Ellen DeGeneres delivered a funny speech upon receiving the Carol Burnett Award at the 77th Golden Globes on Sunday night, but Kate McKinnon’s tribute speech giving her the award was arguably more touching. McKinnon acknowledged the way in which Ellen paved the way for her own career.
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 sort of like doing 23andMe and discovering that you have alien DNA. … 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,” McKinnon continued, “but only because brave people like Ellen jump into the fire to make them change. And if I hadn’t seen her on TV I would have thought, ‘I can never be on TV they don’t let LGBTQ people on TV’ and more than that, I would have gone on thinking I was an alien and maybe didn’t even have the right to be here.”
Ellen took the stage after a clip reel, and gave her remarks.
Said DeGeneres: “I had a sitcom, and I lost that sitcom. Then I had another sitcom, and I lost that sitcom, too. I got to do something I always wanted to do: Make whiskey. Then I got a talk show … and I was able to be myself.”
She also paid tribute to Burnett, who was in the audience: “I feel like we all think we know someone, there’s a connection when we watch them on TV for as long as we are on TV, and that’s what it was like for me with Carol Burnett. I felt like I knew her. I felt like she showed us who she was every week. She was larger than life. We counted on her to make us feel good and she delivered every single week, she never let us down, she was hilarious in all the sketches that she did, and when she did the Q&A with the audience she was just genuine and personal, and I always felt like she was speaking to me. At the end of the show, every time she pulled her ear, I knew she was saying ‘It’s okay, I’m gay too.'”