Ellen DeGeneres: ‘I got kicked out of show business… the ‘be kind’ girl wasn’t kind’

Ellen DeGeneres’s talk show ended in May 2022, under a two-year-long cloud of controversy. It all started during the early days of the pandemic, the stories about Ellen’s casual cruelty towards service workers, staffers and more. Then things went next-level when The Ellen Show was exposed as a massively toxic work environment. That exposure led to real changes being made in the final season of Ellen’s show, but the damage was already done and the show sort of limped along that final year. After which, Ellen spent about two years decompressing and writing new material. She’s going on the road on a stand-up tour, and she will film a Netflix special (her first in six years) later this year. Rolling Stone had a lengthy story about her first night of standup since her show ended:

Her bit about being canceled: “What else can I tell you?” she mused, mock-reflecting on her recent past before adding sarcastically, “Oh yeah, I got kicked out of show business. There’s no mean people in show business. The ‘be kind’ girl wasn’t kind. I became this one-dimensional character who gave stuff away and danced up steps. Do you know how hard it is to dance up steps? Would a mean person dance up steps? Had I ended my show by saying, ‘Go f–k yourself,’ people would’ve been pleasantly surprised.”

She didn’t know how to be a boss: She also said that she was an immature boss who “didn’t know how to be a boss. I didn’t go to business school. I went to Charlie’s Chuckle Hutt. The show was called Ellen and everybody was wearing T-shirts that said ‘Ellen’ and there were buildings on the Warner Brothers lot that said ‘Ellen,’ but I don’t know that that meant I should be in charge.”

She thinks sexism was at play: She chalked up some of the vitriol she faced at the time to sexism, noting that “there are consequences” for not following the pre-existing rules and gender roles. Referencing the cancellation of her eponymous sitcom in the 1990s after she’d announced to the world that she was gay, she added wryly, “For those of you keeping score, this is the second time I’ve been kicked out of show business…Eventually they’re going to kick me out for a third time because I’m mean, old, and gay.”

Toll on her self-esteem: “I’m giving stuff away…and I danced, then I was mean and they didn’t like me again,” she said. “It’s been such a toll on my ego and my self-esteem. There’s such extremes in this business, people either love you and idolize you or they hate you, and those people somehow are louder.”

An old fashioned joke: Bringing up chickens as another metaphor for women and gender roles, DeGeneres made her point with “one last chicken joke,” as she put it. “Why did the chicken cross the road? Because she wanted to and you wouldn’t ask a rooster that.”

She hated the way her show ended: “Honestly, I’m making jokes about what happened to me but it was devastating, really.I just hated the way the show ended. I love that show so much and I just hated that the last time people would see me is that way.”

[From Rolling Stone]

I’ve seen some headlines and stories suggesting that Ellen was following in, like, Louis CK’s path of “making a whole comedy set about being canceled.” I don’t think that’s what she did though – she’s still processing everything and she seems to be taking partial responsibility. “I didn’t know how to be a boss” is honestly better than everything that comes out of most toxic male comedians’ mouths. Plus, the public did actually turn on her and there was a huge discourse on Ellen’s cruelty and meanness. Was some of it sexism? For sure. Not all of it, though. (Also: she didn’t seem to address this, but one of the biggest problems with her show’s final years was that Ellen was complacent and just going through the motions. She didn’t really want to be there.)

Photos courtesy of Cover Images, Netflix.

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