Five years ago Ellen DeGeneres was cancelled for being ‘mean’. She now says that’s not the real story.

"That’s not the truth, Ellen."

In 2019, these five words sparked the very public downfall of Ellen DeGeneres. They came from the mouth of actress Dakota Johnson during an interview with DeGeneres after she was ribbed for apparently not inviting her to her birthday party. 

It was the slanging from DeGeneres that had become customary for most guests to experience while being interviewed on her show, but this time Johnson wasn't going to cop it. Thus, a landslide of bad press for the talk show host erupted all while Johnson became celebrated for her plucky response.

Once a beloved figure of Hollywood, a groundbreaking icon who paved the way for LGBTQIA+ representation on television — she had seemingly exhausted the good graces of industry workers after toxic workplace allegations ran rampant.

It was the beginning of the end. Not long after The Ellen DeGeneres Show came to an end and the former celebrated comedian and mainstay of the daytime talk show slot was effectively put out to pasture. 

Over the past few years, the 66-year-old has read the room and kept a low profile. Maybe she took some time to reflect or maybe the work opportunities ran a little dry — either way, she retreated to the lavish mid-century bungalow dubbed Rancho San Leandro in Montecito which she shares with her wife Portia de Rossi and their beloved pets.

Listen to The Spill hosts explain what really happened between  Ellen DeGeneres and Dakota Johnson.


But over the past few months, DeGeneres has been rearing her head again, getting a temperature check on the situation by heading off on a comedy tour. Back in April during an LA performance of her Ellen’s Last Stand …Up Tour she tested some material by making light of her recent fall from grace.

"I got kicked out of show business," she told the audience for apparently being, "mean."

"This is the second time I’ve been kicked out of show business. Eventually, they’re going to kick me out for a third time because I’m mean, old and gay."

At the end of the show (her first performance on a 32-date tour) she opened up the audience to questions when one person asked how she felt about being cancelled.

"It was so hurtful," she said.

"Honestly, I'm making jokes about what happened to me but it was devastating, really. I just hated the way the show ended. I love that show so much and I just hated that the last time people would see me is that way."

This was the first time she seemed to steer towards some kind of attempt at redemption. Perhaps she is using her tour to absolve herself of past wrongdoings and clean the slate. 

However, just this week she cancelled four of her upcoming shows in Dallas, San Francisco, Seattle, and Chicago without reason.

"Unfortunately, the Event Organiser has had to cancel your event," read an alert from Ticketmaster providing little indication of why the shows had been canned.


It's the latest blip in a pretty rocky road for the comedian — how did she get here and is there a way out of this bad run?

A birthday invitation that launched a downfall.

Pop culture fanatics will recognise November 27, 2019 as a defining moment in celebrity discourse. It's the day Dakota Johnson appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show and stood up to the talk show host after she jokingly berated her for not inviting her to her birthday party.

"Actually, no, that’s not the truth, Ellen," she deadpanned to DeGeneres. "Ask everybody. Ask Jonathan, your producer."

Of course producer Jonathan confirmed off-screen that Johnson had indeed invited her which prompted DeGeneres to awkwardly come up with an excuse as to why she didn't attend.

She'd been caught in a lie and the interview was henceforth prickly.

Online the clip went viral and Johnson became somewhat of a hero for standing up to DeGeneres who often prodded guests into a grey area that teetered on jest but was fast being recognised as low-key bullying.

Johnson's run-in with the comedian almost gave others permission to come forward with their own negative anecdotes and the floodgates were then truly open.

Public pile up.

In the wake of the "that’s not the truth, Ellen" which was heard around the world, comedian Kevin T. Porter took to X to invite people to share the "most insane stories you've heard about Ellen being mean." The Tweet was published in March, 2020 and elicited thousands of responses and further propelled DeGeneres downfall.


Among those who came forward were Everybody Loves Raymond actor Brad Garrett who shared that he knew "more than one" person who was 'treated horribly" by the comedian and said that her unsavoury behaviour was "common knowledge" in the industry.


In response to Garrett's claims actress Lea Thompson doubled down on the sentiments when she said, "true story."

Months later in July 2020 an investigative piece was published by BuzzFeed News which detailed allegations of a toxic workplace environment put forward by former staffers of the comedian.

An internal investigation.

In response to the BuzzFeed News report, The Ellen DeGeneres Show executive producers Ed Glavin, Mary Connelly, and Andy Lassner released a statement.


"Over the course of nearly two decades, 3,000 episodes, and employing over 1000 staff members, we have strived to create an open, safe, and inclusive work environment," they said. 

"We are truly heartbroken and sorry to learn that even one person in our production family has had a negative experience. It’s not who we are and not who we strive to be, and not the mission Ellen has set for us.

"For the record, the day-to-day responsibility of the Ellen show is completely on us. We take all of this very seriously and we realise, as many in the world are learning, that we need to do better, are committed to do better, and we will do better."

Come August, 2020 WarnerMedia had launched an internal investigation into the allegations made against the show and subsequently DeGeneres which resulted in the comedian making a formal apology to all employees as well as making a statement to fans on air.

In the year that followed the show had a sluggish run. Rumours were swirling that bookers were struggling to find willing guests to appear and the once booming social media arm of the show was hardly gaining traction online. The world had gotten the ick and the Ellen show was hemorrhaging viewers.

Executive producers Ed Glavin, Kevin Leman, and Jonathan Norman were all fired and in 2021 it was announced that The Ellen DeGeneres Show would end after 19 seasons with the last broadcast taking place on May 26, 2022.


It was a spectacular end to one of the most popular programs on television and with that death knell, DeGeneres retreated from the spotlight.

Redemption, reconciliation or a final retreat?

With DeGeneres' big comeback tour now laced with big question marks (will there be more show cancellations?) one must wonder where she goes from here. It has widely been dubbed her comeback tour but also her final comedy tour, we wonder if she's simply bowing out early.

On the horizon is a Netflix comedy special which was announced back in May. The comedian confirmed in a press release that she will indeed be touching on the controversy that saw her ejected from the upper echelons of Hollywood.

"To answer the questions everyone is asking me, yes, I’m going to talk about it. Yes this is my last special," she said.

The special is tipped to air later in 2024 and will no doubt garner plenty of attention from those wanting to hear about the scandal from her point of view. Was there more going on than just an inflated ego that got too big for her boots? DeGeneres is steering us towards believing there is more to the story.

Following the Netflix special DeGeneres has said she will be stepping away from the spotlight after having the last word.

The jury is still out on who will be having the last laugh.

Feature Image: The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

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