As James Corden says goodbye to the Late Late Show, we take a look at the recent spate of controversies he’s found himself in. From the Balthazar restaurant incident to accusations of obnoxious and demeaning behaviour, we look behind his ‘cheeky chappy’ public persona to the avalanche of comments online.
Similarly, Ellen, who built her brand on kindness, faced accusations of creating a toxic work environment and being the “meanest person alive”, leading to her daytime talk show being cancelled. So is it a case that their nice “masks” have slipped? Or are they simply casualties of society's unforgiving standards of scrutiny and 24/7 call-out culture? And can they come back from these scandals?
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Click here for the full transcript
James Corden and Ellen DeGeneres are two of the most successful TV chat show hosts of recent times.
However, as the saying goes, the bigger they are the harder they fall. And both Corden and DeGeneres have had their fair share of controversies in recent years.
Corden is quitting his late night TV show and returning to the UK, but fans on Twitter aren't having it. They're posting memes of UK Border guards ready to keep him out.
Meanwhile, Degeners, who's built her brand on kindness, faced accusations of creating a toxic work environment and being a bully, leading her to step down from her daytime talk show.
So is it a case that their nice masks have slipped? Or are they simply casualties of society's unforgiving standards of scrutiny and 24/7 call out culture? And can they come back from these scandals?
Well, let's head straight to the comments and find out. So Sarah, before we get into James Corden and Ellen, let's first take a quick look at the history of chat shows in the UK and America. I mean, we always start off talking about the 80s and 90s, which is when we grew up.
We had Terry Wogan and Michael Parkinson, who are both very gentle and really skilled interviewers, in my opinion. And I really loved Terry Wogan. I mean, I thought he was so funny, so witty, he can always be a bit subversive in that very charming and comforting way.
Yeah, I agree. I mean, they were really great. But it was sort of a different story in the US. So Johnny Carson was the main guy. And he was the only late night chat show host from about the 70s. And then he retired in 1992. And this opened things up a bit and there was a huge chat show rivalry between Jay Leno and David Letterman. But the American shows, the tone was a little bit different, particularly the latter ones, they seem to have a bit more of a sort of mean sarcastic streak to them compared to what went on before with Johnny Carson, which was more like sort of lovable. clownish.
Yeah, like the sort of Golden Age sort of entertainer host, you know.
So yeah, I remember Letterman in the 90s. And to be honest, I always found him a bit creepy, like that sort of creepy uncle vibe. And he would always say things to the female guests, especially sort of young, beautiful film stars - you look tremendous - and focus on their legs and their bodies and how they smell. And he just was genuinely over interested in them.
Yeah, and I think there's like there, there was a YouTube video where they had all the clips together of him just being kind of, yeah, like you said, creepy towards women. But you know, in the last decade, there's been so many different chat shows in the US, and they sort of run across the spectrum. There's the politically charged with John Oliver and Trevor Noah. And then you've got the other end of the spectrum, which is the sort of more musically comedy oriented like Jimmy Fallon and James Corden. But I think what's really interesting is that in the US, particularly, a lot of these chat show hosts come from the comedy scene.
Exactly. And you know, you can imagine, like having to do a live show, you need those comedy and sort of stand up skills. And I always remember Ricky Gervais had an interesting take when he always gets asked when he goes on chat shows, why are you not a chat show host? Why didn't you go and do it in America, he's done all the award shows, etc. But he had an interesting take. And he said this, “you know, someone works really hard and they become a comedian. They then get offered a chat show in America, and they take that and then they work their way down from being a comedian, to a bloke who's looking for hits on YouTube the next day, because no one watches late night.” And he said the reason he would never do it himself is “you become the second most interesting person in the room”.
Wow. Yeah, that's a good good way of putting it. So let's get on to James Corden.
Okay. Many of us in the UK, we know James Corden. He acts, he sings, he writes. Most of us in the UK, we know him from Gavin and Stacey, a sitcom that he co wrote with Ruth Jones. And he really made a name for himself like in the theatre world, getting rave reviews. And I remember he got like Tony Awards and BAFTA Awards for his different performances. And he was really starting to make his way into the film world around sort of 2010/11 he was sort of breaking into the film scene. And then in 2014, his career took a quite an unexpected turn when he was announced as the new host of The Late Late Show to replace Craig Ferguson the following year, and this surprising choice caused quite a stir and let's have a look at some of the reactions on Reddit. “I'm not the biggest fan according from what I've seen (Big Quizzes, Gavin and Stacey). But I have to say it's a bold choice by CBS. He’s practically no name recognition in the States, even less so than Ferguson did. We shall see how it goes”. I mean, have you seen The Late Late Show?
Well, I haven't really seen the whole show because I don't think we really watch the full US late night shows as much in the UK. I would say if I'm going to watch anything, I'm much more likely to watch Graham Norton. And I do remember being really surprised when he was announced because it didn't seem like an obvious choice. But I have seen a few of the Carpool Karaoke videos and the Spill Your Guts videos and they've always gone viral on YouTube and those segments that are able to go viral as video clips, it seems like that's the most important aspect of talk show success these days.
So yeah, they've called it The Late Late Show of the TikTok generation. And I think he's created these incredibly, like nlockbuster viral segments, when you think of like Carpool Karaoke. And I think one of the first ones, I think it was either Mariah or Adele, but these were like, I mean, the Adele clip was getting, I looked online, it had over 260 million views.
It was absolutely huge. And I think that it’s interesting that he sort of shook up that formula. You know, like you said, it's not so much about being sitting in the chair and, and interviewing someone, like Letterman, it was more about the segments, you know, and creating content that he knew would go viral.
Definitely. And I think that was the key to its success. But as we sort of mentioned in our intro, Corden is now leaving The Late Late Show after eight years. And his final show is airing this Thursday on April the 27th. This actually comes on the heels of, we've had, he's had quite a lot of controversies recently. He's been called out for the sort of diva like and mean behaviour. There’ve definitely been a range of things before this, but there was a recent tipping point in October last year when he was publicly called out by Keith McNally, the owner of New York restaurant, Balthazar, and then he was banned from the restaurant. And McNally posted on Instagram “James Corden is a hugely gifted comedian, but a tiny Cretan of a man and the most abusive customer to my Balthazar service since the restaurant opened 25 years ago. I don't often 86 customer, but today I 86 Corden. it did not make me laugh”. He went on to cite two examples of the behaviour. So one in June, in which the comedian upon finding hair in his meal was apparently extremely nasty to a manager. And then again in October in which Corden's wife was dissatisfied with her egg yolk omelette, which included trace amounts of egg white, and apparently Corden screamed at his server as a result,
Oh my gosh,
And people had a strong reaction to this in the comments, didn't they?
Oh, my gosh, they did. And just to say just a little side, I've been a waitress and I think it's, you know, it's one of the most devastating things to be shouted out or even talked loudly at, let alone screamed at so I can really empathise with the server. But yes, you're right. Online they had a lot of reactions to this. In the Daily Mail they said” all that brouhaha was because an egg omelette had a little bit of egg white in it. Rich people's first world problem”. And another “if you mistreat waitstaff that speaks volumes about your fundamental character and intelligence. He sounds like another Ellen.”
And interestingly enough, we're actually going to come on to Ellen later, aren't we?
Yes, we are. And so this this was a comment on Twitter. “I believe almost all of this, but Mr. McNally does himself no favours as a reliable narrator when he starts off by describing James Corden as a hugely talented comedian”. I don't know that still makes me laugh that quote. And most of the comments have been extremely negative about Corden. But some question what the restaurant owners' motivations were for calling him out publicly. And on the Daily Mail again, “there are two sides to this story. Maybe James Corden was rude to some staff, but I suspect that they ere greatly exaggerated events. Plus, it's widely known that many American hospitality workers are hypersensitive and precious.” And another. “ Disgraceful that the restaurant owner would try and get some cheap publicity by twisting the facts”. Do you think that was James Corden that wrote that?
I mean, you never know.
Like, they do that in the comments
Well, I mean, I think his reaction to the story definitely didn't help it. I mean, he denied it, and he seemed completely unapologetic. When he was asked about it by a New York Times reporter, he actually told the journalist that “speaking about the ordeal was beneath your publication”. Then he sort of changed tack, and he later half apologised in a monologue on his talk show, but he had a lot of caveats. So for example, he said, “but here's the truth of it because I didn't shout or scream, I didn't get up out of my seat, I didn't call anyone names or use derogatory language, I've been walking around thinking that I've not done anything wrong. In the heat of the moment, I made a sarcastic rude comment about cooking it myself.” And then he also went on to claim that the reason he was so upset is that his wife was given food that she was and I quote, “seriously allergic to”.
But here's the thing that confused a lot of people, she ordered an egg yolk omelette because she's allergic to egg white. And like someone said online in this comment, “come on Corden, if your wife is really allergic to egg whites she shouldn't eat eggs. It’s impossible to split yolks and whites for 100%”. And then from a medium article, “however, I call utter bullshit on Corden's allergy claims. and quoting from the American College of Allergy Asthma and Immunology. Anyone diagnosed with an allergy to either egg whites or egg yolk should avoid eggs altogether. It is not possible to completely separate the white from the yolk.: Well, this is I never thought we'd get into this level of detail about eggs.
Yeah, I know it's always about eggs. Well, I think what's interesting is he essentially he didn't really apologise because an apology with a caveat isn't a real apology. And, you know, you work in marketing. I know it's not PR. But why are apologies so important in PR? We've all seen the classic apology, the politicians apology, you know, why are they so important?
Well, it's like, I suppose in real life, if you've been really upset or offended, you would want someone to explain themselves and, you know, and for it to feel genuine and heartfelt. And then you can start to sort of build bridges. And the big word is obviously, trust, and trust is all about, they all say that you’ve really only got your reputation in life. And that has a lot to do with your character, integrity and trust. Do people find you trustworthy? However, when the stakes are really high, like in this situation, and let's be honest, the whole show is riding on James Corden being trustworthy and likeable. It's so important, like millions of dollars are at stake and livelihoods. So he's got to come out and say something that makes people feel like, yes, I understand. And I believe you. And I trust you again. It's absolutely crucial and to get it done quickly, if you let it sort of go on and on, there's a bit of suspicion, and, you know, it can all backfire.
Absolutely, but his career hasn't been derailed by just an omelette, that would be a pretty powerful omelette. You know what I mean? It's more than just a single event. And I'm just going to quickly round up his previous controversies.
Okay, let's do this.
Well, there was the time that he got into this verbal spat live on stage at the 2010 Glamour awards with none other than Sir Patrick Stewart.
You know what, I saw that and what was strange I only saw it recently, after this sort of stuff came out about James Corden, they started replaying it on Twitter. And I actually genuinely was shocked because I thought, oh, no, I really don't like you now, because it was all out there to see. You know, it was just Patrick Stewart, I think was being a complete gentleman, quite firm with him, but he just was out of order.
I can't imagine it won’t go down well, publicly insulting someone who basically almost has a national treasure status. And I mean, there's a massive Star Trek fandom. So don't don't mess with the trekkies is what I would say.
Absolutely don't don't go there.
And then on to his next controversy. I mean, he was accused twice, not once but twice, of joke stealing. First in 2017 by Noel Fielding, and then again in 2022 by Ricky Gervais.
Oh, yes. And I don't know was this joke good?
Well, I really liked the Ricky Gervais one. It's, he said in a comedy sketch, “they choose to read my tweet and then take that personally. That's like going into a town square, seeing a big noticeboard and there's a notice for guitar lessons and you go, but I don't want fucking guitar lessons. Fine. It's not for you then, just walk away. Don't worry about it.”
But Corden's version was like pretty much word for word the same. And then it was sort of suggested that - Oh, it must have come from a staff writer and not him. And he didn't know about it. And he sort of issued an apology on Twitter, where he said, “inadvertently told a brilliant Ricky Gervais joke on the show last night, obviously not knowing it came from him.” But you know, this is twice being accused of joke stealing. That's, you know, once is a mistake twice is Hmm. So then in 2017, in his Spill Your Guts segment that we mentioned earlier, it actually involved Jimmy Kimmel as a guest, but he was asking James questions for a change. And it was James who was eating or drinking unappetizing dishes if he failed once. And Jimmy Kimmel asked him “to name two of the cameramen in this room”. And James giggled and replied, “Oh, that's a great question”. And then he said, “Oh, well, it's a different crew tonight, actually.” And he reached for a fish smoothie. So no is the answer to that question,
I think I remember that. And it's sort of a kind of a theme we're seeing, isn't it? It’s showing that Corden doesn't seem to like take much notice or interest in people he considers lower down the pecking order. You know, like servers, his crew.
Exactly. And I mean, that's one of my big red flags is how people treat waiters.
Certainly, if I went on a first date, or even a later date, and someone was really nice to me, but rude to the waiter, I'd just be like, No, thank you. That's just it's such.
Such a big thing.
Absolutely. I think it's just basic respect, but it's also just sensible as this comment shows. “Imagine the amount of spit this dude has eaten in his lifetime. Lol.” Can I just say, I had some horrible customers in my time. I don't think I saw anyone spit in their food ever. But apparently it's a thing that happens. I don't like to think about it.
You hear it a lot in America. I don't know. I don't know if it's a thing or not. But yeah, it's, certainly you don't want to risk it. I would say yeah, don’t mess with people who deal with your food.
Don't go for dinner with James Corden.
But I think what also comes up for me when we talk about this example is I mean, Jimmy Kimmel, knowing to ask that question, that suggests that he must have known what he was like, because you don't ask a question like that, if you don't already think that, oh, he doesn't give a shit about the, you know what I mean? He essentially outed him and and I find that quite interesting.
I mean, he threw some serious shade. I think at Corden and maybe he sensed or he saw something about him. And he in a stealthy way he wanted to unmask him. And I really say Well played.
Yeah, yeah. And the most recent controversy was actually this month, when Craig Duncan who's a seasoned TV director with more than 60 credits to his name. He actually called out James on his YouTube channel, and he called him “the most difficult and obnoxious presenter he's ever worked with”. And he claimed that the English comic berated and cursed at staff for a popular British game show during filming in 2013. He claimed that coordinate belittled him by saying “What the fuck is going on here? You put a camera there, you put a camera there. It's so obvious how you shoot it. You're stupid.'
Yeah, I mean, yeah. And that's to the director. So what's he saying to like the runners. But the YouTube comments in response were “the dislike for this guy must be so widespread that people feel so comfortable saying how much they hate him”, which is a good point. And another said, “there are so many bad stories about him. My dad has worked in the TV industry for 35 years. And the one person in all his time he said he hated was James Corden”. AndI have to say, I've gone through a lot of these and on different platforms, different forums, there's an absolute avalanche of people sharing their experiences, bad experiences of him, people who've obviously worked with him, and they've posted this anonymously, but it goes back years. I mean, there were ones referencing when he was on Fat Friends, which I don't know if you ever saw but this was years and years ago. I loved that show. So before he was even really famous, so it sounds like something that's been going on a long time.
Have you heard of an Ask Me Anything on Reddit?
Yeah. So what it is, is like the idea behind it is that the producer or the star of a show, film or TV, they go online and say you can ask me anything. And it's a really good format. It's the idea of you just sort of like you could ask questions, and they will answer them and it just dropped off a bit of publicity. So they did one for The Late, Late Show with James Corden. So you could ask James anything a couple of years ago, and it really backfired. And I just think it was the most epic thread I've ever read. It was just so funny, in a way that, and this was the top comment that was most liked. “Hey James. You won’t remember me but me and my friends sat at a table next to you and Harry Styles and some others in Manchurian Legends in London’s Chinatown about 6 years ago. We didn’t bother you but you were a massively entitled c*nt who yelled and treated the waitstaff like shit and when one of my party politely suggested you calm down, you got really aggressive and threatening (in a chubby way. Like a boozy panda.) So my question is this; why did Harry seem so cool, while you were such a massive throbbing bellend?
A boozy panda. I've never heard that phrase before. And I think it's gonna go down in history.
And now it’s stuck in my head when I think of him. I couldn't really imagine this. But it just went on, on on the comments underneath by people who had these stories, and you literally couldn't get to the bottom of the thread about him. So yes, it's like, really? Can there be smoke with no fire?
Yeah, yeah. And these are anonymous as well. So you sort of feel like they're not gaining anything out of it. It's not like with the restauranteur who, you know, is getting publicity. These are just anonymous messages of people going. Oh, I did see you and you were a dick.
So for example, there was another comment that said, “I also don’t have one, but I do want to chime in to say I agree he is one hell of a c*nt. If I’ve ever wanted to punch a face so badly out of all the faces I’ve ever seen, it’s be James Corden’s ugly fat arse slapped looking twatish face.”
Yeah, I can understand like, it, there's an element of comedy and stuff to it. But what I have noticed as well, when you go through a lot of these comments is that one of the themes that comes up is there's a lot of people insulting him about his looks and his weight, or making jokes along those lines. And we've sort of touched on this topic in previous episodes. But why is that the go to of insults? For example. I mean, there's so much evidence of his behaviour being mean or arrogant, but the insults are just entirely focused on on his appearance. It seems such like a cheap shot, but also one that we go to so naturally in our society, which I just think is something interesting and to reflect on.
But I mean, with all the hatred towards him, why do you think he became so successful in the first place, particularly in America?
It’s interesting, isn't it? Because we found this quote by Hannah Yelin, reader of Media and Culture at Oxford Brookes University and author of Celebrity memoir: from ghostwriting to gender politics. And she said about Corden “his star image was built around that ‘cheeky chappy’ persona which is essentially watching a manchild at play. Carpool Karaoke was good, wholesome fun, and it was ever surprising that the biggest stars wanted to be part of that. Perhaps he fitted that Dick Van Dyke in Mary Poppins mould of chipper cockney lad in the American imagination.
I've always found it interesting how American audiences perceive Brits, especially, you know, when they do those fake British accents and you're watching it and thinking, No, that's not, that's not right. We don’t all sound like the Prince of Wales. But I think it's more than him just being British. There's definitely a theme with a certain type of talk show host that's very popular and it sort of feeds into that idea of a sort of lovable goof, non threatening, likeable and also a bit nonsexual, which is also part of the non threatening, I sort of think Carson started that trend a bit. And another example is Ellen, but we'll get on to her later. And they've got this over exaggerated good natured sort of clown element as part of their personas. And it does seem to drive their success. But ironically, I think it also seems to be what's behind the schadenfreude of his demise now. So for example, Hannah Yelen also said, “when a public image is built around an impossible performance of Peter Pannish good cheer, it's fun to watch the darkness everyone knew must be there spill out by accident. In Corden's case, it was such a contrast to the one note public persona that it cracked under the strain.” So I mean, I think that's there's something really true about what she says there, because if someone presents as too nice, like unnaturally nice, almost almost Stepford Wives nice, there's something that makes us feel like that can't be real. And I think there's also an element where it makes us feel less than because we're not living up to this impossibly high standard. So we're just sitting there waiting for the cracks to appear because we know they have to be there. No one can be that perfect. And I think that's why that's why these kind of backlashes are so big.
And also there's nothing worse than finding out someone is two faced, and it feels like karma, that someone's had a lot of rumours about them, that they're not really a nice person. And perhaps they're even a bully. And I think people do feel vindicated when they sort of get unmasked and revealed. And they have that fall.
Yeah, I think as humans, we really like seeing a bully get their comeuppance. I mean, there's this paradigm called a Belief in a Just World. It's a cognitive bias that assumes that people will get what they deserve. So those who do good will be rewarded, and those who exhibit negative behaviours will be punished. It's a really important bias that helps us feel safe. And that we live in a predictable world, you know, a safe world where, that's fair. But one of the downsides is that it can lead to victim blaming, as a way of coping with that fear. You know, if something bad happens to someone who doesn't deserve it, then it could happen to us at any point, regardless of what we do. So that's a really uncomfortable feeling to have. So we want to believe that everything is fair. And I think a part of this plays into people are now trying to shoehorn this this idea that James Corden leaving the Late Late Show is a comeuppance. It's a punishment for his behaviour.
And I'm not saying it's not. We don't know what goes on behind the scenes. But actually, he actually announced that he planned to leave in 2023, a year ago. And that was before the latest restaurant incident. And then in January, he explained his reason to leave the show was to spend more time with his kids. And what he said was, “I know at my core that’s the best thing for me and the best thing for us as a family is to put down some roots in London. And it feels absolutely right in every single way.” And at the time of announcing he was leaving a year ago, CBS executives also exclusively told Daily mail.com that they desperately tried to keep him for longer. Now, obviously, we can't verify that or not. But I do think it's interesting to note, but a lot of people are definitely not buying this narrative. There's a Daily Mail comment that says “How about - His ratings are down. He can't pull in the number of viewers the network requires/wants. He isn't funny. He grinds on the last nerve people have when it come to interviews. And lastly, he thinks he's more important than he really is.” And someone else replied, “I would say that is spot on.”
Yeah, that's interesting, isn't it? I mean, we'll never really know the truth on this situation. But it all seems very good timing doesn’t it. So The Telegraph. They wrote an article on him and they said, “people may call him fake. People may call him fat. People may call him talentless. It’s also true, he's a bit Marmite…But he's one of our most successful exports.” And they went on to say that he should be landing a top gig at the BBC or ITV and we'll see him turn up in a few years, once the furore has calmed down. But Corden has said himself that he doesn't know what he'll do next. And he said, “I've had to make peace with the fact that Gavin and Stacey, One Man Two Guvnors, History Boys, Late Late Show, McCartney, that might just be the high point of it all”. He said, “I genuinely do not know what I'm going to do next. I have something I'm writing, two things I'm writing, but I'm not in them. Who knows if they'll get made?” And it's interesting because there's a lot of humility we're seeing right in the statement, sort of like I'm gonna really retreat into the shadows. I'm just gonna go under the radar. Like maybe he does sense he, surely he does after you read that Ask Me Anything Reddit forum or thread that he's not in a good place right now in terms of the public so it'd be interesting to see how this all pans out.
Yeah, definitely. And And if he's still got friends in the industry, we'll we'll see with that as well. So as we mentioned earlier, this isn't the first time that we've seen this with a popular talk show personality, someone who built their success on likability, and who then came crashing down after stories of mean behaviour and bullying came out. So for example, now we've got Ellen.
Yes, Ellen. I mean, Ellen, she became such a TV staple, like almost a national treasure, that she sort of reached that sort of same level of fame, that she only needed her first name like Oprah.
Yeah, exactly. And I would say Oprah is probably the pinnacle of at least daytime talk show success. I mean, she's huge in broadcasting. But just in case anyone's not familiar with Ellen. Ellen DeGeneres. She debuted her daytime talk show in 2003. She actually won 61 Daytime Emmy Awards, and she had interviews with some of the biggest stars in Hollywood. She also voiced the character of Dory in Finding Nemo, which is a lovely, I love that film. And she was famous for basically dancing a lot on her show. She used to always start her show dancing,
But she had a great energy and like James Corden at the start, and Ellen, I just really loved them as presenters. I did really buy into the whole persona, as you know. Well, what's interesting is that she's built her reputation, her brand, on being nice, you know, the comic who doesn't swear or make jokes at the expense of others. She's even developed the slogan of “Be kind to one another”. And this led to a whole range of Be Kind merchandising, there's the Be Kind Ellen hat, the Be Kind wine tote, a Be Kind, even a subscription box. The Box goes for nearly $55, where a year long subscription costs nearly $200. And the premium subscription, which includes opportunities for Ellen to gift ‘surprise and delight items; is a mere $251.96. I like how precise we've been here. What is this surprise and delight items? That just sounds like oh my gosh, you're gonna send me you know, a whole car. Because like, you know, when they give that thing away in chat shows like a…
Yeah, and then and then it's just like a, you know, a coaster instead
Or a bath bomb.
I mean, essentially what it is, is Be kind, but also fund my lifestyle. And, you know, this takes us back to the Goop episode.
Oh, gosh, yes. Let’s merch things to death.
And I suppose like, Gwyneth, and just like James Corden. She's also been hit by a scandal and essentially a fall from grace.
She absolutely has. And public rumours of her not being so nice, they started circulating in 2020. And that's when a comedian Kevin T. Porter, he tweeted a plea asking for stories about the star. And what he tweeted was “right now we all need a little kindness. You know, like Ellen DeGeneres always talks about. She's also notoriously one of the meanest people alive. Respond to this with the most insane stories you've heard about Ellen being mean, and I'll match everyone with $2 to the LA Food Bank”.
Ouch. I mean, what a call out.
Yeah, I mean, some people thought this was absolutely just a joke to start with. But it it resulted in an absolute slew of stories about her mean and rude behaviour. So for example, there was one that said, there was a lot about working for her. So one said, “working for her, I was instructed that I can't look her in the eye and never say hi to her first. But don't worry, she definitely won't be saying hi to you in the first place. She creates the most toxic environment for her staff”. And there's a lot of stuff about don't make eye contact and at work. And there was another one that said “I worked at real food daily, I served her and Portia at brunch, she wrote a letter to the owner and complained about my chipped nail polish. Not that it was on her plate, but just that it was on my hand. I'd worked till closing the night before and this was the next morning. She almost got me fired”. There was a lot.
It makes me so angry. So what's interesting is I think even before this, her mask has started to slip.
You know, there was that viral moment in 2019 with Dakota Johnson on her show, where she called her out, Ellen for lying about not being invited to her birthday party. And there was this big thing. And you know, it was a big thing for a celebrity to call her out publicly on her own show, but she did it in a very cool way. And she said, you know, this is Dakota Johnson. “Actually, no, that's not the truth Ellen. You were invited. Last time on the show last year, you gave me a bunch of shit about not inviting you. But then I didn't even know you wanted to be invited. I didn't even know you liked me.” And it really has this pause and Ellen’s sort of like left twisting in the wind. And you sort of see that look on her face like she's been caught out a little bit.
It’s really. You can just see it if you watch the clip. But how important do you think it's for another celebrity or someone in an equal position of power to be the one to call her out? Because, you know, it feels like it needs to take a lot of momentum. Because even though people have made lots of complaints before it takes that one person to sort of tip it over.
Yeah, I do think it is really important because someone who is in an equal power position, they've got a lot more believability, a lot more credibility. They're in a better position to call someone out. But even then, it's almost like it just opens the door. If you have one or two accusations, it can be dismissed as they've had a bad day. Or those people are lying for some reason, but but it has to get a momentum going before anything really happens. And before there's a big enough backlash. I do think that we've changed a lot since the Me Too movement, and previously it was too difficult. Look at the whole Jimmy Savile thing. People had been making complaints, they've even gone to police stations, and it just wasn't accepted or listened to. Because he was a national treasure. And he was so big and so connected, and only after he died did it get to that point where it really sort of opened the floodgates. But yeah, I think I think that makes a big difference. If someone in power calls them out a bit like Jimmy Kimmel asking him about the cameraman, it was someone of an equal standing, it sort of opens the door for it. And I think I think it is important.
Yeah, I think that's such a good point. And with Ellen, this then led to more accusations of a toxic workplace, a third party investigation by the network, and a round of executive producers being fired. And Ellen's response, interestingly, was quite similar to Corden's. She did that sort of half apology thing, you know, apologising, but feigning ignorance of the situation. And she sent a memo out saying, I kind of want to do the Ellen voice, but I'm not gonna do it. “On day one of our show, I told everyone in our first meeting that The Ellen DeGeneres Show would be a place of happiness — no one would ever raise their voice, and everyone would be treated with respect. Obviously, something changed, and I am disappointed to learn that this has not been the case. And for that, I am sorry.
As we've grown exponentially, I've not been able to stay on top of everything and relied on others to do their jobs as they knew I'd want them done. Clearly some didn't. 'That will now change and I'm committed to ensuring this does not happen again.”
However, this wasn't enough to save the show. And after losing a million viewers, the show announced that it was ending in May 2022.
Yeah, there was a sort of, it was just they couldn't stop the bleeding, so to speak is what it seemed like. And also with that apology it’s such a - I'm really sorry that everyone else didn't do their job. But I'm wonderful. You know, I don't think that lands well with the public.
But it's pretty hard to apologise and say - I know, I'm a completely terrible person. I'm really sorry for that. I don't know how that would land either. So you're sort of in this catch 22 situation PR wise. But I think what's really interesting is this is actually her second fall from grace, so to speak. And when people talk about a rise and fall, she has actually had a rise, fall, rise again, and then fall again. She started out as a stand up comedian, and her first appearance was weirdly enough on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, who we mentioned earlier. In 1994, she actually landed her own sitcom, which was also called Ellen. And it was a huge hit at the time. I remember watching it. I don't know if you ever saw it?
Yeah, I did. I saw bits of it and her comedy clips. And I really liked her like I was like I said earlier, when she first came out, I loved her.
Yeah. And then in 1997, it was sort of at its peak of popularity. And that's when she came out as gay. And she also did the same for her onscreen alter ego. And, and I remember that was huge at the time, and I don't, I mean, I would have been quite young actually, then. So I would have been oblivious to it. It was such a shock for a lot of people. And the ratings for that particular episode where her character came out, they were very high. But within a year, the whole show was cancelled. And she didn't actually work for a few years after that. She sort of like disappeared, and she couldn't really get any work. And then it was only with the new talk show when that was launched and Finding Nemo did she have a major comeback, and then she sort of seemed to be a sort of TV staple and the queen of daytime TV. It felt sort of like at the time of that first fall from grace that there was a sort of backlash at the time, as if America really wasn't ready for an openly gay woman and a sitcom. And she was actually credited as one of the first big stars to do that, to come out in such a big way. But by 2015, there was a poll by Variety that found that Ellen did more to influence Americans attitudes about gay rights than any other celebrity or public figure. So she had a lot of love for that. And she did make a really big difference in that way. And I think part of the reason for that is it goes back to her public persona again, like we talked about, she she really built her name and she bounced back by being friendly, approachable, generous, non threatening, and I think importantly a little bit asexual because that is non threatening to people. It really seems to be the crux of why she bounced back in my mind.
She felt like she was just everyone's friend and took on almost that androgynous Fairy Godmother role, giving away prizes, you know, raising money for charity, encouraging everyone to be kind. And importantly, she really boosted people's careers, you know, she'd take them from obscurity off YouTube and give them a moment on TV. You know, she was an incredible force in entertainment.
You know, I think it's quite sad, really, because I 100% agree with encouraging kindness. But I think the importance is that it's authentic kindness, because people can often confuse the difference between really being kind and actually having poor boundaries or being overly solicitous for selfish reasons. Or just being like unnaturally happy all the time, like a Disney character, which isn't actually healthy. You know, that's not true kindness. Sometimes true kindness is saying no to someone because you love them enough that you're you're willing for them to not like you because it's for their best, but I mean, I mean, it makes me think of, did you see that Disney Pixar film Inside Out?
No, I haven't. I know, I know you always mention it, but I've never seen it, I must say
I mean, it's one of those what they call recovery films. So when you're an inpatient in clinics, they make you watch a whole load of healthy films. But this one, even though it's an animated mainly for kids, it's brilliant in my mind, because it's about emotion. So so it has all these characters who are emotions that live in the head of an 11 year old girl. And the crux of the film is essentially, we eventually get to a point where we realise that it's okay to not be okay. To start with, Joy did everything she could to stop Sadness taking over, but it was actually Sadness that sort of saved the day. That was the message in the film, and emotion researcher Jane Gruber, she suggests that making happiness an explicit goal in life can actually make us miserable. Interestingly enough, it seems that people are starting to become aware of this concept of toxic positivity now. I mean, have you heard of toxic positivity?
Yeah. And I find it really invalidating when someone says, Oh, you'll get over it, oh it’ll be sunny tomorrow, or, like, it'll be okay. And they don't want you… move on. That's the thing that really irritates me, just move on.
We don't want you to sort of dwell on things which actually maybe you need to dwell on things.
Yeah, maybe you need to feel them. I mean, so just for anyone who doesn't know, Psychology Today has defined it “as the act of avoiding suppressing or rejecting negative emotions or experiences. This can take the form of denying your own emotions or someone else's denying your emotions, insisting on positive thinking instead.” And that whole positive, you know, positivity is key to everything. And Ellen is not the only one who's jumped on this bandwagon. I had a look on Instagram, there are almost 17 million posts that use the hashtag #goodvibesonly to spread sort of what you could describe as overly optimistic quotes. For example, like “when you can't find the sunshine, be the sunshine”. Or “if it doesn't make you happy, don't invite it in.”
Oh, oh, no. Yeah. I think that I've actually pinned some of these on my Pinterest. I've never gone around saying I’m the sunshine. No, that's just No,
I mean, just to be clear, I'm not saying don't be positive or don't encourage positivity, but it's just when it's so it's just when it's that's the only option. You're only allowed to be positive. That's where I think it gets a bit dangerous.
But this goes back to your point like about when you said earlier about Stepford Wives when you meet people that are unnaturally happy, or seem emotionless, it's a bit disturbing, isn't it? Are they constantly happy? You're like, what's going on? You know? Yeah, actually, one of Ellen Show correspondents Kailyn, Allen, even highlighted the problem with hitching your wagon to kindness slogan like Ellen did. On a podcast, he said, “I personally would not do a slogan, like Be kind to one another. I understand the thought, like, yes, absolutely be kind to one another. But I think that's where it gets troubling. As human beings, we're not kind 100% of the time, I'm not going to adopt something that is going to create a false perception of who I may be. At the end of the day. We're all human beings. And that's the relation I want you to have with me.”
Yeah, I kind of liked that point. And I think, you know, on top of just these personas being, you know, overly happy and fake, talk shows themselves are kind of a fake situation that are almost like deliberately trying to force water cooler moments, but they're essentially there to sell stuff. Oh, boy. Yeah. All the celebrities are there not really as themselves but as their public persona in in order to seem approachable so that people want to go to their movies that they're forced to contractually to be there often by by the network or the production. So there's a sort of inherent illusion there. And I'm not I'm not against talk shows, but I think that's why I quite like Graham Norton because he gives them more alcohol, and just lets them go. And I think what maybe also what we're looking for more and more these days is authenticity. And and I think that's an important thing.
Well, that's why they say that podcasts have really taken off because they give people that space for maybe an hour or two hours to go into a real conversation that isn't just like you said, centred around selling my movie and doing four stories. And I actually don't like watching these shows. I find them really fake and tacky. But I do like these little segments. I have to say the Carpool Karaoke was a winner for me. They did some brilliant, brilliant comedies. Celine Dion one I still can't get over.
And as with both the talk show hosts we've covered today, once the mask slips, it's really hard to put it back on. Mark Goldman, a reputation management expert said once the public is fully aware that a show host is not who they say they are, it's very hard to get back that trust.
Absolutely. So I guess one of the the main questions is, do you think either of them can come back from this? Well, like
As I said, with James Corden, I think he'll retreat and we won't hear from him for a while, and he'll come back slowly, and we'll see him again, maybe on British TV. Hard to know with Ellen, she's made so much money. Apparently she's worth I researched $500 million into property flipping now. So I'm sure very comfortable. I was reading this quote by David Schmidt. He's a cultural expert and professor of English at the University of Buffalo. And he told Newsweek “I think the puncturing of Ellen's apparent likability delivered a fatal blow to her career. But I think Cordon has already been forgiven and be allowed to move on. Why? Good old fashioned sexism in my opinion, our standards of what's considered acceptable conduct for male and female celebrities are just a distorted as our standards for men and women in general”. Which I found a really, really interesting quote,
It almost reminds me of the Alice Evans episode where we talk about is anger acceptable in women? Yeah, you know, what's considered assertive and a man might be considered bossy and a woman. But I but I think there is another element here of James Corden has a few more strings to his bow, he can come back as a writer and as an actor, Ellen has, for the longest time now just been a chat show host, she hasn't been doing stand up, she hasn't been doing these other projects. So her entire brand is based entirely on her persona, I would probably almost recommend that James Corden goes away, write something and comes back as a character because, you know, there's a sort of, you can start with him as James Corden, and think of him as the character. But I do think that's an that's going to be an element and possibly she's and they've burned too many bridges. It depends with both of them. And I think it's also it's a bit like, cats, and their nineI lives. How many comebacks can one person have? This is her second comeback? So it's like, is there a third? I also think it depends. In terms of comebacks, it depends on what they fell out of favour for. So you know, if you fall out of favour for being a bit of a dick or saying something, once, that's different to a pattern of behaviour. And I do think, you know, anyone who falls out for sexual abuse, I think it's harder to come back from and rightly so. So.
But one of the things that we wanted to go into is that, you know, it's about the call out culture. Yeah, you know, these celebrities now are under scrutiny. 24/7. Yeah. Is it just a case that we're just holding them to higher standards, like we said before, like David Letterman got away with a lot back in the day, because probably there just wasn't that ability to kind of build momentum, like you, you know, and sort of people to connect the dots.
And what you didn't have the Reddit forums, did you like people weren't able to go on the internet and share their personal experiences, and now they can and people can video you at the drop of a hat. But at the same time, I think there's a difference between a single outburst and you know, obviously, you see cases where they've taken a single photo of someone, and maybe they're just moving in that they've described as this person's in a bad mood, and actually just they got a bit of wind in their face. And they're blinking. And it's not an accurate portrayal. But when there's this many, this many stories about him, and it seems to be like, there's many stories within the industry where he's well known, he's got a reputation in the industry, for being an asshole, that that's a sort of different thing. For me. That's where it's like, you know, with Bill Cosby, when you've got like, 12 women making complaints that's different to one woman, and it shouldn't be but it is, it suggests a pattern of behaviour. And I think that makes a big difference.
One of the things I want to touch on, is it yes, these are TV hosts whose jobs are to be personable and entertaining and likeable and lovable. But is there a lesson for us, you know, in the workplace, you know, apart from not obviously being an asshole, and you know, often we're encouraged to put on this professional mask at work and not bring you know, our authentic selves to work and I understand it In a lot of ways, but it feels like work requires quite a lot of separation of ourselves. And that is something I find fascinating, you know, from a psychological perspective. And maybe we can do a whole episode on that. But for the sake of time, do you think it's healthy, to split our personalities for work reasons?
Um, I think it's, it's complicated. So like Brene Brown talks a lot about bringing our authentic selves to work and the importance of empathy. And there has been a massive shift from the 60s to now. And we're not holding people, for the need to be perfect and have no emotions in the same way. But for all people, we play different roles in different parts of our lives, how we are with our children is not how we are with our partner, how we are with our partner and our friends is not how we are in a job interview. That's kind of normal. What it when it's, what you're doing is you're sort of bringing a part of yourself and just keeping another part, you know, private for a different aspect of your life. And that's very different to completely creating a whole persona that isn't real, or completely suppressing everything. You know, if you're having a bad day, you can't just be yelling at everyone. But you don't also have to be running around happy pretending that everything's perfect. So it's about the balance. I mean, we're any human. Yeah, it depends on how big of a split there is between the real. And the persona, and having different aspects of ourselves that we bring out in different areas, as long as they're sort of relatively authentic is is fine, that's healthy, that's normal. But when you're creating whole personas that aren't true, and you're fully suppressing other parts of yourself, I think that's where it builds to a point where it can't You can't keep that mask on 100% of the time.
No, and you just have to go on Instagram and look at sort of these memes about corporate life. And there is this sort of feeling of disassociation going on for a lot of people a lot of comedy around it, like you just feeling dead inside because you have to be almost like in some professions, the more professional it is more it's almost requiring you to be dehumanised. And and, and that was sort of encouraging that. And I think, like I said, I think it's a whole topic we can go into for another podcast. And I really do like what Brene, Brown said, and she's done a brilliant podcast series on this called Dare to Lead. And it's all about sort of dropping that armour and leading authentically and from the heart and wholeheartedly, but she's also about good boundaries. Yeah. So maybe we can turn Ellen and James Corden on to Brene Brown in the book.
We've gone through a lot of comments. I mean, we could have made a whole series just about chat show hosts, because we wanted to talk about so many things. When we were doing the pre research we were talking about Tricia, Jeremy Kyle. I mean, it's just a whole, a whole spectrum of people we could go through and analyse. But for the sake of time, we've gone through all the comments, what are your final thoughts.
So many of us have so much heaviness in our everyday lives, that it's not really a surprise that we look to entertainment to be light and uplifting. I mean, for example, Taskmaster is my go to for that. And this is where some types of daily talk shows come in. And they start to become a part of our daily routine that allows people a dose of fun and silliness, something they need to take their minds off their own lives. And as a result of that chat show hosts like Ellenn and James Corden, they can start to feel like people we actually know, they're the lovable goof that we see every day and could be friends with. And as chat show hosts, they're supposed to be themselves, or we believe that they are just being themselves. But they've often actually created a larger than life persona that just no one could live up to every minute of every day. But when the mask slips, and we hear that people we think we know are actually unpleasant people. In reality, it can feel like such a betrayal. I mean, no one's perfect. Everyone can have a bad day and be short tempered. I've done it, I'm sure we've all done it. And if you're a celebrity, and people are watching you all the time, it must be absolutely exhausting having to be nice all the time. But then when there's an avalanche of stories and accusations of obnoxious and demeaning behaviour, it does start to look like a pattern. And I think that's something else. And as they say how someone treats the people they perceive as lower status than themselves. It says a lot about a person's true character. And one of the lessons that I think we can see in these examples is, yes, it's important to be kind, but it's even more important to be authentic. So I'm with Brene. Brown on this one.
So I'm going to leave it with this final quote from none other than Socrates, who said the greatest way to live with honour in this world is to be what we pretend to be.
Thank you to our lovely producer Emily. If you enjoy today's episode, please don't forget to leave a review and subscribe. It really does help us in reaching more people.
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