proud of what she daytime tv show has achieved

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Ellen DeGeneres is savoring what her daytime show has given viewers over its nearly two decades, a mix of silly, sometimes earnest and, especially in recent years, respite from hard times.

She also acknowledges that who she is matters a lot – a much-loved TV host, lesbian and married – but would like to see the distinction rendered moot.

“It shouldn’t be any different than someone on a talk show who’s a heterosexual person. But it means something, and I’m proud of it. I’m really grateful,” DeGeneres said.

She decided it was time to end “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” after 19 years and, before dancing on the daytime stage, celebrated with celebrity guests. Among them: Jennifer Lawrence, Mila Kunis and Bruno Mars, with Jennifer Aniston, Billie Eilish and Pink during the finale on Thursday, May 26.

With the taping recently completed, DeGeneres could heed advice offered by another famous former talk show host and her friend, Oprah Winfrey, who is on the episode that aired Tuesday. Winfrey suggested DeGeneres take some time off.

Will she?

“Define ‘free time,'” DeGeneres said wryly. She’s been busy with one of her passions, home renovations, and will travel to Rwanda to visit an impressive birthday present from his actress wife, Portia de Rossi: the recently completed Ellen DeGeneres campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, a sprawling headquarters for the Gorilla Conservation Project named in honor of the late scientist.

DeGeneres has production deals in place and “ideas that I want to do,” said the actor and comedian who’s been in movies (“Mr. Wrong,” “Finding Dory”) and TV series, including her groundbreaking 1990s sitcom “Ellen”, the first network show with a gay or lesbian main character.

Sarah Kate Ellis, president and CEO of media advocacy group GLAAD, praised DeGeneres’ contribution then and now.

His legacy “is rooted in being one of the entertainment industry’s most influential pioneers in LGBTQ visibility,” Ellis said in an email. DeGeneres called on viewers “to get to know and understand young LGBTQ people, transgender people, and in doing so, she reminded millions of people that our community still faces many challenges and inequalities.”

DeGeneres recently spoke with The Associated Press about why her Daytime Emmy-winning show worked and an encounter she had with giggling young fans, and reflected on her influence. Notes have been edited for clarity and length.


AP: Oprah said you’ll never have a moment like this, referring to your show and its airing as “the glory days.” How did that resonate with you?

DeGENERES: I also had glory days on my sitcom, the last ones that I really savored and enjoyed. I think you can have many glory days, I hope, because I do. She was right, in a way, it will never happen again. Then I will create new ones.

AP: Did you want to make the daytime talk show something it had never been before?

DeGENERES: We were ridiculous. Those moments on “The Carol Burnett Show” where Harvey and Tim (Korman and Conway) just lost it and laughed so hard, and just stupidity. And that’s what we’ve done with games, what we’ve done with other segments. We had a very good combination, we had interesting people and had interesting conversations. Some people were celebrities and some people were spirit guides. We also helped people in need who were doing amazing things. We introduced music. It was a combination of everything. People said the show could have aired at 11:30 p.m. in the evening. I’m just proud that we invested so much in each show – you’d get a little taste of everything in an hour.

AP: Is it satisfying that older and younger viewers find you and your show appealing?

DeGENERES: The other day I stopped by to see if these girls were okay, their bike had gone into a wall and there were three of them on the bike, which was ridiculous. And they were laughing and I was laughing, and I said “Are you okay?” and they said, “Are you Ellen!?!” and they were 11 or 12 years old. I have (viewers) who are grandparents, who are men, who are women. I’m really proud that I was able to reach so many different people with my humor and personality, not a specific demographic. I hope I represent pure fun, because God knows we all need a break right now.

AP: When the show started in 2003, attitudes towards LGBTQ+ people and rights were different, and the issue flared up again. Without emphasizing it on the show, you were a queer woman that American viewers could relate to. Was it important?

DeGENERES: It’s only when I see there’s so much hate or discrimination, and realize that I’m on TV everyday being myself (and) that it should touch people. I’m really grateful to have become a talk show host, to be myself every day compared to if I would have continued acting, playing different roles all the time. I couldn’t have explored and seen myself growing as a person. And, like you said, just by being there, I hope to send a message that I’m really no different than anyone else.

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