Ellen DeGeneres is back, and just as she promised, she’s talking about it. The talk-show host returned to her studio during the COVID-19 pandemic to begin season 18 of her show, after fielding allegations of workplace toxicity and sexual misconduct among producers over the summer. Those allegations led to an investigation by WarnerMedia and three executive producers being fired, not to mention a few brave celebrities standing up to the Ellen-television complex and many more coming out in support of their talk-show-host friend. In her first monologue back, addressing a dystopian virtual audience, DeGeneres echoed apologies she previously made to her staff (minus giving the audience five days off). “I learned that things happened here that never should have happened,” she said. “I take that very seriously, and I want to say I am so sorry to the people who were affected. I know that I am in a position of privilege and power, and I realize that with that comes responsibility, and I take responsibility for what happens at my show.” DeGeneres continued, promising viewers, “We have made the necessary changes, and today we are starting a new chapter,” to applause.
She went on to address “articles in the press and on social media that said that I am not who I appear to be on TV” — in her words, “the ‘Be Kind’ lady,” a title she doesn’t recommend anyone take on. She explained that she started saying “be kind” after Tyler Clementi’s 2010 suicide as a result of anti-gay bullying. “I thought the world needed more kindness, and it was a reminder that we all needed that,” she said. “And I think we need it more than ever right now.” DeGeneres continued, “The truth is, I am that person that you see on TV. I am also a lot of other things. Sometimes I get sad. I get mad. I get anxious. I get frustrated. I get impatient. And I am working on all of that.” She didn’t miss the opportunity for jokes along the way, adding, “I am especially working on the impatience thing, and it’s not going well because it’s not happening fast enough.” Reminding viewers of her acting experience (which spans more than just Finding Nemo, mind you), DeGeneres said, “I’ve played a straight woman in movies, so I’m a pretty good actress. But I don’t think that I’m that good that I could come out here every day for 17 years and fool you.”
Toward the end of her monologue, DeGeneres offered another apology. “If I’ve ever let someone down, if I’ve ever hurt their feelings, I am so sorry for that,” she said. “If that’s ever the case, I have let myself down and I’ve hurt myself as well, because I always try to grow as a person.” If! She went on to address her 270 employees, saying, “All I want is for every single one of them to be happy and to be proud to work here.” To conclude, DeGeneres laid out her goals for a season taking place during a pandemic, wildfires, and protests against racial injustice. “My hope is that we can still be a place of happiness and joy,” she said. “I still want to be the one hour a day that people can go to escape and laugh. I want to continue to help all the people that we help every day, and I am committed to making this the best season that we have ever had.” DeGeneres then introduced her new executive producer, Stephen “tWitch” Boss, with a new desk and no DJ equipment. Her first in-person guest was Tiffany Haddish, sitting six feet away, who recommended that DeGeneres “be kind … of crazy.”