Whenever DeGeneres' friends put together a show or party, she was asked to do a comedy routine. She did an act and was soon asked to perform as a stand-up comedian at small clubs and coffeehouses, and eventually became the emcee at Clyde's Comedy Club (the only comedy place in New Orleans at the time). While working at Clyde's in 1981 , DeGeneres recorded her club performances.
After traveling around the United States performing her comedy act, she was chosen in a national competition in 1982 by the cable channel Showtime as the funniest person in America. She then appeared on late night television and comedy programs.
Soon afterward, DeGeneres was invited to perform on the Tonight Show by booking agent/Producer Jim McCawley for her first appearance in 1986 . She was the first woman to ever be asked over to the couch to visit with Johnny Carson on her first visit. Jim McCawley truly believed that she was going to be a hit and often spoke in praise of her when her name was mentioned.
She also appeared as a stand-up comedian as early as on the HBO Tenth Annual Young Comedians special, where she was introduced as an up-and-coming talent by Young Comedians show veteran Harry Anderson .
Before getting her own show, DeGeneres began her television career on the short-lived TV sitcom Open House ( 1989 - 1990 ) and Laurie Hill ( 1992 ).
DeGeneres has also performed two HBO stand-up specials. The first was called Ellen DeGeneres: The Beginning ( 2000 ) and was taped live at the Beacon Theatre in New York City . Her most recent one, which was taped in the same location, was entitled Ellen DeGeneres: Here and Now ( 2003 ). After she began her talk show, Degeneres said she would no longer do stand-up tours.
DeGeneres rose to national attention when her material was turned into the subject matter for the successful 1994 - 1998 sitcom , Ellen (called These Friends of Mine during its first season). The ABC show was popular in its first few seasons due in part to DeGeneres's style of quirky observational humor ; it was often referred to as a female Seinfeld .
Ellen reached its height of attention in April 1997 when DeGeneres (and her character on the show) came out of the closet on national television and publicly declared that she was a lesbian . In spite of the controversy, or perhaps because of it, the outing episode was one of the highest-rated episodes of the show. As one of the first openly gay performers playing an openly gay character on television, she was all but forced into a role as a gay rights activist. Her sitcom began to primarily focus on her character's relationship with another woman; and even the lesbian activist Chastity Bono found the show to be "too gay". After sinking ratings , the show was canceled, and DeGeneres returned to the stand-up comedy circuit. Not forgetting the nosedive her lucrative network television show took, Ellen would later re-establish herself as a successful talk show host, this time projecting no particular sexuality and avoiding the topic altogether. Ellen has inspired many other lesbians to come out of the closet and is a major influential figure.
Ellen's Energy Adventure
DeGeneres starred in a series of films for a show named Ellen's Energy Adventure , which is part of the Universe of Energy attraction and pavillion at Walt Disney World 's EPCOT Center. The film starring Ellen DeGeneres, also features Bill Nye the Science Guy, Alex Trebek , Michael Richards , and Jamie Lee Curtis . The show revolves around DeGeneres falling asleep, and finding herself in an energy-themed version of Jeopardy! , playing against an old rival (portrayed by Jamie Lee Curtis) and Albert Einstein . The next film has DeGeneres hosting an educational look at energy - co hosted with Bill Nye (the science guy). The ride first opened on September 15 , 1996 as Ellen's Energy Crisis, but was quickly renamed to Ellen's Energy Adventure.
The Ellen Show sitcom
DeGeneres returned to series TV in 2001 with a new CBS sitcom, The Ellen Show . Though her character was again a lesbian, it was not the central theme of the show. It received critical praise but low viewership and was canceled after one season.
Although her second sitcom was not a success, Ellen did receive wide exposure on November 4 , 2001 , when she served as hostess of the Emmy Awards -TV show. Presented following two cancellations due to fears that a showy ceremony would appear insensitive following the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks , the show required a newer, more somber tone that at the same time allowed viewers to temporarily forget the tragedy. DeGeneres delivered this, receiving several standing ovations for her performance that evening. She memorably delivered the following line: "We're told to go on living our lives as usual, because to do otherwise is to let the terrorists win , and really, what would upset the Taliban more than a gay woman wearing a suit in front of a room full of Jews ?"
DeGeneres lent her voice to the role of "Dory," a fish with short-term memory loss, in the summer 2003 hit animated Pixar film Finding Nemo . The movie returned DeGeneres to the limelight, with critics giving her rave reviews. She also narrated one of the highly successful VH1 Divas shows.
Talk show and awards host
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' show has consistently risen in the Nielsen Ratings and received widespread critical praise. DeGeneres' show was nominated for eleven Daytime Emmy Awards in its freshman season, winning four, including Best Talk Show. Ellen is known for her dancing with the audience in the beginning of the show. On November 17 , 2005 , Ellen's show was played in reverse, similar to the film Memento .
Since November 2004, DeGeneres has appeared, dancing, in a new ad campaign for American Express . Since May 2005 , she's been a contributing blogger at The Huffington Post .
In August 2005 , Ellen was selected once again as host of the 2005 Emmy ceremony, which was held on September 18 , 2005. (The awards show came three weeks after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, making it the second time Ellen hosted the Emmys following a national tragedy. Because Ellen is from New Orleans, the tragedy literally hit close to home.) When she announced that she'd be again hosting the Emmys, she joked, "You know me, any excuse to put on a dress." She also hosted the Grammy Awards in 1996 and in 1997 .
DeGeneres' relationship with former Another World actress Anne Heche turned into material for the tabloid press. After several years in the spotlight, Heche broke up with DeGeneres and went on to marry male cameraman Coley Laffoon. DeGeneres then had a relationship with Actress/Director/Photographer Alexandra Hedison , who lived opposite actor Kai Christophe Wong in Chelsea , New York . They appeared on the cover of The Advocate magazine (ironically, after their split up had already been announced to the press). DeGeneres is now in a relationship with Arrested Development star Portia de Rossi , which began in 2004.
DeGeneres has one brother, Vance , who made a guest appearance on Ellen in 1994 . Vance was also a correspondent for The Daily Show from 1999 to 2001 .
In her book, Love, Ellen , DeGeneres' mother, Betty, describes being initially shocked when her daughter came out as a lesbian, but has in fact become one of her strongest supporters. Betty Degeneres is an active member of PFLAG and spokesperson for the HRC Coming Out Project. She is also a breast cancer survivor.
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