Ellen Lee DeGeneres is an American
actress, stand-up comedian, and most recently, host
of a syndicated talk show.
DeGeneres rose to national attention when her material
was turned into the subject matter for the successful
1990s sitcom, Ellen (called These Friends of Mine during
its first season). The show was popular for its first
few seasons due in part to DeGeneres's style of quirky
The show reached its height of attention in April
1997 when DeGeneres (and her character on the show)
came out of the closet 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 seemed to turn entirely into a
show about homosexuality; lesbian activist Chastity
Bono found the show to be "too gay". After
sinking ratings, the show was cancelled, and DeGeneres
returned to the stand-up comedy circuit.
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 temporarily
forget the tragedy. DeGeneres delivered, 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 has also performed two critically acclaimed
stand-up routines, 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).