Ellen DeGeneres will pay out more than $2 million in bonuses to her staff as she prepares for the final episodes of her award-winning talk show, which will feature a slate of guests, including former First Lady Michelle Obama.
The curtains will close on The Ellen DeGeneres Show on May 26 after a nearly two-decade run that culminated in a firestorm of controversy over claims of a toxic workplace environment, an internal investigation by Warner Bros. and the firing of three top executives.
Ahead of DeGeneres’s swan song, sources close to the talk show host told DailyMail.com that she is preparing to pay more than $2 million in bonuses to employees.
It is not clear how the funds are being distributed, but sources told Deadline that staffers on the show for one to four years will receive two-week pay, staffers with four to eight years under their belt will receive three-week pay and so on – capped at six weeks of pay for the shows longest-serving employees.
About 30% of the show’s staff have been on the show for over 10 years and some of the senior-most executives have been on for all 19 seasons, Deadline added.
The curtains will close on The Ellen DeGeneres Show on May 26 and the final celebrity guest will be former First Lady Michelle Obama
Ellen DeGeneres is giving over $2 million in bonuses to her staff as she prepares for the final episode of her award-winning talk show
The show has drawn controversy over claims of a toxic workplace environment, an internal investigation by Warner Bros. and the firing of three top executives
The final episodes of The Ellen DeGeneres Show will feature a slate of returning guests, including Kim Kardashian, David Letterman, Jennifer Garner, Channing Tatum, Serena Williams, Zac Efron, Adam Levine, Behati Prinsloo, Gwen Stefani, Diane Keaton and DeGeneres’ wife Portia de Rossi.
After the final episode, the show will continue airing on affiliate stations throughout the summer with guest hosts, compilation shows and re-runs.
The outsized digital footprint the show has helped create will continue running Ellen Digital Ventures, which has amassed 300 million social followers and 8 billion views across all platforms in 2020 and 14 original series produced in 2021, Deadline reported.
In the farewell season teaser, Ellen’s impressive stats were rolled out, stating that the series has featured 4,000 guests, 3,000 hours of TV, 1,500,000 audience members, and a staggering $450,000,000 in cash prizes given to worthy guests.
In addition to the over-$2 million in bonuses for her staffers, DeGeneres also informed them that their healthcare coverage has been extended for six months following the show’s finale.
They will be provided with access to resume building and networking workshops and free one-year memberships to LinkedIn Learning, Deadline reported.
The generous gestures cap off a series of controversies in recent years amid claims that working on The Ellen Degeneres Show was not nearly as wholesome as it once seemed.
Last May, DailyMail.com first reported that Ellen was leaving her show because she ‘has had enough and told her team that she’s done.’
‘She’s promised one more season after this one and will exit at the end of the 2021/2022 season – the 19th season of the show.’ they said. ‘The ratings have tanked and have been truly appalling this year and Ellen knows her time is up.’
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Ellen confirmed the news and said, ‘When you’re a creative person, you constantly need to be challenged – and as great as this show is, and as fun as it is, it’s just not a challenge anymore.’
Several former and current employees accused Ellen, 63, of fostering a toxic work environment last year and turning a blind eye to bullying by executives.
The source said, ‘The show has bled viewers since the toxic environment around Ellen and her show was made public.’
The ratings for total households from February 2020 to February 2021 were down 40% in New York City and Chicago; in Los Angeles she’s lost 59% of viewers.
In Philly ratings in the same time period were down 32% and in San Francisco she lost 50% of viewers.
Since its season premiere in September, the show garnered an average of 1.5 million viewers by March – down 1.1 million from the same time-frame a year ago, which had 2.6 million average viewers.
The Ellen DeGeneres Show got off to a strong ratings start last fall in her 18th season premiere when she addressed the scandal, but has seen a swift decline in the months since.
On a roll: Comedian Kevin T. Porter kicked the entire social media movement off, when he sent out a tweet urging people to message him ‘the most insane stories [they’ve] heard’ about DeGeneres in an effort to raise money for the Los Angeles Food Bank
Lots of stories: People had more than a few anecdotes to share
‘I learned that things happen here that never should have happened,’ Ellen said in her season premiere. ‘I take that very seriously. And I want to say I am so sorry to the people who were affected.
‘I know that I’m in a position of privilege and power, and I realize that with that comes responsibility. I take responsibility for what happens at my show.’
‘This is me and my intention is to always be the best person I can be, and if I’ve ever let someone down, if I’ve ever hurt their feelings, I am so sorry for that,’ she said. ‘If that’s ever the case, I’ve let myself down and I’ve hurt myself as well because I always try to grow as a person.
‘I look at everything that comes into my life as an opportunity to learn. I got into this business to make people laugh and feel good, that’s my favorite thing to do.’
The 63-year-old comedian claimed she had known for years that she would end her show after its upcoming 19th season, despite recent controversy over her allegedly toxic work environment.
‘The past 18 years … has changed my life. You all have changed my life. I am forever grateful to all of you for watching, for laughing, for dancing — sometimes crying. This show has been the greatest experience of my life and I owe it all to you,’ she continued.
DeGeneres added that she had ‘thought a lot about this decision’ in consultation with her wife,
DeGeneres went on to claim it had always been her plan to end the series after season 19, though she didn’t address how claims that she fostered a toxic work environment and allowed her producers to bully employees might have sped up the end of her show.
Friends: Ellen faced her first whiff of backlash in October of 2019 when she took in a Dallas Cowboys football game in a luxury box — where she sat with former President George W. Bush
Not impressed: One of the first critics to speak out was Nikkie de Jager, who said Ellen was cold and distant when she was on the show
‘Two years ago, I signed a deal for three more years. I always knew in my heart that season 19 would be my last,’ she said. ‘The truth is I always trust my instincts. My instinct told me it’s time. As a comedian, I’ve always understood the importance of … timing. In all seriousness, I truly felt like next season was the right time to end this amazing chapter.’
The claims of Ellen’s toxic work environment were revealed in July 2020 by one current and 10 former employees of the daytime talk show who accused three executive producers, Ed Glavin, Mary Connelly and Andy Lassner, of ‘bullying.’
Executive producers Glavin, Kevin Leman and co-executive producer Jonathan Norman were all fired from the popular talk show following the accusations leveled against them by current and former staffers.
Ellen came out with an apology after it was announced that her show was subject to a probe by WarnerMedia which looked into ‘staff experiences on set’.
The host sent her staff a memo in which she wrote she was ‘taking steps… to correct’ issues with her employees.
‘On day one of our show, I told everyone in our first meeting that The Ellen DeGeneres Show would be a place of happiness – no one would ever raise their voice, and everyone would be treated with respect. Obviously, something changed, and I am disappointed to learn that this has not been the case. And for that, I am sorry,’ Ellen said in the memo.
‘As we’ve grown exponentially, I’ve not been able to stay on top of everything and relied on others to do their jobs as they knew I’d want them done. Clearly some didn’t,’ she added. ‘That will now change and I’m committed to ensuring this does not happen again.’
Among the allegations was one made by a black woman who claimed she suffered a number of ‘microaggressions,’ her request for a raise was ignored and she was accused of ‘walking around looking resentful and angry’ after asking for staff members to undergo diversity and inclusion training.
Another former employee alleged they were fired after taking medical leave for one month following a suicide attempt.
A popular claim that circulated is that staff members were instructed not to speak to Ellen.
Flashback: A 2019 interview with Dakota Johnson went viral again last year. Dakota called Ellen out for lying in an awkward exchange
Some claims included that staff are required to chew gum before speaking to her because of her ‘sensitive nose’, and that she polices staff lunch orders and bans anyone from eating fish or meat.
In addition to these claims, the show was rocked again when three dozen employees of the daytime talk show alleged that senior executives who work behind the scenes groped and kissed staffers, solicited one of them for oral sex, and were ‘handsy with women.’
Jonathan Norman, a co-executive producer, is alleged to have ‘groomed’ a former employee by taking him to concerts and showering him with other gifts and perks before attempting to perform oral sex on him.
Kevin Leman, the show’s head writer and executive producer, is alleged to have solicited oral sex from an employee. Others say they witnessed Leman grope another colleague.
And Ed Glavin, an executive producer, allegedly ‘had a reputation for being handsy with women,’ according to former employees.
The former staffers told BuzzFeed News that they believe the host knew that several of her senior showrunners and producers were alleged to have committed sexual misconduct against junior-level employees.
‘That ‘be kind’ bulls*** only happens when the cameras are on. It’s all for show,’ one anonymous staff member said.
The employees said they did not have first-hand experience of DeGeneres being unpleasant, but said she needs to take more responsibility for how her employees are treated.
However, allegations have mounted from other sources against the host herself – sparked by a Twitter thread from comedian Kevin T. Porter
Calling DeGeneres ‘notoriously one of the meanest people alive’, he asked people for ‘the most insane stories you’ve heard about Ellen being mean’.
The tweet received 2,600 replies and saw Porter give $600 to an LA foodbank, after promising to donate $2 for every legitimate mean story.
Commenters who thought he was kidding were quickly proven wrong, as stories alleging Ellen’s bad behavior quickly poured in.
His say: Even Ellen’s former DJ, Tony Okungbowa, posted about the talk show host on Instagram, calling out the ‘toxicity’ of the workplace
‘I did experience and feel the toxicity of the environment and I stand with my former colleagues in their quest to create a healthier and more inclusive workplace as the show moves forward,’ he said
‘Was wrking on a show @ WB that was next to her stage,’ wrote Alison Freer. ‘Was our showrunner’s 50th Bday. Caterer grilling steaks outside for special fancy lunch. Ellen sent someone over to demand they stop, as she doesn’t eat meat. She’s the worst.
She later added: ‘She polices her crew’s lunch orders, nobody allowed to eat fish etc. They would come hide on our stage to eat what they wanted away from her.’
Separately, security worker Tom Majercak – who was assigned to be Ellen’s bodyguard at the 2014 Oscars – said she was ‘sly’ and ‘demeaning’ to him.
‘Ellen is the one person that I’ve been assigned to – and I’ve been assigned to quite a few celebrities – that has never taken the time to say hi to me,’ he said.
‘She’s not the person she portrays to be that she’s playing off of society.’
Condemnation: Brad Garrett of ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ fame said he knows ‘more than one who were treated horribly by her,’ and Lea Thompson agreed
Ellen faced her first whiff of public backlash in October of 2019 when she took in a Dallas Cowboys football game in a luxury box — where she sat next to former President George W. Bush.
Cameras showed the pair sitting side-by-side and seemingly enjoying each other’s company, which led to a flood of criticism online.
Critics pointed out that while Ellen has been a trailblazer for the LGBTQ community, Bush has backed several policies that were hurtful to gay people — including a proposed constitutional amendment that would have defined marriage as a union between one man and one woman.
Ellen later addressed the backlash on her show, saying: ‘I’m friends with George Bush. In fact, I’m friends with a lot of people who don’t share the same beliefs that I have.
‘Just because I don’t agree with someone on everything doesn’t mean that I’m not going to be friends with them. When I say, “Be kind to one another,” I don’t mean only the people that think the same way that you do. I mean, “Be kind to everyone, it doesn’t matter.”‘
One of the first critics to speak out was Nikkie de Jager, a trans beauty blogger who goes by NikkieTutorials. She had appeared on Ellen’s show in January of 2020 to talk about coming out as trans, but the next month admitted that the experience wasn’t what she had hoped.
‘Let me say that there’s a big difference between this show and Ellen DeGeneres, and I’m saying that in favor of this show,’ she said on the Dutch talk show ‘De Wereld Draait Door.’
‘It’s nice that you say “hi” before the show. She didn’t,’ she added, agreeing with an assessment that she was ‘cold and distant.’
The backlash against Ellen continued to grow, with social media users pointing to old clips with celebrity guests that, in retrospect, hinted at bad behavior.
In one particularly viral moment from 2019, Dakota Johnson shared a tense, awkward exchange in an on-air interview.
When Ellen asked Dakota how her birthday party was — adding with a straight face that she ‘wasn’t invited — Dakota firmly pushed back, saying: ‘Actually, no, that’s not the truth, Ellen. You were invited.
‘Last time I was on the show, last year, you gave me a bunch of s*** about not inviting you. But I didn’t even know you wanted to be invited — I didn’t even know you liked me… but I did invite you, and you didn’t come.
When Ellen questioned her, doubting what Dakota said, she replied: ‘Ask everybody. Ask Jonathan, your producer.’
Things began looking even worse when, in April, crew members for The Ellen DeGeneres Show publicly complained about the treatment they were enduring during the pandemic.
Two sources told Variety said that the core stage crew for the show had received no written communication and only sporadic phone calls about their hours and pay, and didn’t know how much or even if they would be paid in lockdown. Many were worried that they would be furloughed but said that they weren’t being notified either way.
Even Ellen’s former DJ, Tony Okungbowa, posted about the talk show host on Instagram, calling out the ‘toxicity’ of the workplace.
‘I have been getting calls asking me about the Ellen Degeneres Show and I would like to address the time I spent there,’ he wrote.
High honors: Ellen was given the Presidential Medal Of Freedom by Michelle’s husband President Barack Obama in 2016
‘I was on air talent from 2003-2006 and from 2007 -2013. While I am grateful for the opportunity it afforded me, I did experience and feel the toxicity of the environment and I stand with my former colleagues in their quest to create a healthier and more inclusive workplace as the show moves forward.’
That same month, more celebrities spoke up as well. Brad Garrett of ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ fame tweeted: ‘Sorry but it comes from the top @TheEllenShow. Know more than one who were treated horribly by her. Common knowledge,” Garrett tweeted on July 30.
When People magazine shared a tweet about his remarks, Back to the Future star Lea Thompson replied: ‘True story. It is.’
In addition to the end of her talk show, DeGeneres’ Game Of Games was axed by NBC in January, with Deadline first reporting that the Ellen DeGeneres-hosted primetime game show’s fourth season was ‘its last on the network.’
Season four was compromised of 20 episodes that ran from October 2020 until May 2021.
Game Of Games first debuted on NBC in 2017 with an eight-episode order and originally served as a holiday season fill-in for the network, according to TVLine.
The show has contestants play a variety of quirky games that originated from the 63-year-old comedian’s talk show in the hopes of winning $100,000.