Ellen DeGeneres has discussed the tragic personal circumstances that had a significant impact on the direction of her life and career, telling mate Dax Shepard that the death of her girlfriend inspired one of her breakthrough comedy routines.

Speaking on his Armchair Expert podcast this week, DeGeneres recounted how “my girlfriend was killed in a car accident when I was like 20 years old.” 

DeGeneres said she wasn’t yet doing stand-up, but was likely waitressing at the time so they could afford to live together.

“I couldn’t afford to live where we were living together and so I moved into this tiny little basement apartment” in New Orleans, DeGeneres said.

“I was sleeping on a mattress on a floor and it was infested with fleas. And I used to write all the time, I wrote poetry and songs and stuff, and I thought, ‘Why is this beautiful 21-year-old girl just gone, and fleas are here?'”

The harsh randomness of existence got to her, she explained, saying “I just thought it would be amazing if we could just pick up the phone and call up God and ask questions and get an answer.”

DeGeneres said that thought process rolled out into a joke she imagined could some day wind up on Johnny Carson’s The Tonight Show – and could land her the honour of being the first female comic invited to sit down with Carson after delivering a stand-up spot.

Years later, she was proven right, with a performance that helped kick-off an insanely successful career in the comedy and entertainment industry. And yes, the fleas made an appearance.

DeGeneres has recounted the story before, including to none other than Oprah, but the clarity and poignancy of this recollection deserves a listen. You can peep it HERE. 

Source: People
Image: Armchair Expert