Ellen DeGeneres Addresses ‘Getting Kicked Out of Show Business’ on Her New Comedy Tour: ‘It’s Been a Toll on My Ego’

As she strode onto the famed comedy stage of the Largo at the Coronet Theater in the heart of West Hollywood on Wednesday night, Ellen DeGeneres was a woman in command. A sold-out crowd of about 200 fans burst into roaring applause, eager to see the comedian turned talk-show host return to her comedy roots on the first night of her Ellen’s Last Stand…Up Tour. And she didn’t disappoint. Dressed in a simple, black long-sleeved shirt, white pants, and sneakers, DeGeneres addressed the elephant in the room with her first words.

“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 the audience to erupt in 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.’”

The last few years have been rough for DeGeneres. Her public image took a hit in 2020 following a series of reports by BuzzFeed News (full disclosure: authored by this reporter) in which employees at her long-running Ellen DeGeneres Show alleged racism, sexual misconduct, and intimidation at the hands of executive producers. Three top producers were fired in the fallout, and DeGeneres issued an on-air apology. (While she stated that she had been unaware of the toxic work culture, she acknowledged that “I’m in a position of privilege and power and […] I take responsibility for what happens at my show.”) Still, the show — and her popularity — seemed not to recover. After 19 seasons, The Ellen DeGeneres Show came to an end in May 2022. 

Since then, DeGeneres has mostly laid low, save for a 2023 Discovery Channel documentary, Saving the Gorillas: Ellen’s Next Adventure, and some routine social media activity. Ellen’s Last Stand…Up Tour — which so far will include more shows at the Largo through June, before she heads to San Diego, then Washington State, Oregon, and the Bay Area — represents her first meaningful return to public life since the controversy. It will culminate, DeGeneres told the crowd on Wednesday, with a new Netflix special to be taped this fall. (Netflix declined to comment on the news. A representative for DeGeneres did not respond to a request for comment.) 

Her Wednesday night set — culled from material DeGeneres said she’s been working on for about six months, including in a handful of performances — kicked off with a recap of what she’s been up to since her talk-show ended: gardening, a lot of sweatpants-wearing, and collecting chickens as pets. She joked that as someone who once hosted a daily show, she appreciates the plight of the chicken who has to lay an egg every day. Still, most of the routine found her grappling with having become Public Enemy No. 1 — a whiplash turn from her once-firm reputation as the happy-go-lucky talk-show host who ended each episode telling her audience to “be kind to one another.”

“What else can I tell you?” she mused, mock-reflecting on her recent past before adding sarcastically, “Oh yeah, I got kicked out of show business. There’s no mean people in show business.” 

“The ‘be kind’ girl wasn’t kind,” DeGeneres continued. “I became this one-dimensional character who gave stuff away and danced up steps. Do you know how hard it is to dance up steps? Would a mean person dance up steps? Had I ended my show by saying, ‘Go fuck yourself,’ people would’ve been pleasantly surprised.”

DeGeneres seemed to be still processing her experience of the scandal — both the parts she could have controlled and the parts she couldn’t. She said her colleagues at her Emmy-winning talk show felt like family to her, that she had fun playing pranks on them and scaring her guests with goofy pop-up effects onstage. She also said that she was an immature boss who “didn’t know how to be a boss.”

“I didn’t go to business school. I went to Charlie’s Chuckle Hutt,” DeGeneres joked. “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.”

She chalked up some of the vitriol she faced at the time to sexism, noting that “there are consequences” for not following the pre-existing rules and gender roles. Referencing the cancellation of her eponymous sitcom in the 1990s after she’d announced to the world that she was gay, she added wryly, “For those of you keeping score, this is the second time I’ve been kicked out of show business…Eventually they’re going to kick me out for a third time because I’m mean, old, and gay.”

The demise of her talk show seems especially painful for DeGeneres since, as she described in her set, it had been her way back to being embraced after her Nineties exile. “I’m giving stuff away…and I danced, then I was mean and they didn’t like me again,” she said. “It’s been such a toll on my ego and my self-esteem. There’s such extremes in this business, people either love you and idolize you or they hate you, and those people somehow are louder.”

As a 66-year-old woman, DeGeneres said she’s also grown increasingly aware of the aging process both physically and mentally. She finds herself thinking about existential subjects like time and the universe, and said her doctor recently told her she has osteoporosis and arthritis. Plus, she joked, now she’s at a point in her life where she’s obsessing over Wheel of Fortune.

This line of thinking led to poignant moments, as when she mentioned that her mother has dementia and drew a parallel between them, pointing out that they’re both losing a sense of self: The talk show had been DeGeneres’ whole identity and her mother’s identity was being her mother, she said. “And now my mother doesn’t know she’s my mother and I’m trying to figure out who I am without my show.”

Bringing up chickens as another metaphor for women and gender roles, DeGeneres made her point with “one last chicken joke,” as she put it. “Why did the chicken cross the road? Because she wanted to and you wouldn’t ask a rooster that.”

At the conclusion of her set, the crowd gave DeGeneres a standing ovation, prompting her to return to the stage for a candid conversation with the audience. DeGeneres called on people one by one as they asked questions and shared messages of gratitude. One same-sex couple said they had gotten married earlier that day and asked for marital advice. (DeGeneres’ wife of 16 years, Portia de Rossi, briefly made an appearance onstage during the Q&A, at fans’ request; DeGeneres explained that the last few years had been very tough on de Rossi as well, saying, “We were both just laying low for a while.”) One woman thanked DeGeneres for her original Netflix comedy special (2018’s Relatable) because it made her mom laugh when she was diagnosed with cancer. Another woman expressed her thanks to DeGeneres for participating in her autistic daughter’s bat mitzvah. One person who said they’d been inspired by DeGeneres’ positivity asked if she used dancing as a means of escape during her recent tough period. 

“No. It’s hard to dance when you’re crying,” DeGeneres replied. “But I am dancing now.”

DeGeneres flashed another moment of sensitivity and bewilderment when a fan asked if her first go-round with public scrutiny after coming out prepared her for the next one, when The Ellen DeGeneres Show collapsed.

“This was a whole different thing,” she replied. “This was like, ‘What is going on?’ It was so hurtful. I couldn’t gain perspective. I couldn’t do anything to make myself understand that it wasn’t personal… I just thought, ‘Well this is not the way I wanted to end my career, but this is the way it’s ending.’”

DeGeneres added that it took her a long time to figure out what she wanted to say on the topic and how she wanted to say it. 

“Honestly, I’m making jokes about what happened to me but it was devastating, really,” she said. “I just hated the way the show ended. I love that show so much and I just hated that the last time people would see me is that way.” 

The final question of the night came from a woman who asked, “Do you think you’ll seek revenge for those who have wronged you?” After a loud round of applause and cheers from every corner of the room, DeGeneres replied, “I don’t know who wronged me. I don’t even know who these people are, so I can’t seek revenge, but I really don’t hold onto stuff. It’s just not who I am.”


Citing the self-help book The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom, DeGeneres explained that she’s made her peace with the fact that everyone has their own reasons for making certain choices and “they have to live with their stuff.”

“I do realize that whatever happens may have nothing to do with me, it’s just somebody else’s stuff,” she said. “So no, I will not [seek revenge].”