Ellen DeGeneres’ Netflix Special ‘Relatable:’ How Long Has it Been Since the Comedian Did Standup?
You could say many Americans take Ellen DeGeneres for granted due to her ubiquitous nature and her long-running talk show The Ellen DeGeneres Show being a daily afternoon habit. With 15 years as a talk show host, it’s a long time to remember what made DeGeneres so popular in the first place.
Now with rumors she’s perhaps stepping down from her talk show soon, maybe it’s a signal she wants to return to her roots. A new Netflix special called Relatable gives us a hint that she wants to return to standup comedy. You might be surprised at how long it’s been since she did a comedy act on a stage.
The early days of DeGeneres’ stand-up comedy
Those of you old enough to remember The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson may remember Ellen DeGeneres’ debut as a standup comic. This was on November 28, 1986, seemingly an entire lifetime ago.
Yet, when you watch her performance that night, you could see another comedy star in the making. With Carson inviting her over to the guest chair, you knew DeGeneres was about to move up.
Part of her instant appeal was her relaxed presentation, unlike other comedians who look like they’re about ready to die in their national TV debuts.
By the time she made her Tonight Show debut, she’d already been touring nationally as a popular comedy act. Four years before that national TV appearance, Showtime had even named her the funniest person in America.
Expanding into films
The potential of DeGeneres as a film actress has arguably been underutilized for years, other than in voice acting at Disney/Pixar. Even so, she’s managed to make some memorable live-action film appearances over the last 30 years.
One of her first acting performances was in 1993’s Coneheads and 1999’s EDtv. In the early 1990s, you could also see her doing a memorable TV commercial for U.S. West, something she derided on her own talk show back in 2012.
As DeGeneres notes, though, that commercial gave her a springboard to her own sitcom just a couple of years later.
The lucrative world of television
Before the end of the 1990s, DeGeneres had one of the most popular sitcoms on TV (Ellen) and managed to break barriers by coming out as a lesbian in one memorable 1997 episode.
Many people still describe Ellen as having similar observational quirks to Seinfeld. Both Jerry Seinfeld and Ellen DeGeneres were building their reputations and wealth by this time, even if Ellen was starting to slip in the ratings just as Seinfeld was ending its run.
Hosting the Emmy Awards twice in the 2000s (the first right after 9/11) managed to showcase DeGeneres as a major comedic talent who could do anything in any situation. It’s no wonder she was soon offered her own talk show, despite taking her away from being one of the smartest standup comediennes in America.
Staying too long at the fair as a talk show host?
There wasn’t any doubt that Ellen DeGeneres was made to host a talk show. Her comedic, self-deprecating, and confident style has made her a daytime fixture now for 15 years.
Hosting any show for this length of time can start to shift how fans perceive you. After years of memorable interviews, celebrity scares, and providing many inspirational moments, should DeGeneres leave her talk show?
She’s talking about it now as the behest of her wife, Portia de Rossi. At the same time, her Netflix special may give us a preview of DeGeneres returning to her original fortunes.
We all know Ellen DeGeneres is still relatable to her fans, despite being one of the wealthiest comedians around. With her recent Netflix special Relatable, we see her go back and offer a memorable routine (after 15 years away) that reminds us why she became such a big star.
This special also recounts what she’s learned in showbiz along the way, but all done with an understated approach as always.
If she ends The Ellen DeGeneres Show soon, will we see her do what Jerry Seinfeld did and just do occasional standup comedy events? She’s only one of a few who could make a standup comedy moment a true “event” rather than just another gig.