Ellen DeGeneres: Here and Now
January 3, 2002
Ellen DeGeneres is a survivor. Not only has she survived the cancellation of her sitcom (just after she publically outed herself on it no less) but she also survived her high profile relationship with Anne Heche (which alone deserves some kind of award). She has rebounded from all of these well-publicized setbacks with her own talk show and a return to her stand-up roots with a special on HBO.
Recorded in New York City at the Beacon Theatre, Ellen’s stand-up routine is in the Jerry Seinfeld vein—inoffensive, observational humour. Right from the get-go she pokes fun at herself as a gay icon (“Seriously,” she says at one point, “if you’re here, you’re probably gay.”) and then goes on to address a wide variety of topics. They include everything from procrastination (including organizing her CD collection by food “Meatloaf next to The Cranberries.”) to yoga (“We’re paying for silence.”). She moves from topic to topic with the casual confidence and grace of a seasoned comic but something seems a bit off about her show.
The big laughs are telegraphed by obvious set-ups that the audience responds to but they aren’t nearly as funny as the little zingers and asides that Ellen delivers in-between the big jokes. The problem with her routine is that she doesn’t have consistently strong material that, say, Dennis Miller had in his prime or that of Janeane Garofalo. Their stand-up performances are more on the edgier side and they are able to be continually funny all the way through the set-up to the big follow through. Admittedly, this isn’t Ellen’s schtick. The theme of her routine is a nostalgia for a simpler, older time when people were more polite and technology wasn’t as complicated or prevalent. For example, she exposes the absurdity of cordless telephones: “If you need both hands to do something, your brain should be in on it too.”
Ellen’s stand-up isn’t as memorable as other comedians because it’s short on laugh out loud, spit-take-worthy jokes and long on lulls with minor jokes that garner only chuckles. To her credit, she does make some good observations about life that anyone can relate to but it lacks the zip and playfulness of someone like Eddie Izzard.
Not much. Only biographical information on Ellen and that’s it.
While it is nice to see Ellen DeGeneres back doing stand-up it is a shame that her performance isn’t as funny as it could be. There are some amusing bits but nothing that will linger in your memory long after it is over or that will stand up to repeated viewings. It will certainly be a favourite for her fans but strictly rental materiel for everyone else.