The best, worst and most awkward moments of The Ellen DeGeneres Show

Ellen DeGeneres

The Ellen DeGeneres Show is finally coming to an end after 19 seasons, and to say it’s been a whirlwind would be an understatement.

Ellen DeGeneres launched her talkshow in 2003 after a turbulent few years in her career. In 1998, her sitcom Ellen was abruptly cancelled after she – and her character of the same name – came out as gay.

For a while, it looked like the comedian’s career was over – but a few years later, she had her second coming when she landed her very own daytime talkshow.

For more than a decade The Ellen DeGeneres Show was untouchable, with its namesake host one of America’s surest household names.

But the blocks started to come tumbling down when former staffers told Buzzfeed News in July 2020 that the on-set culture was toxic.

Suddenly, people started to view the show – and its host – in a different way, and some of her past interviews with famous faces were reappraised as degrading or offensive.

As The Ellen DeGeneres Show bows out, we take a look back at 10 of the best, worst and most awkward moments from the show’s history.

1. ‘Actually no, that’s not the truth Ellen’

Everyone remembers where they were when Dakota Johnson destroyed Ellen DeGeneres on television.

The year was 2019 and Ellen’s fall from grace hadn’t yet begun. Dakota Johnson went on the show to promote her film The Peanut Butter Falcon, and all hell immediately broke loose when the pair started talking about Johnson’s 30th birthday party.

“How was the party? I wasn’t invited,” Ellen said.

“Actually no, that’s not the truth Ellen. You were invited,” Johnson replied. “Last time I was on the show, last year, you gave me a bunch of s**t about not inviting you but I didn’t even know you want to be invited.”

Ellen replied: “Well who wouldn’t want to be invited to a party?”

Johnson’s reply? “I didn’t even know you liked me.”

The exchange is still torturous to watch almost three years on – the pair went on to wrangle over whether or not Ellen was invited, with the host finally accepting that she did receive an invite and didn’t attend.

It might have been an awkward moment, but it’s still television gold – and it’s without doubt one of the all-time most iconic moments from The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

2. Ellen DeGeneres’ first ever guest was Jennifer Aniston

Many years before Ellen was torn to shreds by Dakota Johnson, she had a much more endearing moment with Jennifer Aniston on her first ever show.

Aniston appeared on the show to promote Friends, but she also gifted Ellen a welcome mat for her new show.

We’re sure neither would have thought the show would still be on the air almost two full decades later.

3. Her very first opening monologue is a reminder of the show’s humble beginnings

In the same episode, Ellen gave her first ever opening monologue. In the clip, she looks a little nervous but also excited as she tries her best to make the audience laugh with jokes about cue cards and standing in the right spot.

“We have a lot of people you’re going to meet, every single day I’ll introduce you to somebody new,” DeGeneres said.

“It’s like a family here. What I feel this is, it’s like we’re starting a relationship and I’ve committed myself to this relationship.”

4. Ellen DeGeneres’ first monologue of season 18 struck a very different tone

It would be impossible to talk about Ellen’s first ever monologue without referencing her now famous 2020 speech in which she addressed allegations of a toxic culture on set.

Once again, Ellen seems a little nervous in this clip, but that feeling of excitement is long gone.

“If you’re watching because you love me, thank you. If you’re watching because you don’t love me, welcome,” she said. “How was everybody’s summer? Good? Yeah? Mine was great. Super terrific.”

She went on to address the allegations in-depth for the first time, saying she was sorry to the people who were affected.

“I take responsibility for what happens at my show,” she said. Ellen promised they were “starting a new chapter” and said they had made the necessary changes behind the scenes to improve the culture.

5. Ellen announces her engagement to Portia di Rossi

The Ellen DeGeneres Show might have become known for less than favourable reasons in recent years, but there were also plenty of history-making moments along the way.

One of those came in 2008 when the California Supreme Court overturned the ban on same-sex marriage.

An emotional Ellen told the audience that she would be getting married to her girlfriend Portia Di Rossi, who was sitting in the audience.

“I would like to say right now, for the first time I am announcing, I am getting married,” Ellen said to rapturous applause.

6. She spoke about he wedding during an opening monologue

After she got married in 2008, Ellen spoke at length about her wedding during an opening monologue on the show.

At that time, it was still rare to see LGBTQ+ people speaking on such massive public platforms about their relationships, which is why it felt so powerful to hear Ellen speak so candidly about her marriage.

The monologue is still heartwarming and beautiful to this day.

7. Ellen DeGeneres brought Michelle Obama to CVS, and the result was hilarious

In 2016, as the Obamas’ time in the White House was coming to an end, Ellen DeGeneres went to a CVS with Michelle Obama to help her settle back into regular civilian life.

The clip is still one of the funniest in the show’s history, with Michelle struggling with coin machines and signing boxes of wine for customers.

Michelle Obama’s CVS visit occurred at the show’s peak, when the world still adored Ellen and her chat show. It’s hard not to look back on it with fondness.

8. She helped a fan perform with her idol Missy Elliott, and it was adorable

Mary Halsey went viral in 2018 with her karaoke performance of Missy Elliott’s “Work It”, which naturally meant she had to appear on The Ellen DeGeneres Show to talk about her moment of fame.

Ellen got Mary to stand up and perform “Work It”, but the moment was made all the better when Missy Elliott herself walked out on stage and joined her.

Mary seemed genuinely overjoyed to have the chance to meet Missy Elliott, and it’s still a heartwarming moment to this day.

9. These awkward Taylor Swift interviews still make us squirm

Taylor Swift has appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show numerous times, which is surprising given the tone of some of those interviews.

It says a lot that a fan has compiled various clips from Taylor’s time on the show and put it all together into a YouTube video titled: “Ellen making Taylor Swift uncomfortable for five minutes straight.”

Many have criticised Ellen for her in-depth focus on Taylor’s love life – most of their chats have revolved around Ellen quizzing Taylor on the men she’s dated.

10. Her interview with Sofia Vergara has not aged well

Modern Family star Sofia Vergara appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show in 2017, and the interview quickly went south when Ellen said she was going to teach Vergara an “English word of the day” – apparently because she’s Columbian.

It’s fair to say the clip hasn’t aged well. It’s one of those moments that just keeps resurfacing on social media, with many criticising the host for appearing to make fun of Vergara’s accent.