Before Ellen Degeneres was a daytime talk show host, she was an actress, who bounced around from show to show following the cancellation of her sitcom: Ellen.
‘Ellen’ was a show that could relate to ‘Seinfeld’ on some levels. It dealt with normal, day-to-day issues Ellen’s character and her friends faced.
The show was a success for the first three seasons, but Ellen decided in the fourth season to approach a topic that hadn’t been significantly discussed on television at this time: Lesbianism.
‘The Puppy Episode,’ which aired in 1997, was the episode in which her character, ‘Ellen’ came out as a Lesbian. Although the episode itself was highly rated, the show’s ratings began to dwindle. ABC received the expected vitriol from viewers not pleased about the main character of a syndicated show being Gay. Ellen also came out in season four, and the show was cancelled following season five, after she had lost four million viewers from the previous season.
The last episode of ‘Ellen’ was July 22, 1998. Two months later, a show about a straight woman and a Gay man who lived together, would air its first episode on NBC. ‘Will & Grace’ went on to earn 27 Golden Globe nominations over eight successful seasons.
DeGeneres’ short-lived sitcom career was not representative of her comedic ability. The reason she was offered a sitcom of her own, was due to her brilliance as a stand-up comedian.
Peel back the sitcom controversy, her wildly successful daytime talk show, Finding Nemo, and other appearances on television and Ellen DeGeneres remains the best female stand-up comedian there ever was.
In a male-driven occupation, the path for female comedians in general, has been much like the real world. The odds are still, and have always been stacked against women. Comedians like Lily Tomlin, Joan Rivers, and others broke the mold for female stand-ups in the ‘70s. It was harder, because of the already legendary comedians like Bill Cosby, Richard Pryor and Woody Allen, who elevated themselves to near immortal comedic levels.
DeGeneres’ career started in the 1980s, doing shows around Comedy clubs until she gained enough notoriety to appear on The Tonight Show. Johnny Carson was instrumental in the success of various comedians, Jerry Seinfeld being one of them.
From DeGeneres’ first appearance on Carson in 1986, it was obvious she was destined for greatness. Her Woody Allen-esque, deadpan humor, and confident delivery caught the attention of viewers all around the country – namely, Bob Newhart.
Carson was a great evaluator of talent, and being invited to perform a routine on The Tonight Show meant one thing: superstardom was not far away. Jim Carrey, Jerry Seinfeld, Eddie Murphy, Jay Leno, David Letterman, Roseanne Barr, Bill Maher, Joan Rivers, and DeGeneres all got their start on The Tonight Show, all of which went on to have incredibly successful careers in the television and movie industry – it took longer for DeGeneres.
DeGeneres’ stand-up had a way of making the mundane issues of life, hysterical. She wasn’t vulgar. She wasn’t bordering any lines of vulgarity, or political correctness. There was an eloquence about her work. She spoke with such ease, and never missed a beat. She wasn’t Rosanne Barr or Joan Rivers. Her comedy is relatable. She was able to set herself apart from the rest of the field.
Her stand-up comedy may not have launched her into superstardom, but eventually, it would all work out.
It took until 2003, but DeGeneres found her first consistent show, ‘The Ellen DeGeneres Show.’ She’s now considered the “Queen of Daytime TV,” since Oprah’s show is no longer around.
DeGeneres has elevated herself into near stratospheric levels of popularity over the last 13 years. She’s used her talk show to give back to everyday people, while also having some fun. DeGeneres has become a staple in pop culture, the LBGT community, and the hearts of her fanbase.
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