Yep, She's Happy

Ellen DeGeneres feels good again, but she still has a few complaints to air.

Ellen degeneres is just who you'd hope she'd be when you talk to her. Naturally funny, she doesn't have that suffocating need-to-please mania that plagues a lot of comedians in conversationshe seems to be confidently smiling underneath everything she says. (When I ask how long she's been doing stand-up, she quickly deadpans, "Since the early '30s, I believe.") She laughs a lot, and is, well, very comfortably Ellen and everything that single name has come to mean to the public over her sometimes tumultuous last two decades. Her new act is called Here and Now (7:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 19 at the Paramount, 206-628-0888). It's a lot about procrastination, she says, and the lack of manners and "the stupid things we do and how we overcompensate instead of just acknowledging that we're idiots." In her own here and now, she's writing a book and developing a new talk show, but she had no problem occasionally looking back on what brought her to this point. Seattle Weekly: Has your humor changed much from the beginning of your career? Ellen DeGeneres: I think I have more social commentary now than before. It used to be just a lot of weirdness. I still have the weirdness, but I have a pretty good barometer of what's going to work onstage. And I also know that there are things that I think are hilarious that I can't take onstage 'cause they're too weird. What's too weird? Well . . . because of the state of the world today, and how we're supposed to all be so grateful and lucky, we can't complain anymore, you know? 'Cause whenever you say anything, somebody's gonna say, "Well, things could be worse." It's like, I know things could be worse. But I want to be allowed to complain. So I wrote this thing about how you could be a torso with no money and no friends, and somebody would say, "Things could be worse." Can you imagine saying "Things could be worse" to a torso? So, I don't think that's gonna be onstage, but that's how I feel. That's how bad the world is: A torso can't complain. That's verywhat's that book?Johnny Got His Gun. Oh, yeah, but my idea is that the torso doesn't even have a head. So, you know, it can't even hear you. It's really just a torso. [She begins to enact the exchange between the mournful torso and the annoying optimist] "I just want a head so I can talk." "Well, you know, there are torsos that don't even have torsos. . . . " Do you feel like you have to do social commentary now? If anything, I feel like what I'm supposed to do is all gay material. Last year I was on tour, and in two different cities when I came back out'cause people were requesting material they wanted to see that I didn't doa guy said, "Do something gay." Like I hadn't been gay enough for him or something, [like] it was all material he couldn't relate to. I mean, the stuff is human behaviorthere's no way you cannot relate to it, but he needed to see something gay. I have to ask you, how did you feel that day when you knew the coming-out episode of Ellen was going to air? That day was kind of a blur. There was a huge party here that my agency put on, and everybody went to a theater and watched it live when it aired. I remember leaving town right after that, and my bright idea just to get out of L.A. to relax was to go to San Francisco [laughs]. It was crazy. It was like everything turned into a parade. I mean, I'd be walking there on the sidewalk, and people from inside restaurants were banging on windows and pressed up against them, and people in cars were honking. . . . It was insane. And, of course, everyone remembers that "Yep, I'm Gay" Time magazine cover. And also, I think people thought that was a quote, and if you read the article, I didn't say "Yep, I'm gay" anywhere. That was some guy that worked at Time magazine, and he's like, "I came up with the slogan 'Yep, I'm Gay'"! I guess that's a good thingit caught on. But then every single article now that's written about me: "Yep, she's got a new talk show. . . . " It all starts with "yep." So I guess that'll follow me around the rest of my life. More than anything, it feels like lifetimes ago. Needless to say, a lot has gone on since thenI feel like I've climbed mountains and fallen down into caves. And right now I feel like I'm in this beautiful field of flowers, and I'm happy. I feel safe, you know? It's not a mountain, and it's not a valley. It just feels normal. And it feels good to feel normal again.

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