Ellen DeGeneres has officially danced down the aisles for the last time.
On Thursday, the comedian said goodbye to her long-running self-titled talk show after 19 seasons of (more than 4,000) celebrity interviews, jump scares, and wacky audience games. And in true Ellen fashion, the hour was both sentimental and entertaining, starting with a compilation of almost two decades of DeGeneres welcoming the audience to her show before she entered the studio for the final time, receiving a standing and raucous ovation from audience members (including her wife Portia de Rossi.)
"Today is not the end of a relationship," DeGeneres told the audience. "It's more like a little break — you can see other talk shows now and I may see another audience once in awhile," she joked before turning her opening monologue into a serious reflection.
"Twenty years ago, when we were trying to sell the show, no one thought that this would work. Not because it was a different kind of show, but because I was different," she said, adding that many stations wouldn't even consider having it on their network. "When we started this show, I couldn't say 'gay' on the show. I was not allowed to say 'gay.' I said it at home a lot ... we couldn't say 'gay.' I couldn't say 'we,' because that implied that I was with someone. I sure couldn't say 'wife,' and that's because it wasn't legal for gay people to get married, and now I say 'wife' all the time," she continued.
Michael Rozman/Warner Bros. Ellen DeGeneres in her final talk show appearance.
When DeGeneres started her talk show, she was still coming off the backlash from her coming out episode of her sitcom in 1997. Since premiering in September 2003, the show has gone on to win 64 Daytime Emmy Awards and has helped make DeGeneres one of the most well-known comedians working today.
Calling her show "a beautiful journey" and "the greatest experience I've ever had beyond my wildest imagination," DeGeneres added that "25 years ago, they canceled my sitcom because they didn't want a lesbian to be in primetime once a week. I said, 'Okay, then I'll be on daytime every day. How about that?'"
She then invited her loyal DJ Stephen Boss (aka tWitch) for one last dance set to The Emotions' "Best of My Love," before he added some sentiments of his own.
"If you don't mind me saying this, your show is a reflection of what the world actually looks like. Not what's in the headlines. You look out and you see people of various colors, shapes, creeds, whatever, all showing love to each other. It's been that for 19 years, and we thank you for that," he told DeGeneres.
In addition to a lengthy montage showing how DeGeneres' show changed both the landscape of television and the comedian's life, the host's final guests were a nostalgic nod to years past and included Jennifer Aniston (DeGeneres' first guest back in 2003 who has since been on 20 times), Billie Eilish, and Pink.
Aniston spoke with DeGeneres about how she handled her own "ending of an era" experience when Friends concluded ("I got a divorce, then went to therapy") then gifted her friend with a welcome mat that said "Thanks For The Memories" in a nod to the mat she brought during her first appearance.
Eilish, who made her talk show debut on the show in 2018 when she was just 16, told DeGeneres how scared she was during her appearance because the host had been a part of her life for as long as she could remember. "You started this show the year after I was born. This was in my house constantly. Every day," said the singer. "I would walk into the kitchen and my mom would be watching you."
Pink, who was also a season one musical guest, finished out the hour by performing her song "What About Us" and bestowing the host with some goodbye gifts including homemade sourdough starter, birdwatching binoculars, knitting needles and jumbo yarn. And like the rest of DeGeneres' guests, she got choked up talking about Ellen's legacy.
Michael Rozman/Warner Bros
"This is a very strange feeling for me because I've known you for so long, and you've meant so much in my life, personally, but in everybody's life," she said. "I wanted to be a singer because I wanted to grow up and change the world and make it a better place. You've done that in so many ways. Whereas maybe I help people find their pain, you help people find their joy, and we need that so badly in the world."
DeGeneres ended her show thanking her staff, crew, and executive producers, and then turned her attention to the audience.
Michael Rozman/Warner Bros.
"If I've done anything in the past 19 years, I hope I've inspired you to be yourself — your true, authentic self. And if someone is brave enough to tell you who they are, be brave enough to support them, even if you don't understand," DeGeneres said. "They're showing you who they are and that is the biggest gift anybody can ever give you. And by opening your heart and your mind, you're gonna be that much more compassionate. And compassion is what makes the world a better place."
With one last look at the audience, DeGeneres retreated to a couch in front of a television screen (a mirror of how she opened her very first show), turned the TV off, and cemented her place in television talk show history.
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