Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation
Top

“Don’t get into comedy to be famous”: Ellen DeGeneres shares her advice for aspiring female stand-ups

ellen-degeneres.JPG

Today, Ellen DeGeneres is most famous for Ellen, her universally-adored US chat show – and for voicing forgetful blue tang fish Dory in Finding Nemo and Finding Dory

But the presenter, actress, writer and producer first found fame as a stand-up comic in the early 1980s. After years of gigging around the clubs and coffee houses of New Orleans, she was voted Showtime’s ‘Funniest Person in America’ in 1982, an accolade swiftly followed by TV specials, sitcom roles and parts in Hollywood movies. Today, she’s one of the most famous comedians in the world.

All told, fame has worked out alright for DeGeneres. But speaking exclusively to Stylist.co.uk, DeGeneres says that aspiring female stand-ups should pursue a career in comedy only if they are “really good at crafting a story” and “have a different take on things”.

She adds: “That’s what you should do it for, not to be famous.”

ellen-1990

Ellen DeGeneres at the American Comedy Awards, 1990

Stand-up is a notoriously brutal business, and DeGeneres has previously spoken about how, as a young comic, she struggled with her belief that success meant getting everyone to like me."

"I became whoever I thought people wanted me to be," she said. "I’d say yes when I wanted to say no, and I even wore a few dresses.” 

Now, speaking to Stylist.co.uk, DeGeneres advises other women against going down that route. Stand-up, she says, is not the path to go down if you want to “be liked by everybody – because comedy is not the place to try that out.”

DeGeneres's own interest in comedy began when she was a child. “It came from me making my mother laugh when she was going through a hard time and going through a divorce,” she says. “That’s a very powerful thing as a kid, to make an adult laugh and change their mood and change their spirit.”

“For me, having a room full of strangers laugh at that one thought you had – it’s just magical”

She continues: “For me, having a room full of people that are mutual strangers laugh at that one thought that you had, or that one idea you wrote down – and that you got all of these different people that all have different ideas and opinions, they all like that one joke – it’s just magical.”

ellen-portia

Ellen Degeneres with wife Portia DeRossi at the UK premiere of Finding Dory

When Stylist.co.uk meets DeGeneres, protests against the killing of African-American man Alton Sterling are taking place in Baton Rouge, in Degeneres’s home state of Louisiana. The Orlando nightclub shootings took place just a month earlier. In such a troubling political climate, how does the famously sunny DeGeneres stay positive?

“It’s so hard for me to talk about what’s going on over there, because it’s so heart-breaking for me, and to see one particular group of people being attacked and there’s no accountability for it, it’s unspeakable,” she says.

Ultimately, she says, “all I can do is be a representative of kindness and every day on my show try to show love towards everybody, and hope that everybody realises we need to respect one another.” 

Watch the interview with Ellen DeGeneres below:

Finding Dory is out in UK cinemas on 29 July.

Images: Rex Features

More

The best A-list Instagrams from the week so far

From Selena Gomez’s empowering message to Blake Lively making the rounds

by Nicola Colyer
18 Oct 2017

Game of Thrones’ Lena Headey shares shocking sexual harassment story

“I got in my car and cried”

by Susan Devaney
18 Oct 2017

Jennifer Lawrence was forced into a naked line-up by a producer

In the name of weight-loss “inspiration”

by Amy Swales
17 Oct 2017

Abigail Breslin’s photo reveals how domestic abuse can stay with you

The actor has opened up about the realities of living with PTSD

17 Oct 2017

“Why Liar is proof that TV's depiction of rape is damaging to women”

The proliferation of rape in TV and film is a real problem for the representation of women

by Harriet Hall
17 Oct 2017

Nigella Lawson reveals why red is the ultimate foodie colour

As she tracks her gastronomic love affair with all things crimson

by Stylist
17 Oct 2017

Reese Witherspoon says she was sexually assaulted at 16 by a director

“Producers made me feel that silence was a condition of my employment”

by Amy Swales
17 Oct 2017

Courtney Love tried to warn us about Harvey Weinstein in 2005

This video shows her speaking out against Weinstein over a decade ago

by Susan Devaney
17 Oct 2017

Hillary Clinton praises NHS after receiving medical treatment in UK

Clinton spoke about the UK’s health service during an appearance on The Graham Norton Show

by Moya Crockett
17 Oct 2017

Maisie Williams’ response to Sophie Turner’s engagement is perfect

There’s a reason these two have been dubbed #BFFgoals, you know…

by Kayleigh Dray
17 Oct 2017