Joan, Ellen and Rosie

In 1997, Joan Rivers told me she was writing a book.  “It’s gonna be about how I lost my entire fortune…TWICE!”  She called it, Bouncing Back: I’ve Survived Everything…and I Mean Everything…and You Can Too!  I told her a better title would have been, Don’t Let This Happen To You.  Lose a fortune once, shame on them.  Lose a fortune twice, shame on you.  I was reminded of this apropos of Ellen DeGeneres’ return to the standup stage.  Her first show took place last week at Largo in West Hollywood, which is housed inside the lovely Coronet Theatre – literally blocks away from my unpretentious Beverly Hills (adjacent) abode.  “For those of you keeping score, this is the second time I’ve been kicked out of show business,” said Ellen.  Here’s the punch line: “Eventually, they’re going to kick me out for a third time because I’m mean, old, and gay.”

Let me remind you how we got here.  I know people disagree with me regarding the sitcom, but it was not cancelled because she came out.  It was cancelled because people stopped watching.  And, in my humble opinion, people stopped watching because the show became unfunny.  Yes, some will argue that the network wasn’t behind her.  The bottom line is showbiz will overlook anything if you’re making money.  As for her talk show, it averaged over four million viewers a day at its peak.  After reports of a toxic workplace, it dropped to just over a million.  Again, money talks.  Trust me, nobody ever said Johnny Carson was warm and fuzzy.  People from Ellen’s staff had conflicting experiences with her.  It’s interesting to look at her DJs.  Her first, Scotty K, was dismissed without notice after a few months.  He rebounded by marrying Sean HayesTony Okungbowa stayed the longest – on and off for about eight years.  “While I am grateful for the opportunity it afforded me, I did experience and feel the toxicity of the environment.”  That is contrasted by tWitch, who replaced him.  “Obviously there’s some things to address, but from my standpoint and from countless others, there’s been love.”  On the other hand, he killed himself.


Before Ellen started telling people to be kind to one another, Rosie O’Donnell was the Queen of Nice.  While she has many critics, we never heard complaints from any of Rosie’s employees.  About a year ago, she tossed her hat into the podcast field with Onward.  I enjoyed it, but it was never an effortless fit.  Like so many comedians, Rosie is at her best with a live audience.  The long-form interview with a single guest was very hit-or-miss, so I wasn’t surprised when Rosie announced she was ending the show.  She said she’d like to find a way to incorporate live interaction with the audience.  Like they’ve been doing since…oh, I dunno, the advent of radio!  If Seth Rudetsky and Billy Masters can find a way to do live shows that also work as podcasts, it can’t be that hard.


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