The Truth Behind the Ellen Degeneres Show

By Kelly ChoLast Updated Apr 18, 2020 9:26:59 PM ET
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Photo Courtesy: James Devaney/GC Images

The Ellen DeGeneres Show is one of the biggest talk shows on television right now. Between A-list celebrity guests, stellar musical acts, inspiring human interest stories and Ellen's seriously great dance moves, the show is a fan-favorite. But what viewers don't get to see is what happens behind the scenes.

Let's take an inside look at the unknown side of the The Ellen DeGeneres Show that fans don't usually get to see. Read on to get a behind-the-scenes glimpse into the hit show.

Not Everyone Gets In

If you do manage to get into the show, count your blessings. Even showing up early doesn't guarantee you a seat, especially if you only have stand-by tickets. Those who arrive late are also in jeopardy of missing out on the live experience.

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Photo Courtesy: @TheEllenShow/Twitter

Because of the number of people who want to see Ellen, some fans are put into the Riff Raff Room, an overflow room of sorts with merchandise for sale. Although they're not on set, they get to watch everything that's happening on screen. Ellen occasionally pops in the room to say hello if she has time. However, that doesn't mean that guests can try to snag an autograph from the host.

You Might Not Sit with Your Group

Workers at the show try their best to accommodate viewers. However, you may or may not be able to sit next to your family or friends during the taping. Between VIP, guaranteed ticket holders and stand-by ticket holders, the show is constantly (and purposely) overbooked in case people don't show.

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Photo Courtesy: Andrew Chin/Getty Images

Upon arrival, everyone gets a ticket with a number. When it's time to go inside the studio, everyone is expected to enter in that numeric order. So if your number reads 35, and your friend's number is 58, you won't be sitting together. Logistically, the staff tries to keep everything organized and in order, but seating doesn't always go as planned.

Copyright Issues

In 2009, The Ellen DeGeneres Show found itself in hot water for not clearing "well over 1,000 sound recordings owned or controlled" by record companies like EMI, Sony Music, Warner Music Group and Universal Music Group. The labels banded together to sue the show for failing to get permission to play big songs like Michael Jackson's Thriller and the Beach Boys' 1966 classic Good Vibrations during the dance segments.

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Photo Courtesy: @TheEllenShow/Twitter

Since then, the matter has been resolved, and the crowd is now dancing to completely cleared music. In fact, there’s even a particular area in the audience for viewers who really love to get down.

Guests Must Be at Least 14

Anyone who has watched the show knows that it’s very family-friendly. In fact, Ellen regularly has young guests on the show alongside their parents. However, minors have to be at least 14 years old to be a part of the audience.

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Photo Courtesy: Mike Rozman/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images

Those who are under the age of 18 have to be accompanied by an adult who is 18 or older. They also need to provide some documentation that proves their age. This can be a legal document like a birth certificate, passport or some other standard ID. Because the show caters to all ages, there is also a very strict policy against explicit words.

A Mean Ellen?

The popular TV host is known for her sunny disposition and amazing sense of humor. However, rumors have popped up over the years that she is quite different in real life. It was reported that the lovable comedian does not actually stick to her daily "Be Kind to Each Other" mantra. In fact, some claimed she was bossy and difficult to work with on set.

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Photo Courtesy: Brooks Kraft/Getty Images

Ellen slammed the rumors in a 2018 interview with The New York Times, calling the allegations an "outright lie." It’s certainly hard for fans to believe simply because the heartwarming moments on the show seem very real. One memorable example is when she severely hurt herself and still managed to get to work — barely.

The Human Side

Ellen may be an A-list celebrity like her guests, but she is still human like the rest of the world. Unfortunately, that means she is also susceptible to illness and injury like the rest of the world. That was proven when the host threw out her back in 2007. She had a great reason to cancel the show and was technically supposed to be on bed rest. However, she came up with another idea.

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Photo Courtesy: Mike Rozman/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images

Instead of disappointing the audience — and maybe for a little laugh — Ellen was rolled out on the stage, propped up in a hospital bed in her pajamas. In her opening monologue, she shared how she hurt her back and tore a ligament while trying to pick up her dog. The host was also a little out of it because of her medication, which made the serious moment hilarious. It's moments like these that make people flock to the live show, even with the insane wait time for tickets.

Patience Is a Virtue

Once you actually snag your free tickets, getting in as an audience member for The Ellen DeGeneres Show involves a lot of waiting. Before guests actually make it to the set, they can expect to wait for at least a few hours before checking in with security and stagehands.

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Photo Courtesy: @TheEllenShow/Twitter

Due to the anticipated wait, guests are allowed to take snacks and eat in line. There are quite a few places nearby where guests can grab a quick bite near the show's soundstage. No food or drinks are actually allowed inside the studio. The bad part? Even with a ticket in hand and all the waiting, you aren’t guaranteed to get inside for the taping.

Forget the John Hancock

Guests shouldn't bother to show up with a notebook or any other items for Ellen to sign. They won’t get a chance to get that personal autograph. Unfortunately, due to time constraints and the number of people that are accommodated per show, the show states up front that Ellen is unable to provide anyone with autographs or hugs.

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Photo Courtesy: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP/Getty Images

There are those who try to get around this rule from time to time, but if you’re caught, you can expect repercussions. Those working on the show have the right to confiscate and discard anything you take to the set. In addition to no autographs, you won't be allowed to snap a selfie with the host either.

No Pictures, Please!

Naturally, fans who actually get to be a part of the show's audience would love to have a photo to remember the special moment. However, The Ellen DeGeneres Show doesn't allow actual cameras on set.

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Photo Courtesy: Graham Denholm/WireImage/Getty Images

It's okay for guests to carry their cell phones and take photos of the audience experience before actually being seated. However, all cell phones must be turned off when you enter the seating area. Again, some may try to sneak around this rule, but it's not advised if you want to remain in the audience. It's unfortunate that you can’t capture all the great moments on set with an actress like Kristen Bell, but it’s the rule.

Sloth Meltdown

During an interview with Ellen, Kristen Bell opened up about her interesting obsession with sloths. She even brought a video to prove her loyalty. The actress' husband, actor Dax Shepard, recorded her reaction after he surprised her with a visit with a sloth in real life for her 31st birthday. In the unforgettable clip, Bell breaks out in full-on tears, having what she called a "full-fledged panic attack."

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Photo Courtesy: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Ellen made the actress cry yet again after pretending there was a sloth waiting for Bell backstage. Later, on a different episode, Ellen really brought a sloth out for the actress! Another hilarious moment for guests involved former First Lady Michelle Obama and a shopping cart.

Back to Civilian Life

Former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama have made quite a few appearances on Ellen's show. One of the most hilarious moments was when the First Lady made an appearance in 2016, shortly before the Obama administration came to an end.

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Photo Courtesy: @TheEllenShow/Twitter

To prepare Obama for her transition back to civilian life, Ellen set up a trip for them both to visit the local CVS. Throughout the wild trip, Ellen gave lessons on how Obama should use a cart and coupons from the store. The comedian pulled out a megaphone to ask for assistance from store clerks and even sang to an unsuspecting infant as Obama tried — unsuccessfully and hilariously — to get her under control.

Plenty of Fun Games

Ellen typically has her celeb guests (and sometimes audience members) participate in outrageously fun games on set. Some of the games have included Never Have I Ever, Giant Jenga and Ellen's own popular guessing game app, Heads Up. Sometimes, Ellen goes head to head with her guests in the games. Of course, the host's jokes during the games make the experience even better, especially for the audience.

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Photo Courtesy: Mike Rozman/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images

No guest has ever complained about playing games on the show because they are always a lot of laughs. Plus, who doesn't like a little friendly competition? However, there is one aspect of Ellen's show that guests may not like — but viewers absolutely love.

The Pranking Champ

If you’re a guest, it's highly likely that Ellen will try to prank you. The host typically has a stagehand dress up in some over-the-top costume, sometimes related to a holiday or a guest's real-life fear. That person usually jumps out of a box or something else on stage or sneaks up behind them for a good scare. Sometimes, the prank takes place backstage, but it’s still caught on camera for the audience to enjoy.

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Photo Courtesy: @TheEllenShow/Twitter

Some of the most memorable celebrity scares occurred with Taylor Swift, Eric Stonestreet, Steve Harvey and John Krasinski. The host keeps her pranks going regularly, even scaring some of her staff. However, out of all the people she's pranked over the years, there is one person in particular who gets it the worst.

Poor Andy

Anyone who watches Ellen's show regularly or watches clips online knows Ellen's executive producer, Andy Lassner. Why would you know him? Because Lassner gets regularly pranked by his boss. He scares very easily, and Ellen always uses that to her advantage.

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Ellen typically scares him herself, sneaking up behind him or jumping out of an area when he least expects it. Lassner also gets wrapped up in other antics staged by Ellen. For example, each year around Halloween, Ellen loves to send him on a trip to a scary haunted house, and the footage is always a crowd favorite. Other popular moments occur before and during the show, which requires audience members to always be on the lookout.

Dancing It Out

Dancing is a huge part of The Ellen DeGeneres Show. She even has her DJ, Twitch, on stage to drop beats at the beginning of the show and during breaks. The show's stage manager is there to help with directions and slight choreography to ensure everyone — no matter how uncoordinated you are — is dancing and clapping in sync.

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Photo Courtesy: Andrew Chin/Getty Images

Even celebrities typically dance onto the stage before taking a seat next to Ellen. The purpose of the dancing is to loosen everyone up and prepare them to have a good time on set, so participation is key. However, the show has taken a few hits due to the music used during these fun dance scenes.

The Dance Row

On set, there is an assigned dance row where Ellen may end up going to dance. Before every show, staff members will usually let audience members know if Ellen will be dancing through their particular row. However, there are extra requirements to be a part of that sanctified row that gives you a chance to dance a little with Ellen.

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One, guests have to be extra energetic and ready to rock. You can't be in the Dance Row standing still or just doing a two-step. You have to really be willing to shake your thing. Also, knowing the lyrics to the song that will be played is helpful as well.

No Advance Knowledge of Guests

Unfortunately, audience members don’t get to know in advance which celebrity guests will be appearing on their specific show. Details about guests change all the time due to packed schedules. It's possible that a celebrity may have to cancel or reschedule an appearance due to a shift in their plans.

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Photo Courtesy: Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images

Because of this, members of the show's staff don’t release any information about guests until the actual day of the show. Audience members will find out who will be there when they get to the studio. One thing is certain, of course. You can bet that Ellen will be there!

Security Checks All Gifts

Ellen DeGeneres probably has everything she could ever want — or at least has the means to get it — but her fans still like to bring her things to show their love. Fans are actually allowed to give Ellen gifts. However, for security reasons, they aren't allowed to personally hand Ellen gifts in person.

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Photo Courtesy: Graham Denholm/WireImage/Getty Images

They have to let a member of Ellen’s staff know about it first. Staff will then direct them to a security checkpoint where they can drop off the item for the lovable host. Ellen is also committed to showing her audience and guests love with gifts of her own.

Guests Get One Freebie

What some may not know is that audience members usually get a freebie from the show as a small souvenir. This could be a mug, cup or some other small token of Ellen's appreciation for coming. Typically, souvenirs are laid on a table where guests can snag them before going on set.

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Photo Courtesy: @TheEllenShow/Twitter

One catch: Guests can only take one freebie each. So, no, you can’t just grab a bunch for your friends and family who weren't able to make it — and you better believe there is a camera watching the treasures. In fact, Ellen has even jokingly put a few fans on blast during the show after they were caught on camera taking more than one freebie!

Paying It Forward

Although Ellen's show focuses heavily on laughter and fun, it's also about showing love to people who are making a positive impact in their communities. The host regularly features normal people from all over the country who are doing great things in their neighborhoods or schools. Ellen typically pays it forward by presenting a check so the guests can continue their efforts.

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Photo Courtesy: Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images

One time, Ellen met a struggling family from California— Christi and Robert Daniels and their four sons. The family was living in a two-bedroom apartment but still managed to give to others. Ellen presented them with a check for $1 million. The gift was to be split in half: $500,000 for them and another $500,000 to pay it forward however they wanted.

Going Viral

In addition to guests doing good deeds, Ellen also features guests who have had adorable or funny moments in real life that have gone viral. The show does have several forms online to submit stories about pretty much anything. Cute kids and animals, people with funny videos and photos, social media influencers and entrepreneurs have all been featured on the show.

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Photo Courtesy: Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images

Please keep in mind, however, that just because you submit a video or story, you aren't guaranteed a spot on the show. Some featured guests have gone viral and caught the eye of Ellen herself, like this adorable duo from England.

Sophia Grace and Rosie

Cousins Sophia Grace Brownlee and Rosie McClelland rose to fame following their hit 2011 YouTube video, where they performed Nicki Minaj's Super Bass. At the time, Sophia was eight and Rosie was five. After the video went viral, Ellen brought the English duo on her show, where they met Nicki Minaj herself. The two made several appearances on the show after that.

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Photo Courtesy: Kevin Mazur/TCA 2012/WireImage/Getty Images

Since their appearances on Ellen’s show, both Sophia Grace and Rosie have gone on to make appearances in movies and on TV. They have even released some music together. The two are now teenagers but will forever be memorable child guests on the show. Another viral star is a hilarious food critic who impressed Ellen so much, he ended up getting work with the show.


Kalen Allen made waves in the entertainment world in 2017 with his viral video critiquing a "7 Up Salad" food video. Allen's hilarious reaction caught the attention of Ellen, who brought him on the show. Allen was such a hit that Ellen continues to work with him to this day.

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Photo Courtesy: @TheKalenAllen/Twitter

The show regularly shares Allen's reaction videos on YouTube, and Ellen has brought him on to guest-host her show. She also gave him his own weekly digital series, OMKalen, where he gives his own witty commentary on pop culture news. Allen is also known for his fabulous outfits as well, which steers you right into what audience members should wear to the show.

Vibrant Fashion

The show asks viewers to dress in business casual or upscale trendy attire for the show. They prefer for everyone to wear bright colors instead of just black and white. The requested fashion rules give the audience a fitting aesthetic with the vibrant set and ensure high energy and happiness.

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Photo Courtesy: Mike Rozman/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images

Another rule of thumb is that no one is allowed to wear Ellen or NBC apparel, shorts, beachwear or shirts with large logos. No, you can't wear matching outfits with people in your group — the risk being that it may stand out too much. Staff reserves the right to deny entrance to anyone inappropriately dressed. There is also an age requirement to be a part of the show.

No Cursing

Late-night talk shows don't technically condone cursing. However, celebrities get away with it because most kids are in bed by the time the episode airs. Ellen's show airs in the middle of the afternoon, so her viewers are mostly parents at home with their young children.

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Photo Courtesy: Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images

That means dishing out bad words is a big no-no, especially when the show is formatted around family-friendly content. Every now and then, a celebrity slips up and spits out a curse word — especially when they were just scared by Ellen. However, it's normally very unintentional, and guests quickly apologize for their error.

Getting Personal

Although Ellen is a funny and respectful host, she still has a job to do as an interviewer with celebrity guests. That means digging into her guests' personal lives, from their dating lives to social media posts and possibly even problems they’re currently facing.

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Photo Courtesy: Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images

A good example of a serious moment on the show was an appearance made by Kevin Hart, who received some backlash after being called out for making what was deemed to be homophobic comments more than a decade ago. Ellen, a proud lesbian, brought Hart on the show to get his side of the story and came to his defense. It was a controversial and real moment for the show.

Getting Engaged

Ellen hasn't shied away from her support of the LGBTQ community. In fact, she regularly uses her platform to discuss issues within the community as well as her own personal life with now-wife Portia de Rossi.

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An unforgettable moment on the show was in 2008 when the Supreme Court of California overturned a ban on gay marriage. Ellen and de Rossi had been dating for three years prior to the announcement. Shortly after, Ellen announced their engagement on the show, and the couple married that same year. The host is definitely a sucker for love and has even staged some proposals during filming, including one between staffers.

A Surprise Proposal

Ellen has helped pull off a few proposals on the show, but one between members of her staff really took the cake. Wardrobe assistant Jennifer Schoening and field producer Aaron Pinkston had been dating for some time. During a taping of an episode in 2010, Ellen was Skyping with Aaron, who was filming a segment in Chicago. However, the audio and video began cutting out.

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Photo Courtesy: Dave Kotinsky/Getty Images

While the crew tried to figure out what was going on, Ellen asked Jennifer to help her with a wardrobe issue. As it turned out, the entire scene was a big set up. At that moment, the host pointed to the side of the stage where Aaron, dressed in a suit, began walking toward Jennifer. He then asked her to marry him, and she agreed!

Rapper's Delight

Another big surprise involved Missy Elliott superfan Mary Halsey. She caught the attention of the internet with a cover of the rapper's hit track "Work It." Halsey even described herself as Elliott's "funky white sister."

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Photo Courtesy: @TheEllenShow/Twitter

Ellen brought Halsey on the show to perform her own rendition of the song in front of the show's audience. To add to the special moment, the host also brought out Elliott herself for a duet that no one will ever forget! Although Ellen is always surprising her guests and audience, she deserves some surprises herself. Her wife, Portia de Rossi, took it upon herself to surprise Ellen with an unbelievable gift for the host's 60th birthday in 2018.

Kindness Returned

Ellen celebrated her 60th birthday with a two-part event on the show. Of course, de Rossi made a special appearance to show the host some love. However, both the audience and Ellen were stunned by de Rossi's extravagant gift, which pertained to Ellen's love of animals.

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De Rossi announced on the show that Ellen would now have an animal sanctuary in her name in honor of Ellen's personal hero, Dian Fossey. The sanctuary, named The Ellen DeGeneres Campus of the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund, will help scientists continue to work to protect critically endangered mountain gorillas. De Rossi also founded a charity in Ellen's name, The Ellen Degeneres Wildlife Fund, to help wildlife all over the world.