ICYMI: Richard Brown on Ellen DeGeneres

Chunks maestro and pitch-dark stand-up Richard Brown watches Ellen DeGeneres' latest stand-up special, Relatable

Feature by Richard Brown | 08 Nov 2019
  • Ellen Degeneres

I worry about Ellen. Everyone needs a release. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Relatable opens with Ellen DeGeneres (you know, the woman who took that annoying Oscars selfie with people who probably knew what Harvey Weinstein was up to) walking onstage to a standing ovation that, though edited for time, still lasts over a minute. Imagine comedy being so easy you don’t have to try. I once watched a comic walk onstage to compère a show and say, "Hello Glasgow, are we well?" to a silent death stare, yet Ellen is receiving a standing ovation for existing? How can a comic be any good when they don’t have to work for it?

Well I don’t know how, but Ellen is brilliant. Some jokes are fairly obvious (“My friend said I’m no longer relatable, I complained to my butler”) but she wrings out each idea for every ounce of comedy it has to offer. And her act outs are so good and go on waaay too long, which I love, and have plenty of little lines that are subtle, sarcastic and dryly delivered.

She tells the story of the trauma that caused her to write her first stand-up routine and how, after writing it, she said to herself that she would perform it on Johnny Carson’s show and be the first female comic to be called over to the couch. I can’t stop thinking about that. Imagine comedians having to perform their first ever sets on national TV. That would be fucking glorious viewing!

It’s round about this point that Ellen dislocates her jaw, python-like, and lets out a demonic scream that’s a cue for the audience to turn into a baying mob. In a scene not dissimilar from the one in Temple of Doom, they sacrifice one of their own in the name of Oprah and I’ll be honest, I tuned out when I started thinking about comics having to perform their very first set on TV. Can you imagine it!? All these idiots and their egos getting up with their misjudged jokes about how they know what you’re thinking!?

Ellen explores the consequences of saying ‘be kind to each other’ at the end of her chat show, but her kindness is a weakness here as it seems to be holding her back. I want to know, if she didn’t have to be seen to be kind all the time, exactly who would Ellen hurt and how would she hurt them? And then she says she’s 60 and you go ‘NO FUCKING WAY?! IS THAT WHAT BEING KIND DOES TO YOUR SKIN!?’, and you spend a few minutes entertaining the idea of trying to be a kind person, but then you remember James Corden exists and the anger consumes you. I don’t have it in me to be that kind, I’m too busy thinking how I would love to watch comics humiliate themselves by broadcasting their first ever sets nationally.

Anyway, Ellen’s great. I can see why everyone loves her. But I do kind of hope she goes all Björk in Bangkok on a journalist. Everyone needs a release. Clearly hers is being mates with a war criminal.

Ellen DeGeneres: Relatable is available now on Netflix
You can see Richard Brown in Chunks, State Bar, Glasgow, 25 Nov, Free/PWYW; Richard Brown: Horror Show, State Bar, Glasgow, 15 Mar 2020, £5