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June 05, 2000 03:48am
Ellen DeGeneres Discusses Her Coming Out and Her New TV Show, on Sam Donaldson @ ABCNEWS.com
Source: ABCNEWS.com
by: Company Press Release

(NEW YORK, NY)-- Comedian Ellen DeGeneres was Sam Donaldson's guest this afternoon on SamDonaldson@ABCNEWS.com, the daily Webcast on ABCNEWS.com. Following is a partial transcript:

SAM DONALDSON: People remember, of course, the Ellen Morgan show, where you were Ellen Morgan, in the great Ellen show, in which in 1998 you came out. And our first question comes from Peggy, who says, ``Can you talk about your ambivalence, reluctance and, if any, fears about coming out as a role model for the gay community?''

ELLEN DEGENERES: Well, I didn't realize that that's what I was going to be doing. I think I was very naive. I thought that I was doing something for myself, and it certainly would be an interesting way to do it on television. And my character seemed pretty asexual anyway. It didn't really seem to be a stretch to have the character come out.

I did not realize that I was going to be the so-called ``leader'' of the gay community. I didn't know that that - I mean, so far I've received no banner, no crown, nothing. There's no payment for this job, and the hours suck. I'll tell you that. Because I've got to be gay 24 hours a day, every single day. And that's exhausting.

SAM DONALDSON: Not - not like a shawl you take off, you know, in the evenings or something like that.

ELLEN DEGENERES: Yeah. No, no, I'm gay all the time. You know, I get nothing for it.

No, I really didn't know that it was going to be that I would become some leader. I just really thought that I was going to do something that was going to help myself and live my life truthfully and honestly, which I believe that's what we are here to do, whatever that means to an individual is to live your life truthfully.

And so it kind of hit me pretty hard, and to take on this responsibility so, you know, so to say as kind of carrying the torch. And I don't mind doing it. I think we have a long way to go, and I think we need help. I just want to get refocused back on what got me here in the first place, which is the fact that I'm a stand-up comedienne and that I - that I love doing comedy and I love making people laugh. And I guess that's really what I want to be known for.

SAM DONALDSON: Okay, well the last three years of your life. Jack, one of our web viewers has asked, ``How has your life changed since your coming out?''

ELLEN DEGENERES: Well, certainly, you know, people talk about dog years, that there's, I guess, you know, seven years to every human year in dog years. I think that gay years even surpass that. I feel like the last three years of my life have been like 30 years. I have lived through a lot.

And I feel blessed, I feel grateful for every moment, because I've learned a tremendous amount. I went through a very tough period after the show got cancelled. And, you know, basically when you're fired from any job, it's hard, but when you're publicly fired and humiliated it's really hard. So I went through a pretty deep depression for a while, and didn't know if I was going to be able to make it back out. And I did. And that to me I feel like I survived something. I feel like I know what compassion is now, because I know what that feels like to be in that place, because I had never been there before.

So I've learned a whole lot. I would not change one thing that I've done. I think that what I did, whether it was good for my career, if I have a vote in that poll that you're taking, whether it was good for my career or not, it's not about the career, it's what's good for me and for my soul.

SAM DONALDSON: Well, when your show was cancelled you were very bitter about it. And I think it's fair to say that you believe that ABC executives simply cut and run, that they were scared of the fact that you had come out, and it wasn't a question about whether you were a good comedienne or not, it was about that.

ELLEN DEGENERES: Well, I think, you know, in retrospect I look and I see that any network would have probably done the same thing. It's a very - there should have been a digestion process that I didn't take into consideration. I really expected everybody to open up their arms and say, ``We love you no matter what.'' And, you know, that was - that was naive of me and I realize I would have liked a little more support and a little more help and just a gentler way of saying goodbye rather than reading it in the trades. But, you know, but I think anybody probably would have done the same thing.

SAM DONALDSON: Karen Lynn has already put in a web question to you. It's as if she'd been listening to us, because she says, ``Do you feel that you're losing out on the chance to connect with straight fans, or do you fear losing your straight audience because of the attention directed toward your sexuality?''

ELLEN DEGENERES: I think I definitely have lost anyone who's close minded and lives that way and has a strong opinion about homosexuals, will not come see my show. I have a very mixed audience. I have a lot of straight people that come to see me. And, you know, it's because they're open, they come with an open heart and an open mind and it's got nothing to do with their sexuality or mine, really. It's just entertainment and it's just, you know, laughter. That's what it is.

So I -- you know, I worry about that, but I can't worry about those people that feel like that, because they already -- they have already made up their minds.

SAM DONALDSON: All right, let me go to another question. This one comes from Mary. ``Will you have another weekly sitcom? We miss you on weekly TV. All sitcoms are so alike these days, it's hard to tell them apart'' says Mary.

ELLEN DEGENERES: Yes. I'm going to do something totally different. It's me and a bunch of 20-year olds living in a very nice apartment in New York. It's called ``Pals''. Now, I'm doing a show, it's kind of a Carol Burnett variety show. I'll come out and I'll talk to the audience and -

SAM DONALDSON: Haven't I seen this show before? Isn't it called ``Friends''?

ELLEN DEGENERES: Well, that was ``Pals'' and then I changed my mind. (Laughter.) But, no, this is more of a - it's called ``The Ellen Show''. It's going to be on CBS. I think we're aiming for November sweeps. And I've got Tim Conway on the show, so you can't go wrong.

SAM DONALDSON: Oh, good. Ellen, before we leave I've got to ask you a question that keeps coming up frequently. You said when you were approached about marrying Ann Heche that in Vermont, where they now have legal same-sex marriage, that if they'd done that, you might do it. They've done that. Might you do it?

ELLEN DEGENERES: Well, they haven't really - I mean, I think it's officially in July, but it's also it only applies to if you're a resident of Vermont, and we're not. So until we decide to move to Vermont, it seems silly to go and have a ceremony just for the ceremony. I think it's a great start. I think it's a wonderful thing for people who live in Vermont. But I think we'll wait until it's legal for us and we get the same legal rights here in California where we live. And maybe that will happen in our lifetime, but we're -- you know, we're committed as we can possibly be and we've taken all the separate legal steps to make sure we have the same rights in hospital situations.

SAM DONALDSON: But I guess the underlying question is if it were legal where you live, would you get married?

ELLEN DEGENERES: Oh, yeah. I mean, in my mind we're married. Absolutely I would get married. I mean, I think everybody wants this, you know, the same rights that, you know, if something would happen to Ann or to myself in the hospital to be able to make decisions and go in there and, you know, if something would happen to either of us we'd be able to take care of the house and things wouldn't be taken away from us. So absolutely we'd get married if it were legal.

SAM DONALDSON: Well, if she keeps going and doing these Psycho movies, in which she gets murdered in the shower, she's not going to be around.


SAM DONALDSON: Folks, she did the remake of Psycho.

ELLEN DEGENERES: Yeah, I'm not going to let her do that anymore. That was actually - let me just tell you a really quick funny story. Right after she did Psycho, which I was very upset by, I just hated seeing that, our dog got sprayed by a skunk in the country. And you're supposed to wash him with tomato sauce to get the - but we didn't have tomato sauce, we just had whole pomade tomatoes in the boxes. So I kept running back to get more tomatoes. And I come back and she's in the shower and there's just read tomato stuff all over the shower and she's naked in there just covered with the red tomatoes and the dog, and it was right after she did Psycho. And it was a pretty frightening experienced, just - there was no knife involved or anything, just her with red tomatoes all over, but...

SAM DONALDSON: I can understand how that wouldn't be very funny.

ELLEN DEGENERES: No, it was scary.

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