Ellen DeGeneres won the second annual Carol Burnett Excellence in Television Award at last night’s Golden Globes awards. But when out comedian Kate McKinnon took the podium to introduce DeGeneres, she broke down in tears.
“In 1997, when Ellen’s sitcom was in the height of its popularity, I was in my mother’s basement lifting weights in front of the mirror and thinking, ‘Am I gay?’ And I was, and I still am,” McKinnon said. “But that’s a very scary thing to suddenly know about yourself. It’s sort of like doing 23andMe, and discovering that you have alien DNA. And the only thing that made it less scary was seeing Ellen on TV.”
“She risked her entire life and her entire career in order to tell the truth, and she suffered greatly for it,” McKinnon continued. “Of course, attitudes change, but only because brave people like Ellen jump into the fire to make them change.”
“And if I hadn’t seen her on TV, I would have thought, ‘I could never be on TV. They don’t let LGBT people on TV.’ And more than that, I would have gone on thinking that I was an alien and that I maybe didn’t even have a right to be here. So thank you, Ellen, for giving me a shot. A shot at a good life, and thank you also for the sweater with a picture of the baby goat on it.”
Accepting the award, DeGeneres paid homage to Burnett, a legendary comedian also known for always being nice.
“I feel like we all think we know someone— there’s a connection when we watch them on TV for as long as we are on TV, and that’s what it was like for me with Carol Burnett. I felt like I knew her,” DeGeneres said.
“I felt like she showed us who she was every week. She was larger than life. We counted on her to make us feel good and she delivered every single week, she never let us down, she was hilarious in all the sketches that she did, and when she did the Q&A with the audience she was just genuine and personal, and I always felt like she was speaking to me. At the end of the show, every time she pulled her ear, I knew she was saying ‘It’s okay, I’m gay too.’”