and Netflix is springing for a full ride,” Handler said.
She introduced a video about “Netflix University,” a comic promotion of the pay-TV service as an alternative to an Ivy League education. “Is Netflix and Harvard a thing?” the announcer asks. “I don’t think so.”
Handler then welcomed King as her first guest. Here’s a clip (which I couldn’t embed for some reason.)
“Secretary of education, is that a real thing?” she asked him.
King said something about the “educational paradigm” before Handler steered him toward his inspirational life story as the son of two New York City school teachers who died by the time he turned 12.
“School saved my life,” King said, mentioning his “hippie” elementary school teacher, Alan Osterweil, in whose classroom he felt safe, nurtured, and challenged.
Then, it was time for King to quiz Chandler in the “Edumacate Me” game.
“I want to see what my baseline is,” Handler says, before King delivered some pretty easy questions about astronomy, history, and government. (Handler did pretty well.)
One word of warning for the casual viewer: Handler throws the f-word around pretty liberally.
New episodes of “Chelsea” will appear Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays on Netflix at 3:01 a.m. Eastern time (12:01 a.m. Pacific).
A version of this news article first appeared in the Education and the Media blog.