Generes was born on January 26, 1958 in Metairie, Louisiana, which is a suburb of New Orleans. Her father (named Elliot) was an insurance salesman, and her mother (Elizabeth Jane, but called "Betty,") was a real-estate agent. She has one brother, Vance, who has worked as a correspondent for the Daily Show
. She and her brother were raised as a Christian Scientists, though she no longer follows that faith. Her parents divorced in 1974, and afterward she moved with her mother to Atlanta, Texas. She graduated from Atlanta High School in 1976, and then attended the University of New Orleans where she majored in communications, until she dropped out after just one semester.
DeGeneres often performed comedy routines for friends, which got her work as a stand-up comedian at small clubs, and led to her job as an emcee at Clyde's Comedy Club in New Orleans. Her work was noticed, and she was invited to perform on the Tonight Show
in 1986. She got started in her television career on the TV sitcom Open House
(1989-1990) and the show Laurie Hill
(1992). She has had two HBO stand-up specials, and her own sitcom Ellen
, which ran from 1994-1998.
After a brief career setback, she again made her mark by hosting the 2001 Emmy Awards, and by voicing the role of "Dory," in the animated Disney/Pixar film Finding Nemo
in 2003. Since then, she has successfully hosted her own talk show, for which she has won numerous awards.