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Ellen DeGeneres is definitely thinking about ending her long-running eponymous talk show, the comedian told The Hollywood Reporter on Wednesday night — it just won’t be happening any time soon.
On the red carpet ahead of a For Your Consideration Emmy panel for her Netflix special, Ellen DeGeneres: Relatable, she said that she’s begun to reflect on her 16 years hosting her talk show, and that perhaps there might now be an end in sight.
“Yeah, of course. I think that whenever I’m tired. I think that whenever the show is a little rough to do,” she told THR. “I’ll know when it’s the end. I’ll know when I feel it. And I don’t feel that right now, so we’ll see how long I go. But you know, I didn’t think I’d go 16 years. This is crazy. I mean, most shows don’t.”
When she started the talk show in 2003, she knew that her relationship to viewers would be different than it had been when she was starring in a sitcom. But that’s a lot easier to understand in theory than in practice.
“Everybody warned me that it’s a different thing than being in a sitcom or being an actor, because people know you as a character or they see you once a week [on a sitcom]. But when you’re on TV every single day, you’re in their living room and they think they know you,” DeGeneres said. “So people have preconceived ideas and impressions of who I am. And you know, I can’t really live up to all that. I just try to be exactly who I am and show who I am honestly, every day, but I had no idea it was going to be that that impactful.”
Returning to stand-up scratches a different creative itch for DeGeneres, but with her talk show, hosting Ellen’s Game of Games on NBC, and developing television and film projects through her production company, it requires a much larger chunk of time to perform regularly than she has to spare.
“Unfortunately, I just don’t have the time because I do the show five days a week and I’m tired on the weekend. I’ll do it again for sure, because I loved it. It’s something that, even though I thought I would never do it again, I think for sure I’ll do it again.”
Once she does decide to end the show, however, she probably won’t be in front of the camera much.
“I think once I’m done with the talk show, I’m not somebody that needs to be onstage and in front of the camera all the time. I’m happy to step back when I’m done. I’ll be happy to just be doing my brand and doing production,” she said. “So once I’m done with the talk show, I think then you’ll see me do stand-up once once in a while and that’s it.”
Following a screening of Relatable at Netflix’s FYSee space in Hollywood, DeGeneres was joined by fellow talk show host Jimmy Kimmel for a conversation about comedy, being scared and whether DeGeneres is really relatable — does she know the cost of a carton of eggs?
The answer is no, because she and wife Portia de Rossi have their own chickens. And she doesn’t know how much a pint of Haagen-Dazs costs because she doesn’t eat much ice cream. The cost of a stamp? OK, he got her there — $4, she jokingly guessed.
DeGeneres told Kimmel — whose own contract for his ABC late-night staple is up this year — that she wanted to try stand-up again because she wanted to stretch that creative muscle, but she signed the deal with Netflix before she even had any material.
“I wanted to do something that scared me again. So I hosted the Oscars to feel scared again. And then I wanted to do stand-up to scare me again, to be creative. And so that’s why I made the deal not knowing what I was going to talk about,” she said. “I was excited to do stand-up. I almost gave the money back twice. I kept saying, ‘I don’t have anything to talk about.’ And then a year and a half later it all came to me.”
While she could’ve tested out her new material at the Comedy Store or the Improv, she wanted to see if it would hold up to the comedy aficionados who frequent the Largo.
“My fear was there was going to be anger that, ‘Oh, you’re commercially successful.’ And I didn’t want to ride on that. I wanted to be pure and a stand-up again the way I started, and earn the laughs and earn people respecting what I was saying. And so to go on Largo, that first night, I was so scared,” she said. “It was really surprising when they were happy to see me. And then was really surprising when they laughed at everything.”
There are plenty of similarities between stand-up and the talk show, not the least of which is that live audience.
“One thing I love about doing the talk show every day is that I love having an audience and have that immediate feedback right away,” she said. “Every single day is a brand new experience, even though it’s kind of the same. And I love that about stand-up.”
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