Sorry Seems To Be The Hardest Word

Ellen DeGeneres is back, kicking off three months of returning to her roots snarkily titled ELLEN’S LAST STAND…UP TOUR. It kicked off Wednesday night with a relative whimper, as DEADLINE’s Bruce Haring reported yesterday:

Returning to the stage Wednesday night at Largo in Los Angeles, the former host of The Ellen DeGeneres Show was not afraid to address her clouded departure from her long-running show. A sold-out crowd of about 200 fans was supportive and eager to see her(.)

I used to say that I didn’t care what other people thought of me and I realized…I said that at the height of my popularity,” DeGeneres said, prompting laughter. “It is such a waste of time to worry about what other people think…Right now I’m hoping you’re thinking, ‘This is marvelous, I’m so happy to be here.’ But you could be thinking, ‘Let’s see how this goes.’”

Given the modest size and West Hollywood location of Largo, DeGeneres could not have selected a more supportive environment with which to launch routines that play off the “poor me” attitude she is copping in articles that have dropped this week ostensibly to promote her tour, including this particularly syrupy one from US’  :

Ellen DeGeneres is still reeling from the end of her talk show — which was shrouded in scandal after toxic workplace allegations — but that doesn’t mean she can’t laugh at herself.

When DeGeneres, 66, kicked off her Ellen’s Last Stand … Up Tour on Wednesday, April 24, in West Hollywood, she wasn’t afraid to poke fun at her own career downfall.  “What else can I tell you?” she told the sold-out crowd during the show, according to Rolling Stone, before declaring, “Oh yeah, I got kicked out of show business.”

DeGeneres trolled herself, adding, “There’s no mean people in show business(“).

Well, yes there are, Ellen.  Including many of the people you employed to do your legwork while you reigned supreme as the de facto queen of daytime just around the time that Oprah Winfrey vacated that post.  And yep, you, too.

Macke reminds that DeGeneres made headlines in 2020 when she was accused of producing a “toxic work environment” during her 19-season run.  At the time, per a 2021 recounting by AV CLUB’s Tatiana Tenreyro,  Ellen was seemingly motivated to at least take some ownership of the situation:

DeGeneres addressed the toxic workplace allegations when the show returned from a summer hiatus in September, saying, “I learned that things happen here that never should have happened. I take that very seriously. And I want to say, I am so sorry to the people who were affected. I know that I’m in a position of privilege and power. And I realized that with that comes responsibility, and I take responsibility for what happens at my show.

But now, far removed from the heat of the moment when DeGeneres was still hoping to recapture some of her lost viewership, she offers little more than blame and a weak Peter Principle admission.  Per Macke again:

The fallout over how the show concluded and the stain on her reputation is something DeGeneres hasn’t fully moved on from. In fact, she admitted on Wednesday that as she’s looked back she’s realized she was a boss who “didn’t know how to be a boss” despite being the face of the show.

“I didn’t go to business school. I went to Charlie’s Chuckle Hutt,” DeGeneres told the audience, referring to her comedy background. “The show was called Ellen and everybody was wearing T-shirts that said ‘Ellen’ and there were buildings on the Warner Brothers lot that said ‘Ellen,’ but I don’t know that that meant I should be in charge.

Were it not for the fact that I personally know many of the Warner Brothers executives she and her management shook down to obtain that title when she was leveraging her popularity in contract renewals, I’d almost believe her.

I definitely believe the staffers I personally knew, and the dozens of others that came forward and contributed to what PEOPLE’s Esther Kang now cites as a trigger for a good deal of her current tour’s plea for empathy:

The comedian was referring to a July 2020 BuzzFeed News report, in which current and former staffers spoke anonymously about their experiences on set, which included claims of being penalized for taking medical leave, instances of racial microaggressions and fear of retribution for raising complaints.

“It’s hard to dance when you’re crying,” DeGeneres said while admitting how hard it was for her to cope as she became “persona non grata” for the second time in her career…Shortly after her standup routine, the comedian held a Q&A sessions for fans in the audience. When asked if she continued to “dance” during the tough times, DeGeneres candidly admitted she was unable to practice what she preached on her show for a long time.  DeGeneres also said she was “in a funk” that started to effect wife Portia de Rossi. “She was watching it happen to me… she went through it with me,” she said of her wife of 16 years.

But somehow, the revisionist history lesson that DeGeneres is offering up fails to deal with the harsh reality that it was the ultimate court of public opinion–ratings–that caused her downfall.  As Tenreyro’s piece reminded:

(A)ccording to The New York Times, while that (2020-21) season’s first episode had the highest ratings for an Ellen episode in four years, viewers decided to stop watching afterwards. The show has lost 1 million viewers in the months since, dropping its average viewership to 1.5 million per episode.

Her prime time tour de force ELLEN’S GAME OF GAMES suffered similarly precipitous declines.  And as Tenreyro offered from the fan-girl perspective of AV CLUB’s contributors, the broader public reaction to how DeGeneres and her team treated the rank and file–not the sympathetic local, heavily gay fan base which the Largo crowd represented– seems to have been to been directly related to those declines:

To add insult to injury, the Times notes that it’s “no longer in the same league as traditional rivals like Dr. Phil (2.5 million) and Live: With Kelly And Ryan (2.7 million). Now it finds itself uncomfortably close to shows hosted by Maury Povich (1.4 million), Kelly Clarkson (1.3 million), Rachael Ray (1.2 million), Tamron Hall (1.1 million), and Jerry Springer’s former security guard Steve Wilkos (1.1 million).” The “Jerry Springer’s former security guard” comparison is just *chef’s kiss.* After seeing Bon AppetitReply All, and Ellen go down in the past year, the message is loud and clear: Stop treating your workers like dogshit.

And yet…somehow, addressing that reality check didn’t seem to make it into either Ellen’s current routine or the publicity tour articles.

Look, if you are even a casual reader, you know I’m downright evangelical about second chances, as well as the right for anyone to earn a living.  DEADLINE’s Haring noted that DeGeneres is getting back up. She revealed during the show that she has a new Netflix special to be taped this fall.

And when this space came back after a brief hiatus, I at least tried to offer apologies to those I had offended, even if by comparison whatever I did was trivial and inconsequential.  If you’re trying to remake yourself, biting into a piece of humble pie is practically a requirement.

I would truly love to see a couple of those disenfranchised ex-employees turn up for those Q and As at future shows, a couple of years removed from the trauma they endured, and politely but firmly ask DeGeneres to address them specifically.  Honestly, I do believe she has some level of remorse.  Certainly more than, say, this other former daytime host who has all but completely gone off the deep end. I want to believe she’s at a point where she’d at least offer them the word that somehow has escaped her lips so far.

But until she does, I’ll simply have to say it.  SORRY, Ellen, I’m not buying into your act.

Until next time…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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