[26 June 2009]
McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)
Emmy-winning Ellen DeGeneres takes a break from her daily talk show to host the third edition of her variety show “Ellen’s Bigger Longer and Wider Show.” It airs at 9 p.m. EDT Saturday on TBS.
The special includes a performance by Kanye West, some street magic from David Blane and a trip to Chicago’s Wrigley Field, where DeGeneres will croon “Take Me Out to the Ballgame” during the seventh-inning stretch.
DeGeneres answers a few questions about the special, comedy and her life.
Q. What is so appealing about the variety show format?
A. This is something I wanted to do before I did my second sitcom. I grew up watching “Rowan and Martin’s Comedy Hour,” and Carol Burnett, and Sonny and Cher, and Donny and Marie. I loved those shows. So it’s just something I’ve always been drawn to. It kind of has something for everybody.
Q. How did those shows influence you?
A. Probably tremendously. I watched Johnny Carson every single night and was just in love with him and had no idea that would be something I would do later in life. So I’m sure watching those shows, it seeped in and put that bug in me to end up doing this for a living.
Q. How do the acts for this show differ from your daily talk show?
A. For the past variety shows we’ve done, we chose bigger acts. We’ve looked at thousands of tapes from all over the world. We have this woman (Layne Cramer), who’s a contortionist, who is crazy. I do yoga every day, but she’s pretty impressive. So whenever there’s a bigger stage, we just look for bigger acts.
Q. Do you have any interest in doing more stand-up comedy?
A. I’m asked, obviously a lot, to do stand-up again, or go to Vegas. It’s something I’m not really ready to go back to. I don’t want to say never, but I did it for so long. And I was so happy to move into another venue, another format. I love doing the talk show because I get to come out and do a monologue and then talk to people and still get to be funny whenever I feel like it.
Q. There seems to be a lot of stand-up comedy going on and yet networks can’t launch new comedies. What’s the problem?
A. I think, unfortunately, when there’s a bunch of money involved — once it gets to television instead of just a comedy club where it’s its purest form — you have a bunch of voices interfering saying and testing things, and saying that’s not testing well, let’s do it this way. They make the writers change. They make the producers change. And it’s kind of watering down the talent. You got to let somebody do what they do best, and not try to please the masses. Because, unfortunately, maybe the smartest, funniest stuff is not going to appeal to the majority of people.
Q. Any plans to add being a parent to your resume?
A. No, I don’t think we’re (DeGeneres and Portia de Rossi) going to have kids. We have animals. We love them, and they don’t talk back. They don’t explore their vocal chords out in public. We definitely thought about it. It’s something I think most people, as a relationship goes on you explore that way to go with life. It’s just a huge responsibility. I don’t know that that’s something we want to take on. We’re very happily married without children.
Q. Will you dance on the special?
A. I think I’ll probably dance. I don’t know what would happen to me if I broke a hip. I think the show would be over. I don’t know if I ever will stop dancing, because I can’t. Even if I didn’t want to dance anymore, I have to dance. I literally will be in a doctor’s office and somebody will say “You’re not dancing,” like I’m supposed to dance anywhere that I am.