Relatable (Stand-up special)
Created and presented by: Ellen Degeneres
She is the most watched daytime celebrity in the world. She has danced her way into hearts and people’s homes and has been carried in the arms of most major movie stars. Those very same stars flaunt the trademark underwear created by her, with aplomb. Equally remembered are Ellen Degeneres’s free flowing tears, as she accepted the Medal of Freedom awarded to her by former US President Barack Obama in 2016. So, it’s kind of cute, to know that the world famous Degeneres is worried about being ‘relatable’, to the world at large. And it’s this thought that is at the core of the eponymous stand-up special Relatable on Netflix, which marks her return to stand-up comedy after 15 years. When a friend — we think an imaginary one — responds with a less than ideal “really” to Degeneres’s comeback, she asks him a “why”. “Well, do you think you’re still relatable?”, pat came the reply.
In the first five minutes of the hour-long special which aired on Netflix earlier this week, Degeneres addresses the thought dominant on everyone’s mind — her changed life as a rich and famous person — and therefore perhaps the lack of relatability. There is a mention of her butler, Batu, who feeds her cute cut-up pineapple for breakfast in the solarium, and yes, he also draws up baths for her. There is also Tatiana, tending to her rose garden, and Lupita ,who dresses her up. And when she is giving directions to the aforementioned friend, who’s lost in her house: “ How many times have I shown you the front door? It’s down the hall, past the Medal of Freedom, the Emmys, the People’s Choice Awards, the Kids’ Choice Awards, the Teen Choice Awards, the Mark Twain Prize, and the Peabody Awards. Take a left at the gift shop and that is the front door.” Oh yes, and there is a mention of a gold toilet as well.
The stand-up act has Degeneres, by her own confession, not using her daytime voice. But it’s still a very warm and gooey extension of her daytime persona. A packed hall in Seattle, is not wary or resentful of her ostentatious wealth and fame; she has them eating out of her hand, as she takes them through her life of ‘fine dining’, ‘toilet attendants’ and having never flown coach. But before all that, was her life of growing up poor in the American South, losing her girlfriend in a road accident — “the first person she loved and lost” — and ruminating about all this in a tiny basement apartment, infested with fleas. “I was so angry at fleas…. And I thought I wanted to talk to God, not just pray, but I would love to be able to pick up the phone and ask questions and get the answers. So I started writing what would it be like to have a phone call with God, to find out why fleas are here, and it wasn’t meant to be funny. I started thinking that it would ring for a long time, it’s a big place and he’d put me on hold, as he is a busy guy and Onward, Christian Soldiers would play, but it was live, not a tape. I am not gonna do the whole thing. Go back and watch the special.”
A known LGBTQ activist, Degeneres got the warmest response from the packed hall, when she spoke about her struggle to come out of the closet. She spoke of her dream, where she is putting a pet baby finch, in a multi-tiered bamboo cage. “The bird became me, when it went into the cage and all of a sudden it realised that it was up against the window… and the bars were wide open for the bird to fly out. I looked at the bird and I said don’t leave, you are safe in here. And the bird looked at me, and said that I don’t belong in here. And it flew out. The next morning I woke up and I said, ‘I’m coming out’.” Which she did in 1997, on her own show, and on Oprah.
Watch Relatable and enjoy the warmth spreading through you, seeping into your heart, to the point where you might sniffle. And there were tears in the audience too.