She can’t write a word about it — yet — but Ellen DeGeneres finds the Hollywood writers’ strike “heartbreaking.”
“I love my writers and we are a family and it’s a really hard thing to deal with,” DeGeneres says, referring to those involved behind the scenes of her Emmy-winning syndicated daytime talk show.
“I am kind of caught in the middle, because I am a host and I have a staff of 130 staff members that are depending on me for a paycheck every week, so it’s hard.”
Things don’t seem to be softening either.
The strike is about to enter its third week and a recent cancellation of an upcoming New York show generated questionable buzz. DeGeneres, who is also a member of the Writer’s Guild, says she’s “winging it” on the show tohonor her contract as host.
Still, there may be a comedic light at the end of this political tunnel.
Fans craving original content can find it at 9 tonight (and repeating at 10:30 p.m.) on TBS with “Ellen’s Really Big Show.” Penned long before the strike and filmed last week at the HBO and AEG Live’s Comedy Festival in Las Vegas, the special is a clever throwback to variety shows of yore. Barry Manilow, Lyle Lovett, Wayne Newton, Sheryl Crow, and comics Rhys Darby and Sean Cullen hit the stage. Tossed into the “Really Big” mix are an African children’s choir, a posse of wild acrobats and a Fab Four tribute band, among others.
“I grew up watching ‘The Carol Burnett Show’ and ‘The Sonny and Cher Show’ and The Smothers Brothers,” DeGeneres says. “I loved Woody Allen and seeing new comedians on ‘Ed Sullivan.’ It was a different kind of humor.”
It’s no joke. In fact, she’s candid about the current climate of comedy.
“I wish comedy [today] would be clever and insightful and not so mean-spirited at the expense of somebody else,” she says. “I don’t think it does anybody any good. And I think it just teaches kids that that’s what humor is; that’s how you get a laugh — by making fun of somebody else.”
She says she’s not sure how, exactly, modern-day humor turned so sour.
“It would be a good study that people should start working on because people get more and more mean-spirited as we go along,” she adds. “I think it’s a direct correlation of us caring less and less about each other as a whole. But these fires that we had in Southern California, where all of a sudden you have communities coming together and helping each other — that’s a beautiful thing, where we realize we all need each other.
“OK, now I am getting too heavy.”
Her own brand of humor works because “I think I am exactly who I am whether I am on stage or hosting my show. There’s nothing that I have to hide and there’s nothing that I worry about.”
She hopes the TBS stint brings variety specials back from the dead.
“I really think people are ready to see a variety show on prime time again,” she quips, “and I am going to go out on a limb and say … mullets — people are going to want to see mullets again.”