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After sarcastically sharing that she had a “great … super terrific” summer, even offering a double thumbs up, DeGeneres went right into the reports of a toxic workplace and the WarnerMedia investigation in her first monologue back.
“I learned that things happened here that never should have happened,” DeGeneres said. “I take that very seriously and I want to say I’m so sorry to the people that were affected. I know that I’m in a position of privilege and power, and I realize that with that comes responsibility. I take responsibility for what happens at my show.”
Pledging that the new season marks the beginning of a “new chapter,” DeGeneres said of reports that she’s not the woman people see on TV, “I am that person that you see on TV. I am also a lot of other things.”
She recalled that she started saying “be kind to one another” after Tyler Clementi committed suicide, arguing that she felt the world needed (and still needs) more compassion, but she acknowledged that being the “be kind lady” is a “tricky position to be in.”
“Sometimes I get sad, I get mad, I get anxious, I get frustrated, I get impatient, and I am working on all of that,” DeGeneres added. “I am a work in progress.
“And I am especially working on the impatience — and it’s not going well because it’s not happening fast enough,” she said to scattered laughter, in one of the several light jokes peppered throughout the monologue.
Recalling her past work as an actress, DeGeneres said, “I’ve played a straight woman in movies, so I am a pretty good actress, but I don’t think that I’m that good that I could come out here every day for 17 years and fool you.”
“This is me and my intention is to always be the best person I can be, and if I’ve ever let someone down, if I’ve ever hurt their feelings, I am so sorry for that. If that’s ever the case, I’ve let myself down and I’ve hurt myself as well because I always try to grow as a person,” she continued. “I look at everything that comes into my life as an opportunity to learn. I got into this business to make people laugh and feel good, that’s my favorite thing to do.”
“All I want is for every single one of [my 270 employees] to be happy and to be proud to work here,” she added, before shifting her focus to the dire circumstances in the world.
“This has been a horrible summer for people all over the world. People are losing their jobs. People are losing loved ones to a pandemic. People are losing their homes and lives in raging fires that are going on. There’s blatant racial injustice all around us. I watch the news and I feel like, where do we even begin,” she said. “So my hope is that we can still be a place of happiness and joy. I still want to be the one hour a day that people can go to escape and laugh. I want to continue to help all of the people that we help every day, and I am committed to making this the best season that we have ever had.”
Wearing a white blazer and turtleneck over jeans, DeGeneres was joined by her DJ and new co-executive producer Stephen “tWitch” Boss, who will guest-host some episodes this season, at her studio on Warner Bros.’ Burbank lot, with an audience made up of individual video screens, featuring viewers from all over the world.
The season 18 premiere also saw Tiffany Haddish return as a guest.
The high-performing and Emmy-winning daytime show has made multiple changes since BuzzFeed News first broke two stories about the show’s “toxic work culture” and reported sexual harassment and misconduct on set in July. Amid an investigation of the reports, WarnerMedia parted ways with executive producer Ed Glavin, head writer and executive producer Kevin Leman and co-executive producer Jonathan Norman, all of whom were named in the two initial stories.
The Ellen DeGeneres Show is additionally now providing staffers with five days’ paid time off, birthdays off and paid time off for doctors’ appointments and family events. And WarnerMedia has consolidated its television labels, merging the company behind The Ellen DeGeneres Show, Telepictures, with Warner Horizon Unscripted and Shed Media into the Warner Bros. Unscripted TV Division.
In an all-staff video Zoom call in August, DeGeneres apologized to the workers on the show, first by addressing claims that she is standoffish at work: “I’m a multilayered person, and I try to be the best person I can be and try to learn from my mistakes,” she said. Then she discussed her commitment to employees: “I care about each and every one of you. I am grateful for each and every one of you. I feel like I’ve kind of let the ball drop a bit because I’m focused on the show, I go in and I do the show, and I’ve just let everybody to do their jobs — to run different departments,” she said. “And it just became a well-oiled machine, and I think that is the problem.”
Watch Ellen’s opening monologue from her season 18 premiere, in which she addresses the toxic workplace reports, in the video below.
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