The talk show host knows that she's a multi-millionaire famous person, which might not make her quite as "Relatable," but she still knows funny.
Ellen DeGeneres released her first stand-up comedy special in over 15 years on Netflix Tuesday.
The hour-long set is called "Relatable," though she'll be the first one to tell you that in many ways she's anything but.
She spends the set bouncing back and forth between two personas: an everywoman who gripes about waiters and shares cat memes with her wife, and Ellen freakin' DeGeneres, the comedian who overcame enough obstacles throughout her career to make an Olympic hurdler cry -- the Hollywood legend whose butler has his own butler, and whose award show trophy room is big enough to incur its own set of property taxes.
The funnier material comes from Column B. She earns the most laughs when she's tapping into personal truths but really isn't trying all that hard to be relatable. Nothing against her hot takes on shoe shopping or bathroom attendants, but the bits that shine the most are the ones that say something about herself and her unique story.
Here are the six jokes that landed the best and why we loved them.
"My Butler Stepped Into the Library"
Ellen lets the audience in on her dilemma pretty early on. She knows she's rich and famous, but she also knows it's the observational comic's job to relate to the everyday frustrations of her audience. How can she reconcile the two?
She can't pander to the crowd -- they'll see right through her. Instead she decides to poke fun at herself and the very thought she could relate to what they're going through.
She begins by recounting a conversation she had with a friend who tried talking her out of making a stand-up comeback because he feared she had grown too unrelatable.
"I still think I'm relatable," she recalls telling him, "And anyway, just then, Batu, my butler, stepped into the library ... he announced that my breakfast was ready."
The bit continues from there, with breakfast in the solarium, Batu drawing her a bath, and a hilariously detailed description of the huge mansion we all genuinely assume she lives in.
She has smartly set the tone for her act, plus she makes the case her problems aren't ostensibly different than anyone else's, she just fortunate to endure them in more comfortable surroundings.
"Side Effects May Include"
It's been well over a decade since Ellen's network sitcom was canceled shortly after she came out on the air, but it's clear she hasn't forgotten which so-called friends and allies did her dirty. She drags them through the mud several times in "Relatable," and deservedly so.
At one point, she jokes about being a spokesperson for the gay community, parodying those old Hair Club for Men commercials. "I'm not just a spokesperson," she says. "I'm a gay. Side effects may include loss of family, loss of friends, unemployment."
The revelation is funny but heartbreaking. Later, she goes into even more detail. "I lost my sitcom when I came out. It's not like nobody warned me," she says. "My publicist, my agent, my manager -- anyone making money off me -- said, 'Don't do it.'"
"That's why people stay closeted," she adds. "The same people who loved me, overnight, just hated me."
Once again the joke is more gut punch than punchline, but there's twisted humor to be found, too -- it's tragically funny that the only people who bothered giving Ellen salient career advice back then were those whose primary concern was making all the money off her they could.
"Here's the Downside"
There are quite a few comedians like, say, Bob Saget, who've made their millions playing wholesome characters on TV but are also known to get down and dirty in the comedy clubs and on the stand-up stage. But Ellen never strays far from her nice gal persona during the special. If anything she leans in, going so far as to refer to herself as the "be-kind" girl.
She even scores laughs lampooning the limits of her own niceness, joking about how there's a rarely discussed downside to being one of the planet's nicest celebrities.
"A few years ago, I started ending my show by saying 'be kind to one another,'" she explains. "And it's a wonderful thing, it is. But here's the downside: I can never do anything unkind, ever now. Ever.
"If someone does something rude in traffic to you, you can honk and let them know your disapproval, and I -- I shouldn't even have a horn in my car," she continues. "Like, if someone cuts me of in a dangerous way, if I honk, they're like, 'Ellen!?'"
"I'm Getting a Mammogram"
Ellen's squeaky-clean daytime persona serves as comedy fodder on more than one occasion in "Relatable." At one point, she pokes fun at her penchant for dancing, explaining it's something that just snowballed out of control after she randomly decided to bust a few moves on the debut episode of "Ellen," and now it's cemented into her legacy.
"Yeah, that was a mistake," she jokes, adding, "[Mikhail] Baryshnikov doesn't get asked to dance as much as I get asked to dance."
As she tells it, fans are constantly stopping her in public and begging her to dance for them on command, even in the most inopportune of locations. "Whenever they see me anywhere, they're like, 'Dance, Ellen, dance!'" she explains. "'I'm getting a mammogram, I can't move right now.'"
"I've Never Been Back There"
While some of Ellen's more innocuous observations do fall a bit flat, she salvages several by finishing with an M. Night Shyamalan-esque twist which turns the joke on its head and redirects focus from a somewhat mundane observation to her considerable wealth and privilege.
In one, she rambles on about hating to waste anything, from food to toothpaste. "I will use every single bit of toothpaste in that tube," she says. "And it's not about the money. It's about winning."
Of course, it can't be about the money. She's got more of it than any daytime talk-show host this side of Oprah. The bit continues, stalling momentarily as she pantomimes rolling up a tube of toothpaste and squeezing out every last drop, but the laughs don't come until she pokes fun at the fact an extremely rich person is complaining about toothpaste.
"I roll it real tight. I'll take my black American Express card and just squeeze it," she jokes, saying that if she has a gold bar lying around she'll use that to flatten it out, too.
Ellen runs into trouble with a similarly milquetoast bit about emotional support animals overrunning commercial flights, but she once again saves herself with another joke at her own expense. After talking about how hard it is to get past all the onboard animals and back to seat "10-B, or whatever it is," she cuts herself off and considers what she's saying.
"I say 10-B. Does a plane go back that far? I've never been back there," she laughs, drawing attention to the fact she likely hasn't flown coach since the Cold War ended. "Are there 10 rows? ... I don't know, I just guessed."
"Maybe They're Transporting Soup"
Not all of "Relatable's" laugh-out-loud moments are serious or subversive. Ellen caps off one bit about getting stuck behind NPR-listening, hemp-knitting, slow-moving Toyota Prius drivers by fathoming a guess as to why they may be moving so slowly: "Maybe they're transporting soup," she deadpans.
It's not an observation that will change the course of history and it's not rooted in anything serious like much of the special's best material, but it's a genuinely funny reminder that few comedians can nail a safe, silly punchline as well as Ellen DeGeneres.
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