HOUSTON VOICE www.houston voice.com
JUNE 27, 2003 23
Ellen DeGeneres returns to stand-up
where she belongs, but trail-blazing
comedian plays it safe on HBO special.
Ellen playing it safe
IF YOU SAW ELLEN DEGENERES
live on her latest stand-up tour, skip
watching her new HBO comedy special,
"Ellen DeGeneres: Here and Now," on
Saturday. The special is the same act
she performed on tour this spring.
DeGeneres shouldn't be faulted for
this. A show that is going to get so
much exposure on national television
needs to be tried out in front of live
But for a special called "Here and
Now," not only is the material a bit old,
but there is also nothing edgy about
DeGeneres' act anymore.
It's neither in-your-face like Sandra
Bemhard's standup material, nor politically current like Bill Maher's whiny
DeGeneres garnered national attention for being one of the first actors to
come out in publicly — on national television and on the cover of Time. But
since then, she gradually shied away
from talking too much about politics or
sharing cutting-edge material.
THE NEW SPECIAL IS VERY SIMILAR
to DeGeneres' last failed sitcom, "The
Ellen Show," which aired on CBS in
2001. It tried to resurrect the familiar
feelings evoked by family sitcoms like
"The Dick Van Dyke Show" and "The
Andy Griffith Show."
Ellen's now-defunct show had its
funny moments, but something was lost
in the translation from Griffith and Van
Dyke. Too much time passed, and the
formula for those programs faded to the
point that audiences just couldn't relate.
The new special would be more aptly
titled "Then and Now," since most of
the jokes are based on the disparity
between how simple life once was and
how complicated it is today.
DeGeneres jokes about the days
before remote controls, how toilet paper
used to have more than one ply, and
how pickles used to be in a big barrel in
the general store.
If a comedian like Bob Hope, who
turned 100 on May 29, were to discuss
such revelations in his act, it would
generate chuckles. But Ellen is only 45
— not exactly a spring chicken, but also
not old enough to do the "when I was
your age" bits yet.
Many of her observations are quite
funny and astute, but some of the jokes
fall flat before reaching the finish line.
Talking about how hard it is to open new
CDs is more of a gag to do with friends
in a bar than a bit in a standup act.
After breaking barriers when she came out on
national television, out comedian Ellen DeGeneres
fails to break new ground on her HBO special on
Saturday, June 28. (Photo by Cliff Watts/HBO)
IF NONE OF THIS SOUNDS GAY-
oriented, that's because it isn't.
At the beginning of the show's hour,
DeGeneres says that everyone in the
audience has something in common.
"You're all here, because you're gay,"
It's a smart move to address the "gay
issue" right off the bat. For someone who
became famous for being openly gay but
who still strives to reach mainstream
audiences, it's worth joking about briefly
"That was my obligatory gay remark,"
she says. "If I didn't do anything gay people would be upset. They'd say, 'She didn't
do anything gay She's not our leader!
What happened to our leader?'"
She's makes a gay joke or two, but
the meat and potatoes of her act is the
wry, insightful, observational quips that
will crack up anyone, regardless of
race, religion or sexual orientation.
DeGeneres notes in the show that
the real reason everyone has gathered
before her is just to "to laugh."
Watching her in action does generate laughter. Just don't expect her to
radically change the face of comedy.
9 MORE INFO
■Ellen DeGeneres: Here and Now'
June 28,10 p.m.
For video highlighting upcoming special, access
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