Ellen reveals the tragic story behind her most famous stand up act

Ellen reveals the tragic story behind her most famous stand up act
Photo: Screenshot/YouTube

Ellen recently sat down with Dax Shepard for his podcast Armchair Expert, and she talked about the death of her girlfriend when she was just 20.

Ellen got into stand-up comedy in the early 1980’s, and in 1986 she was invited to The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson.

Johnny Carson would regularly feature stand-up comedians on his show, and, if he liked their bit, he would invite them to the couch for an interview, which could really help a young comedian’s career.

In her first appearance on The Tonight Show, Ellen performed her legendary “Phone Call to God” routine and became the first woman stand-up comedian invited to the couch.

Shepard asked Ellen what inspired that bit. It turns out it was a process that started with tragedy.

When Ellen was about 20 and before she got into comedy, her then-girlfriend died in a car accident and Ellen lost the apartment they were sharing in New Orleans. She moved into a basement that was “infested with fleas” and started writing to give voice to her emotions.

She thought, “Why is this beautiful, 21-year-old girl just gone and fleas are here? And I just thought it would be amazing if we could pick up the phone and call up God and ask questions and actually get an answer.”

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