In Depth

Tracking Ellen’s Career Highlights

1977
After one semester at the University of New Orleans, where she was majoring in communications, Ellen DeGeneres drops out. She gets a string of “regular” jobs (clerk, retail salesperson, hostess and house painter) before realizing she wants to be her own boss. She decides to try her skills at standup comedy.

1981
Ellen, who has been performing in small comedy clubs, embarks on a national comedy tour and, after winning a competition hosted by cable network Showtime, is named “Funniest Person in America.”

1986
Ellen makes her first appearance on “The Tonight Show,” where she sits on the couch after her performance, the first woman to be invited to do so by host Johnny Carson.

1988
Ellen begins appearing on television sitcoms, a gig that stretches over the next decade and includes the hit shows “Roseanne,” “Mad About You” and “Will & Grace.”

1994
ABC debuts sitcom “These Friends of Mine,” starring Ellen DeGeneres and based on her standup act. After one season, the show’s name is changed to “Ellen.” The series runs until 1998. During this period, Ellen is nominated for two Golden Globes and two Screen Actors Guild Awards and receives an Emmy nomination each season in the best actress category.

1995
Ellen’s first book, “My Point … and I Do Have One,” hits the New York Times’ Bestseller List.

1996
Ellen stars in the movie “Mr. Wrong,” and also in a series of short films called “Ellen’s Energy Adventure.” The shorts run at Walt Disney World’s Epcot Center and also feature Jamie Lee Curtis and Bill Nye the Science Guy, among other stars. Ellen also hosts the Grammy Awards.

1997
Ellen “comes out” on “The Oprah Winfrey Show,” then receives a Peabody Award and an Emmy for co-writing the acclaimed “Puppy Episode,” in which her sitcom character also comes out—before a record 46 million viewers. She again hosts the Grammy Awards.

1998
After “Ellen” is canceled, the comedian returns to the standup circuit.

2001
“The Ellen Show” debuts on CBS, where it receives good critical notices but fails to find its audience. The show is canceled after one season.
Ellen hosts the Primetime Emmy Awards, receiving several standing ovations and widespread critical acclaim for her work in a post-9/11 atmosphere.

2003
“The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” a syndicated daytime show, makes its debut. In its first season the show is nominated for 12 Daytime Emmys. It wins four, including best talk show. The show will go on to win the Emmy Award for talk show in each of its first four seasons, a record for television.
Ellen also co-stars as the absent-minded fish Dory in the Disney/Pixar animated hit “Finding Nemo,” receiving several awards for her work.
Her second book, “The Funny Thing Is…,” makes the New York Times Bestseller List.

2005
Ellen hosts the Primetime Emmy Awards show. “You know me,” she says when making the announcement that she would host. “Any excuse to put on a dress.”
As an exercise in fun, a November episode of “The Ellen DeGeneres Show” is played in reverse.
After Hurricane Katrina decimates New Orleans, Ellen raises money and awareness for her hometown. She continues her humanitarian efforts for that cause.
Ellen is named outstanding talk show host at the Daytime Emmys, an award she wins again in 2006 and 2007.

2007
Ellen hosts “The 79th Annual Academy Awards,” getting positive reviews and receiving an Emmy nomination for her work. She loses to Tony Bennett, but her two-minute, black-and-white ad for American Express, created by Ogilvy & Mather, wins the Emmy Award for commercial.

2008
Ellen is named TelevisionWeek’s Syndication Personality of the Year.

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Comments 20

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