Still Killing with Kindness (Standup Review: “Ellen DeGeneres: Relatable”)


America’s most beloved talk show host returns to her roots in stand-up, proving that her brand of genial humor is still relevant and wise.


SnapShot Plot

Ellen is back with her first stand-up special in 15 years: Ellen Degeneres: Relatablefilmed late last year in Seattle, WA. The show features a blend of traditional observational humor and autobiographic material recounting the challenges the actress/comedian faced years ago when she came out publicly on her sitcom. It’s hard to imagine (from today’s progressive perspective) what a tsunami she caused at the time, from which not only her own career but the careers of those who worked with her were radically affected. Her show was cancelled and DeGeneres herself couldn’t find work for a period of three years afterward. Oprah Winfrey, who played Ellen’s character’s therapist on the show, received more hate mail from that appearance than at any other period of her career, in fact. Today, DeGeneres is at the top of her game with a successful long-running talk show, a number of philanthropic projects, a commercial brand, and most importantly a happy marriage to actress, Portia DeRossi.

Here she delivers on her own reliable brand of modest humor, pointing out the ironies and silliness of the human condition, with self-deprecating jabs at her personal wealth, asking the question of whether or not her success has made her lose her relatability to the rest of us. It’s not laugh-out-loud, riotous comedy but that was never Ellen’s bag of tricks. Hers is the slow, gentle ride in which you feel you are in safe hands and if ever there was a master of the pregnant pause, it’s DeGeneres. That’s the mark of a seasoned professional; she’ll wait for the laugh, with the sweet angelic face marking a counterpoint to the sarcastic line she just dropped. It’s an easy evening with an old friend.



Parting Shot

Most people would not equate Kindness with Comedy; in fact the most universal equation defining humor states that what makes something funny is Tragedy + Time. But ever since Ellen DeGeneres made her groundbreaking 1986 appearance on “The Tonight Show” in which Johnny Carson waved her over after her segment (the first female comedian he ever invited back to the couch), she’s represented a blend of gentle satire mixed with an inherent decency which the American public has taken to heart. On top of that, her status as the country’s most famous lesbian has made her both a household name and an LGBT political figure simultaneously. In Ellen DeGeneres: Relatable, the sneak peaks she offers about her childhood and some tough periods of her pre and post closeted life make the sometimes lackluster pace of the Netflix special worth the ride. Ellen may not grab you by the throat but rather link arms with you in solidarity, with a wink and a smile about what makes us all relatable to each other, in the end.

Ellen DeGeneres: Relatable is presently streaming on Netflix.

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