Introducing Ellen DeGeneres as this year’s recipient of the Carol Burnett Award for Achievement in Television at the Golden Globes on Sunday, a visibly emotional Kate McKinnon celebrated DeGeneres as an LGBTQ pioneer who also gave the “SNL” star “a shot at a good life.”
DeGeneres famously came out as gay on her sitcom in 1997, a move the comedian says is the reason the show was canceled. Even so, it was a history making television moment, one McKinnon said had a profound impact on her as a teenager.
“In 1997 when Ellen’s sitcom was at 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. “And the only thing that made it less scary was seeing Ellen on TV.”
In 2003, DeGeneres got her talk show, “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” which is still airing 17 years later — and the rest is history.
Read McKinnon’s full speech about DeGeneres below.
“The Carol Burnett Award is given to someone who, like its namesake, Carol Burnett, has given us decades of laughter, tears and a new sense of what’s possible. So I would like to read a list of things that tonight’s recipient, Ellen DeGeneres, has personally given me. And some of these are spiritual, and some of them are pieces of clothing I got to keep after doing impressions of her on her talk show.
A roadmap for a way to be funny that is grounded in an expression of joy. Two pairs of Stan Smith sneakers. That’s one of the clothes ones. A desire to bring everyone together by laughing about the things that we have in common. My best collared shirts. A sense of self. I have to explain that one more.
In 1997 when Ellen’s sitcom was at 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. But that’s a very scary thing to suddenly know about yourself. It’s like doing 23 and Me and discovering 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.
Of course attitudes change, but only because brave people like Ellen jump into the fire to make them change. 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 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 at a good life. And thank you also for the sweater with a picture of a baby goat on it.”
Watch the whole clip below:
Kate McKinnon on Ellen DeGeneres: "If I hadn't seen her on TV, I would have thought, 'I could never be on TV. They don't let LGBT people be on TV.' And more than that, I would have gone on thinking that I was an alien and that I maybe didn't have a right to be here." pic.twitter.com/8J8LJV3BOz
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) January 6, 2020