Simon Cowell and Ellen Degeneres sat down with Entertainment Weekly for an interview, and I’ve got exclusive excerpts from this week’s cover story.
Ellen talks about keeping inside info off limits on her talk show (unless the contestant is REALLY a jerk), why her judging on American Idol will differ from her judging on So You Think You Can Dance, and disrespectful contestants (Simon likes them, Ellen does not)
Plus, Ellen and Simon go head to head on gay baiting! And Simon on quitting American Idol after Season 9, “Thatâ€™s quite a tricky situation youâ€™ve put me into! I think right now we have to concentrate on the next season and just get through that and worry about everything else afterwards.”
Simon really is mean to people sometimes, â€ says Ellen. If heâ€™s rude, Iâ€™m going to let him know heâ€™s rude.â€
Pick up the next issue of EW on newsstands Friday, Jan 8
Check out exclusive excerpts, after the jump!
EW: Ellen, being on Idol should also be a boon to your talk show, since youâ€™ll have each kicked-off contestant as a guest and can give some behind-the-scenes scoop. Is there anything that will be off-limits?
DeGeneres: I think anything that will hurt Idol in any way. I donâ€™t want to give anything away. And if someoneâ€™s a real jerk, Iâ€™m not going to expose them. I may change my mind if they really are a jerk.
Cowell: Theyâ€™re very media savvy, these contestants. You never really get to know much about them because theyâ€™re aware of themselves and theyâ€™re always nice to you. Itâ€™s only afterwards that it all changes.
DeGeneres: But when you give your feedback, Simon, and somebody talks back to you, thatâ€™s one thing that I just donâ€™t think I would tolerate. Itâ€™s unbelievable that people donâ€™t have any respect. They go on a show, they know theyâ€™re going to be judged, thatâ€™s what the entire show is about, and yet they tell you youâ€™re wrong. Itâ€™s just rude and disrespectful and not okay. So thatâ€™s not going to happen on my dime.
EW: Ellen, you are the first Idol judge with no experience in the music industry. Do you think it matters?
DeGeneres: Itâ€™s not like Iâ€™m not a huge fan of music. That accounts for something. Iâ€™ve also been on stage, alone, trying to entertain an audience. I started in stand-up for 15 years. I know how important it is to reach that audience. So I can put myself in their position. Itâ€™s not necessarily singing, but itâ€™s keeping an audience captivated.
Cowell: The only people who matter in the judging process are the public. We could hire four incredible vocal coaches tomorrow, who know more about music than Iâ€™ll ever know in a lifetime, and it will be the most boring show in the world. Itâ€™s more than a scientific ability, it is your star power that is vital. Ellen has got a good instinct for people, and that is absolutely crucial.
EW: Ellen, last year you served as a judge on an episode of So You Think You Can Dance – although it seemed like you were going more for comedy than for criticism.
DeGeneres: I just wanted to go see the show, and suddenly I was asked if I want to be a judge. And Iâ€™m like, Well, those are better seats â€“ Iâ€™ll be a judge.â€ I just thought it would be interesting, and then I thought, Oh, I have to actually critique them.â€ I donâ€™t know anything about dance, so I just really did focus on making it funny. But itâ€™s a totally different thing [from] singing. And I will be funny [on Idol]- if somethingâ€™s obnoxious or stupid and thereâ€™s a joke to be made, thatâ€™s what I do first and foremost. But Iâ€™ll have more to say about a singer â€“ with singing, itâ€™ll be funny, but there will also be true, honest critiquing.
EW: Ellen, youâ€™ve signed a five-year contract â€“ and rumors persist that Simon will leave Idol after his contract is up in 2010. How do you feel about the prospect of being a judge without him?
DeGeneres: If Simon goes, I go!
Cowell: [Laughs] Oh, Ellen!
DeGeneres: I will not be there without Simon.
Cowell: Thatâ€™s quite a tricky situation youâ€™ve put me into! I think right now we have to concentrate on the next season and just get through that and worry about everything else afterwards.
EW: Ellen, in the past Simon and Ryan have been criticized for their gay-themed banter. Are you going to police this?
DeGeneres: Simon, I guess this is as good a time as any to tell you â€“ Iâ€™m gay.
Cowell: Are you serious? No one told me that. Let me tell you something: We are the least racist, homophobic show in the world. What we do have, thank God, is a sense of humor. I hate political correctness. I wouldnâ€™t go into any show saying anything is off-limits. If we have to abide by a ton of rules, we might as well call it a day now.
EW: Is that cool with you, Ellen?
DeGeneres: Well, I donâ€™t go by that rule, where thereâ€™s no political correctness at all. If we lived in a world where there was no such thing as racism or homophobia, then obviously there would be no off-limits. Unfortunately, there are people in this world that donâ€™t like other people, and that was one of the issues that was brought up about Adam Lambert. So Iâ€™m sensitive to it just because Iâ€™ve experienced that kind of discrimination. At the same time, the stuff that Simon and Ryan do â€“ none of that has ever been offensive to me. Iâ€™m more offended by people who make jokes about something sounding like an animal thatâ€™s been caught in a lawn mower or whatever. Because there are sick people out there that would go, Whatâ€™s that sound like?â€