However you feel about her, Chelsea Handler is having quite the year. The standup comedian, writer and host of the talk show "Chelsea Lately" (on the E! Network) is a cultural Rorschach test. Is she a clever commenter on the passing scene or a sign of the apocalypse? Whether you find her smug, vulgar and self-centered, or a smart, hip and delightfully transgressive interpreter of our celebrity-worshipping society, Handler, who hits the Bass Concert Hall Friday, April 16, gets talked about as much as she herself likes to talk (no small thing).

The 35-year-old New Jersey native is the author of three books, all currently sitting on The New York Times' best-seller lists of paperback and hardcover nonfiction (her current tour is named for her newest book, "Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang," unless it's the other way around). The books are filled with unflattering, taboo-busting stories about her family and friends; that she doesn't spare herself in her tell-all tales might be her saving grace (if you can call stories about myriad debaucheries in thought and action "graceful").

Handler responded to our questions via e-mail.

American-Statesman: Are you surprised by the places your career has taken you, or just surprised it took as long as it did?

Chelsea Handler: I'm actually just surprised that I have one. But I didn't think I'd end up on the E! Network … no little girl dreams that big … also I'd never heard of it.

What do you consider to have been your big break in show business?

Writing my first book and having people actually read it. I'd had some so-called "breaks" before then, but that particular one turned things in a new direction.

What percentage of the essays in your nonfiction books is actual nonfiction?

100 percent. They all come from a true place, which isn't always great to admit.

How do your relatives and friends feel about the (sometimes rather unflattering) ways you write and talk about them?

My friends are just glad to be mentioned, and my Dad wants a percentage of my sales.

Who are your biggest role models and influences as a performer?

My biggest male role model is Clay Aiken. He's also my biggest female role model.

Are you nostalgic for the days before reality TV and anything-goes gossip, or do you revel in the here and now being what it is?

I definitely like to watch things other than reality TV, but reality shows and ridiculous celebrities make my job much easier.

What kind of (public) entertainment do you enjoy in your off-hours (that is, TV, movies, theater, music, etc.)?

Is sleep considered "entertainment"?

In May, the Dalai Lama is set to play Radio City Music Hall less than a week after your appearance. Any thoughts on that?

I didn't realize that he did stand-up. Good for him.

Is there anything you consider too off-limits for you to write or talk about?

No. If it happens, it can be talked about. And if you didn't want it talked about, you shouldn't have done it.

Chelsea Chelsea Bang Bang Tour

When: 8 and 10:30 p.m. Friday, April 16

Where: Bass Concert Hall, 23rd Street and Robert Dedman Drive

Cost: $87-$288

Chelsea Handler book-signing

When: 4 p.m. Friday, April 16

Where: BookPeople, 603 N. Lamar Blvd.

Cost: Free, but copies of Handler's book must be bought from BookPeople for signing. Wristbands for signing line will be available at 9 a.m.

Information: 472-5050; www.bookpeople.com