"I think it's important to work on yourself," Ellen DeGeneres states on the eve of a new standup comedy tour that culminates in New York City with a live taping for HBO. "There's a method to standup, and the trick is to make it look like it's off the cuff. But it's a lot of work."
The Emmy winner has been training hard for her tour, as evidenced by her official website (ellen.warnerbros.com), which includes DeGeneres' notes on geography:
Q:Can you locate Slovakia on a map?
A: Yes. It's right there, by the Starbucks.
"On March 29, I'll be performing at the 'Verizon Wireless Theatre' in Houston. Despite its name, I've been promised that the building isn't actually wireless. Which is a relief, because that's how electricity works."
And miscellaneous "inside" show business info:
"'Green Room' is a fancy showbiz term for a backstage waiting area. It's not actually green. But no one dares ever mention it. Not if they want to keep their jobs."
The new show is called Here and Now. "It's about the place and time we're all living in with modern technology. It's about finding the humor in how lazy we've gotten," says DeGeneres, who claims to be beefing up her vocabulary by having fans coin phrases and mail them in. "My vocabulary is very limited. I use 30 to 40 words and just rotate them. So I wanted people to come up with words that..." DeGeneres stalls. "See, if I had a word, that would have helped me right there."
In addition to the tour and the upcoming show, DeGeneres has a book coming out, as well as an animated Pixar film called Finding Nemo -- she's the voice of a fish. And in September, DeGeneres premieres a new talk show on NBC. "Honestly, I love doing the [standup] show. But it's the most fun for me when I come out and talk to people after the show. That said, I'm really looking forward to the talk show, because that's the thing I do best: interacting with someone and talking on my feet."
She's fast, but she can also be cutting. DeGeneres gets cranky when folks try to stereotype her for her sexual orientation. "I'm surprised by the people who decide ahead of time that they're not going to come to the show because they think it's going to be some gay rally: 'Will we get those jokes? Will people think we're gay if we go? What if someone sees us?' It's a comedy show. It's not something that you have to bring a handbook to try to decode."
There is, however, a guide to "audience etiquette" on the website: "When you get home, tell everyone what a great time you had," the comedian says mischievously. "Try to bring me up in conversation whenever possible. Even if the conversation is about car insurance. Work it in somehow. You'll be glad you did." -- Marli Guzzetta