Jimmy Kimmel was on hand last night to interview Ellen DeGeneres during the Netflix FYSEE event for DeGeneres’s Netflix stand-up special, Relatable. After a viewing of the comedy special, which marked her return to stand-up after 15 years, the audience enjoyed listening in as Kimmel peppered his friend with questions about stand-up and her 30-year career.
When asked what made her want to go back to stand-up after 15 years, DeGeneres said that, while doing her daily talk show is hard work, it is a team effort and she wanted to give herself the challenge of going out there alone, writing and performing as herself—just herself, not the talk show persona she admitted she does put on while hosting the successful daytime talk show Ellen, currently in its 16th season. She also confessed that she wanted to do something that scared her and going back to stand-up was exactly what she needed.
After starting in stand-up in the ‘80s and gaining fame early on, her career took a hit when she came out publicly as gay in 1997, after which she said she battled depression wondering if she’d ever work again. Then came her wildly successful talk show, which premiered in 2003, after which she became one of the most famous and popular performers in America. Her success also made her incredibly wealthy, which prompts the title of her special, Relatable. The last time she did stand-up, 15 years ago, it was before her success and she was still struggling to find an audience and was, admittedly, without much of a cent to her name.
Now, the question she answers in the special is, after all that success, can she really stand up and do observational comedy when her observations may seem now filtered through a lens of fame and fortune? She was determined to find out, so as she went back out there and started to test the waters, she specifically chose small venues that were filled with audience members who would give her honest feedback—in other words, audiences filled with folks that didn’t care (or sometimes even know) who she was. She admits she was terrified, but when she was able to win them over, she knew that she had something and continued to hone the routine until it was ready to be filmed for Netflix, who she admitted she had signed with to do the special before she even had written a single joke. She confessed she was so scared that she almost pulled out a couple of times (“I almost gave the money back” she said. “Can you do that?” Jimmy asked.)
The fun and engaging conversation with Kimmel also revealed the worst night of DeGeneres’ career when, early on, she said was bullied on stage by another comic, which made her run off the stage in tears, wanting to quit comedy right then and there. When Kimmel asked how long it took her to actually go back, she admitted it was the next night. “I had a gig,” she said, shrugging her shoulders, which made the audience laugh—and relate.