Why Ellen DeGeneres Ate a Burger During Her First Stand-Up Routine

Season 5 Episode 501
Aired on 10/25/2015 | CC tv-14
Long before Ellen DeGeneres became a household name, she was a 20-something struggling to make ends meet in New Orleans. Ellen says she painted houses, waited tables, worked as a bartender and sold vacuum cleaners to pay the bills. Then, one evening during a fundraiser, friends encouraged her to get on stage and do something funny.

The first time Ellen performed for an audience, she brought a burger, fries and a milkshake on stage. "I said, 'This is my first time being on stage, and I have to admit I'm a little nervous. I didn't know what I was going to say, and I realized I hadn't eaten all day, so I hope you don't mind, I stopped and grabbed something to eat on the way,'" she recalls. "Then I would say, 'But what I wanted to talk about was...' and then I would take a bite. While I was chewing, I'd put a finger up and just go, 'Oh, that is good. That's better.' Then I would start the sentence again."

When her time was up, Ellen had finished her entire meal but hadn't finished a sentence. The audience ate it up, and she was invited to perform at a coffeehouse. "I had to to come up with something else. I couldn't eat every time," she says. "So then I played a song on piano that I said I wrote when I was in the hospital, and it was just me screaming and hitting some chords."

In the above video, watch as Ellen shares more bits from her early days and reveals why she didn't take comedy seriously at first.

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