Ellen DeGeneres (born January 26, 1958) in New Orleans, Louisiana) is a popular American actress and stand-up comedian. Like many successful stand-up performers, her material was turned into the subject matter for her successful 1990s sitcom, "Ellen" (initially called "These Friends of Mine"). The show was hugely popular for its first few seasons due in part to DeGeneres's quirkly observational humor.
Known in fairly limited circles, DeGeneres's lesbianism became subject for major news coverage when she, along with her character, outed themselves. In spite of the controversy, or maybe because of it, the outing episode was one of the highest-rated episodes of the show, before or after. Because she was one of the first openly gay performers playing an openly gay character on television, she was forced into activism for gay rights. Although a willing participant at first, the publicity about her relationship with actress Anne Heche turned into gossip and negative tabloid press.
Part of this was due to Heche's insistence that sexuality was fluid and that humans have the capacity to love regardless of gender. Though not an entirely uncommon belief, Heche was known to have only had relationships with men prior to DeGeneres, and thus it was rumored that Heche feigned love for DeGeneres in order to feed off of her success. Soon the public tired of seeing the two interviewed about homosexuality incessantly, and they were tagged as obsessive gay rights activists who pushed their agenda on the public.
DeGeneres's sitcom seemed to turn entirely into a show about homosexuality. Even lesbian activist Chastity Bono stated that she found the show to be "too gay". Finally, suffering from sinking ratings, the show was cancelled. DeGeneres returned to the stand-up comedy circuit, and several years later her relationship with Heche dissolved when Heche began an affair with a male lover (to whom she is now married.)
DeGeneres returned to television in 2001 with a new sitcom, "The Ellen Show". Though her character was again lesbian, it was not the central theme of the show. It received critical praise but low viewership and was cancelled after one season. Some speculated that DeGeneres's star had faded. However, in 2002 DeGeneres redeemed herself as hostess of the 2002 Emmy Awards. Hosted following three cancellations due to terror threats following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the show required a newer, more somber tone that at the same time allowed viewers to forget the tragedy of their daily lives. DeGeneres delivered, receiving several standing ovations for her performance that evening.
DeGeneres' lent her voice to the role of "Dory," in the 2003 hit animated film Finding Nemo.
In September of 2003 DeGeneres launched a daytime television talk show, "The Ellen DeGeneres Show". Amid a crop of several talk shows surfacing in 2003 and hosted by high-profile celebrities (including Sharon Osbourne and Rita Rudner), DeGeneres's show has consistently risen in the Nielsen Ratings and received widespread critical praise.
- My Point... and I do Have One
- The Funny Thing Is...
- Ellen Degeneres: Soup