UPDATED with video: After a poignant introduction by Saturday Night Live‘s Kate McKinnon – “I wouldn’t have had the guts to go on TV” without her, the openly gay SNL star said – Ellen DeGeneres accepted the Golden Globe’s second annual Carol Burnett Award tonight.
As befitting an award named after Burnett – the legendary comedienne was seated next to DeGeneres – the recipient wasted no time getting to the laughs. Promising to be quick while pointing out she didn’t really have to be, DeGeneres began her acceptance speech with, “I was born in New Orleans in 1958…”
Better still was her seeming shift to the sentimental, describing her 17 years on her self-titled daytime talk show as an opportunity to make herself completely known to her public, an open book. “And I couldn’t have done it without my husband Mark. Mark, you are a rock.” The camera quickly cut to DeGeneres’ wife Portia de Rossi, laughing along with the rest of the audience.
“Obviously you all know me or you wouldn’t have laughed at that,” DeGeneres said, segueing to an appreciation of her hero, Burnett.
“I felt like I knew her,” DeGeneres said, recalling watching Burnett on Saturday nights. “She never let us down. I always felt like she was speaking to me.”
“When she pulled her ear,” DeGeneres said of Burnett’s famous weekly sign-off signal, “I felt like she was saying, ‘It’s okay, I’m gay, too.’ ”
DeGeneres did turn serious for her own sign-off, sharing that there’s “no better feeling than someone telling me I made their day with my show” or inspiring people to “laugh or be kind or help someone less fortunate than themselves.”
Backstage, DeGeneres again praised Burnett (“the name I grew up admiring”) and McKinnon (“brilliant, strong, brave”), and said she was grateful for the tough times in her life. “”If everything is easy, you have nothing to compare it to. I’m grateful for all the hard times and all the things that didn’t work out. I feel bad for those who have everything working for them all the time.”
For a look at DeGeneres’ acceptance speech, click above. To hear her comments in the backstage press room, check out the video below.