You know that saying of the best relationships being rooted in friendship? Well, for Chelsea Handler, there's truth to that claim.
As the comedian noted in E!'s cover story, she was perfectly fine as "an emblem of a single woman with no children, to show other women that they don't have to have children or a husband to have it all," before unexpectedly falling in love with one of her closest friends, Jo Koy.
"I thought, 'Oh, I'm just not getting that,'" she exclusively told E! News in a cover story published April 28. "'That's okay. I have my family, I have my friends, I'm set. I don't have to worry about finding love.'"
But then, mid-pandemic, Chelsea realized that she began to miss Jo—who she bickered with during his time as a panelist on her show Chelsea Lately—more than she thought she would.
"When he was leaving, I was like, 'That's a bummer,'" she recalled. "Or if I didn't hear from him for a couple of days, I was like, 'Where's Jo Koy? He's usually up my ass.' And then I started to realize, 'Oh, he's not annoying me.'"
The couple—who made things Instagram official in September 2021—were friends for years before they began dating. And ahead of their milestone of being together for a year, Chelsea describes their relationship as being "pretty awesome," adding that "he's the best."
In fact, Chelsea also credits Jo as being a strong support system as she embarks on her Vaccinated and Horny Tour. "Coming back to [stand-up] was intimidating because you're like, ‘Do I still belong here?'" she shared. "And he was so encouraging, like, ‘Are you kidding me? You're such a boss. Look at everything you've done, don't forget about that.' And so that was really nice to hear from somebody who was there and loves you and cares about you."
Explaining that she "never, ever" thought she would date a stand-up comedian, she now finds herself doing more than just coming around to the idea. "If we're not on tour at the same time, we will travel together," she noted. "And I think the next time around we'll want to do something where we can perform together."
As for what made this relationship different from others, the Chelsea Lately alum credits the wisdom she's developed over time.
"Well, I'm an adult now, you know, for the most part," she shared. "I had gone a long time without ever sitting down to contemplate or reflect. And therapy changed that. It gives you the gift of self-awareness. I would never have been open to dating Jo Koy unless I had had therapy. So, what's different about it is, I'm in a different place. He's in a different place... It's been a great love story. I didn't really think I would get this."
And although the friends-to-forever development was something Chelsea heard of before, it wasn't she experienced firsthand that she truly believed. "Everyone said, ‘You can fall in love with your friends.' And I was like, ‘No you can't,'" she noted. "Like either the attraction is there or it's not. And guess what? It wasn't there in the beginning, and it developed over time and then I fell madly in love with him and I'm still in love with him."
"The response just of Jo and I being together has been so sweet," Chelsea added. "And so many women are like, ‘Oh my God, you've given me hope in relationships.' And I think that's true, and I want people to know that it's possible."
Just how possible? Well, keep reading for a look at their cutest moments together: