Ellen DeGeneres has subjected her celebrity guests to plenty of awkward moments on her talk show over the years. Kanye West, Taylor Swift and Caitlyn Jenner can all attest to that. But when country singer Blake Shelton appeared on Ellen, a particularly shocking scene played out before the audience. In fact, the interview took a dark turn when the host asked Shelton a surprisingly personal question.
Everything had started so well, too. To begin with, you see, Shelton received some good-natured ribbing from DeGeneres – and Shelton played along. He even took mock-objection to the host pointing out that Shelton was no longer considered People’s “Sexiest Man Alive.” It was the kind of light-hearted banter audiences have come to expect from the quick-witted host. But the interview went downhill from there.
That’s because DeGeneres decided to grill Shelton about his relationship with singer Gwen Stefani. And while it appeared at first that the host was going to continue having a little fun with her guest, Shelton became visibly upset. In fact, Shelton’s reaction to the exchange showed that he wasn’t finding the presenter’s prodding as entertaining as the audience.
This is perhaps even more surprising considering that Shelton has previously had high-profile relationships that have attracted intense media scrutiny. In 2003, for instance, Shelton walked down the aisle with long-term girlfriend Kaynette Gern. The pair then divorced three years later, and in 2011 the singer married fellow country star Miranda Lambert – whom he’d met at the 100 Greatest Duets Concert.
After Shelton and Lambert split in 2015, then, Shelton began a relationship with his co-coach on The Voice Gwen Stefani. And as both the country star and the former No Doubt singer live their lives in the public eye, it seems that all kinds of rumors began to swirl around their coupling. So what was it that DeGeneres said to cause Shelton such discomfort?
Well, as many of us know, DeGeneres isn’t afraid to make her guests shift in their seats. And Shelton joins a host of stars who have been victims of the well-known TV personality’s acerbic wit on her talk show. This is, after all, just one of the reasons why The Ellen DeGeneres Show has proven to be so enduring.
Take, for example, the cringeworthy scene between DeGeneres and guest Dakota Johnson in November 2019. The actor, famous for her role in the Fifty Shades film series, was surprised when the host asked why she hadn’t been invited to Johnson’s birthday party. Johnson replied, “Actually, no, that’s not the truth, Ellen. You were invited.” And that was only the beginning.
You see, DeGeneres seemed surprised that she had been invited to the actress’ birthday soiree. Johnson continued, “Last time I was on the show 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.” It was an awkward moment – and the interview never recovered from its rocky start.
Yet such is the nature of talk shows that there are also bound to be times when guests behave unpredictably. That is even more true when the celebrities in question are known for their erratic behavior. One such example is Kanye West, who took his opportunity on The Ellen DeGeneres Show to spend over eight minutes ranting about various topics.
During West’s monologue, though, DeGeneres occasionally glanced at the camera – her raised eyebrow communicating everything that the audience needed to know. Then at the end of his speech, West offered up an apology. The star said, “I’m sorry, daytime television. I’m sorry for the realness.” But after a brief pause to let the audience applaud, DeGeneres was at her witty best, quipping, “Well, it’s not daytime television anymore.”
And it’s moments such as DeGeneres’ chat with West that have propelled her into the hearts of the American viewing public. Her eponymous program has won a total of seven Daytime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Talk Show, after all. But perhaps DeGeneres’ greatest award was the one she received in 2016: the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
Upon bestowing the award on DeGeneres, President Obama said, “Ellen counters what too often divides us, with the countless things that bind us together, inspires us to be better, one joke, one dance at a time.” He also praised “how much courage was required for Ellen to come out on the most public of stages almost 20 years ago.” It’s safe to say, then, that DeGeneres is American television royalty.
That’s why a slot on her show is highly valued by celebrities of all levels. And Blake Shelton certainly would have known what he was letting himself in for when he signed up to appear on the show in December 2019. After all, Shelton has featured on Ellen many times over the years – so he’s no stranger to DeGeneres’ wit.
In fact, it was one of Shelton’s previous appearances on the talk show that set the scene for the latest exchange between the host and her guest. That conversation had revolved around Shelton’s current belle, Gwen Stefani – who has been a guest on Ellen on a handful of occasions herself. Shelton and Stefani have even featured together on the popular program.
Yes, back in 2014, Shelton and Stefani cropped up on The Ellen DeGeneres Show before they’d become a couple. Why? Well, the country singer and Stefani were presenting together as coaches for the seventh season of The Voice. This was the former No Doubt frontwoman’s debut on the hit American talent show contest, too.
Stefani went on to coach in further runs of The Voice, featuring in seasons nine, 12 and 17. But it was her stint on season seven that saw her and Shelton appear together on screen for the first time. Back then, though, Stefani was married to Gavin Rossdale of the rock band Bush. The pair were married for 13 years – before she filed for divorce in August 2015.
And in September 2015 – only a month after Stefani had filed for divorce from Rossdale – it was revealed that she was in a relationship with Shelton. The country singer himself had only announced his divorce from Miranda Lambert in July of the same year, too. So it was perhaps only inevitable that tongues would start to wag.
When Shelton and Lambert announced their split in June 2015, the couple released a joint statement. They said, “This is not the future we envisioned, and it is with [a] heavy heart that we move forward separately. We are real people, with real lives, with real family, friends and colleagues. Therefore, we kindly ask for privacy and compassion concerning this very personal matter.”
Things were a little more complicated with Stefani and Rossdale, however. The couple also released a statement, in their case to People magazine in August 2015. It read, “While the two of us have come to the mutual decision that we will no longer be partners in marriage, we remain partners in parenthood and are committed to jointly raising our three sons in a happy and healthy environment.”
A year later, though, Stefani was a little more candid in an interview with Cosmopolitan. The reporter asked the singer whether anybody knew about what had happened between her and Rossdale. Stefani responded, “Nobody except for my parents, the people involved and whoever they told. Nobody would believe it if I could really say what happened. I went through months and months of torture.”
Stefani also went on to address rumors that the couple had split due to Rossdale having an affair. She responded, “All you have to do is listen to every single song I’ve ever written, and it’s all there. It’s an ongoing theme that I’ve had for a long time.” So while these vague comments had people speculating, no one really knows what went down between the pair.
To the viewing public, though, it appeared that there was a certain frisson between the recently single Stefani and Shelton. The former told Cosmopolitan, “We were laughing our heads off when we saw the blind auditions. I love NBC, but they for sure edited stuff to look like we were flirting.” So was the sexual tension real – or just the invention of creative editors?
Well, Stefani denied that anything was going on during season seven of The Voice, which aired between September and December 2014. The singer noted that there was some chemistry, though. She said, “[NBC] chose to run with that story [of us flirting] before anything was even real. I hardly knew him. But it was like it was in the air – happening before it happened.”
After taking a hiatus on season eight of The Voice, Stefani returned for season nine – which aired between September and December 2015. This time, of course, any on-screen flirting between Stefani and her colleague Shelton was official. The pair were now a couple – and one of the music industry’s hottest at that.
And so to The Ellen DeGeneres Show. The host has teased both Shelton and Stefani separately about their relationship – and questioned whether they would get hitched or not. It all began when Stefani made an appearance on the hit program in December 2018. She and DeGeneres are friends in real life, you see, and it showed as the presenter said some deeply personal things about her guest.
DeGeneres gushed about her friend, “[Stefani] deserves everything she has. She deserves this love [with Shelton]. She deserves the life that she has and the career. Cause she went through a lot.” Naturally, many assume that DeGeneres was referencing the singer’s breakup with Rossdale in this case.
DeGeneres’ kind words had a visible impact on Stefani, and she started to weep. The star added, “Wow, now I’m crying on TV, too.” From there, however, DeGeneres took the conversation to a more light-hearted level – teasing Stefani about her relationship. The host cheekily remarked, “So Blake told me that y’all are engaged now.”
But Stefani was then quick to fire back at DeGeneres. The former No Doubt singer responded, “No, he didn’t. No, we’re not. No, we’re not. No, we’re not.” There seemed little doubt about the truth, then. But DeGeneres wouldn’t let it go, adding, “Yes, he told me you’re engaged. So let’s talk about that.”
Stefani again fought off the verbal assault from DeGeneres. The singer continued, “What are you talking about? We’re not. We’re not engaged, and we’re not married. And he’s my boyfriend still.” But DeGeneres wasn’t done, and she pressed on, “But when will you get married?” Seemingly giving up, Stefani then replied, “I don’t know. I do not know.”
DeGeneres enthusiastically picked up the marriage theme again when Shelton appeared on her show in May 2019. So, after discussing Shelton’s part in the movie UglyDolls, DeGeneres moved on to a tale about a former guest on the show. She said, “Jennifer Lopez was here, and I wanted to help her out with [her boyfriend Alex Rodriguez] because she wanted to marry him, obviously, like [Stefani] wants to marry you.”
DeGeneres continued with the Jennifer Lopez story, saying “I gave her a clock and just to remind that she could give to him that the clock is ticking. That time is passing. So I gave her that clock and literally like a week later he proposed to her.” And all through this reveal, Shelton looked on awkwardly as a video screen showed the clock in question.
But DeGeneres wasn’t done just yet. The host continued, “So what I want to do… so Mother’s Day is coming up. I have something for you to give to her.” By this time, Shelton was visibly shifting in his seat – and then an assistant brought out a clock with a picture of him and Stefani kissing. Looking a little awkward, Shelton said, “Oh, look at that.”
Which brings us to the now-infamous episode between DeGeneres and Shelton in December 2019. So, as previously mentioned, the two first talked about John Legend – Shelton’s colleague on The Voice – replacing Shelton as People’s Sexiest Man Alive. But DeGeneres was quick to move the conversation on, remarking, “Let’s talk about [Stefani].”
By Shelton’s reaction, it’s clear that the singer knew what was coming – but was powerless to stop it. DeGeneres went on, “Now, I gave you a clock. Remember that clock I gave you? To remind you time is ticking.” Shelton again appeared to look sheepish as the audience giggled. But it was at this stage that Shelton began to fight back.
An awkward exchange ensued between the guest and his host. He retorted, “But you didn’t give it to me. I walked backstage, and somebody back there was like, ‘Hey, thanks for being on the show. Can I have [the clock back?]’ And they took it.” He continued, “And I haven’t seen it. So they didn’t really – time didn’t really start ticking at that moment.”
DeGeneres seemed a little shocked by Shelton’s revelation that he wasn’t allowed to keep the clock. The presenter remarked, “We haven’t given it to you? Well, that’s not right. We can’t – why do we need it?” It’s at this point that Shelton revealed his true feelings about the little joke that had begun during one of Stefani’s appearances on the show.
Visibly ruffled, Shelton went on the attack, suggesting he knew exactly why he wasn’t allowed to keep the clock. He said, “You took it back because whoever your next guest was, you replaced the picture and did the same cr*p to them and embarrassed them.”
But the problem when you go toe-to-toe with a quick-witted comedian is that there is always a retort that will leave you with egg on your face. And that is exactly what transpired in this exchange with Shelton. The multi-award-winning host retorted, “You’re right – because we did [the clock gag] to Jennifer Lopez and now she’s engaged.”
Kudos to Shelton, however, as not only did he shrug the exchange off, but he also got his own back on DeGeneres. Talking about a doll that had been made of his character in UglyDolls – which had then been presented to the host – Shelton responded, “I won’t take it back from you like you did the clock.”
Of course, it’s exchanges such as this that are central to the maintained popularity of The Ellen DeGeneres Show. When Ellen was forced to stop one of her shows, for example, she hauled up her assistant and told her to turn around. And the surprise in store for viewers was epic.
Everything seemed to be running normally on the set of The Ellen DeGeneres Show. Ellen herself sat comfortably in her signature red chair and linked effortlessly to a man located outside of the studio. So far, nothing very unusual was happening on the show – but then things took an altogether more surprising turn.
It’s not uncommon, though, for an Ellen Show segment to veer into the unexpected. And perhaps that’s just one reason why the daytime series is so widely watched. As of 2020, in fact, it ranks 12th on polling company YouGov’s list of the “most popular contemporary TV shows in America.”
The Ellen DeGeneres Show first aired on September 8, 2003, with the eponymous actress and comedian in the role of host. And Ellen had created the talk show after a rollercoaster career in television. Famously, for four years from 1994, she even had her own self-titled ABC sitcom.
Ellen became hugely popular in its own right, in fact. But unfortunately, the series’ fortunes changed in 1997, when its star opened up about her personal life on an episode of The Oprah Winfrey Show. There, the actress revealed to the world that she was gay – and on a later episode of her sitcom, the fictionalized version of her did, too.
After that, ABC supposedly stalled on its advertising of Ellen, with this move later being held responsible for the show’s dropping ratings. Then the series was axed completely in 1998, and its star practically disappeared from TV as a result. But while Ellen went on to attempt a comeback in 2001, she wouldn’t taste further success until the launch of her talk show two years later.
That series, of course, was The Ellen DeGeneres Show. And while multiple other celebrity-led talk vehicles debuted at around the same time, the comedian’s concept rose to the top of a crowded field – receiving a large chunk of the audience share and considerable critical praise to boot.
For its first season alone, The Ellen DeGeneres Show earned a staggering 11 Daytime Emmy nominations. Of these, it won four, including the coveted gong for Best Talk Show. And since then, the series has brought home a further 57 Daytime Emmy awards. This stunning haul includes four trophies for Ellen herself, with the star scooping the Outstanding Talk Show Host prize for four consecutive years from 2005.
And in its nearly two-decade run, The Ellen DeGeneres Show typically brings in approximately 4.2 million viewers an episode. This figure pushes it toward the top of the ratings for daytime, in fact, with the series only bested by Dr. Phil and, for a period, Live with Kelly and Ryan.
So, why exactly is the series so popular? Well, it could have something to do with the infectious energy of its host. Ellen kicks off every episode, in fact, by dancing on stage and into the crowd in the studio. And when the show first started airing, viewers so enjoyed the host’s moves that the boogie sessions grew longer over time.
On top of that, Ellen brings on A-list celebrity guests for candid interviews and introduces the nation to human-interest stories that have touched her heart. And the star has become famous for her generosity towards her guests. Yes, she and her sponsors often give away prizes and cash to deserving people – as well as those in the audience on occasion.
Since The Ellen DeGeneres Show first aired, in fact, the host has regularly demonstrated her kind-heartedness. Back in 2017, for example, a Sudanese refugee named Ekhlas Ahmed wrote into the show, explaining how being a viewer had assisted her English skills. And Ahmed’s story of survival and success clearly touched Ellen enough to bring her into the studio.
By the time Ahmed appeared on stage, though, Ellen knew a secret about her: the refugee-turned-teacher had more than $20,000 in debt dragging her down. So, the TV host joined forces with the online photo-printing site Shutterfly to pay the balance on Ahmed’s accounts – and handed the guest a check for $22,000.
Sometimes, Ellen even extends her generosity to her celebrity guests. For instance, in 2017 Jimmy Kimmel revealed to the world that his then-newborn son, Billy, had been born with a congenital heart problem – and an uncommon one at that. Mere days after he had entered the world, then, the little boy underwent much-needed surgery.
Young Billy had his procedure at the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, and Kimmel praised the facility after his son’s successful procedure. The emotional news seemed to affect Ellen, too, as she subsequently played a part in bringing in a $1 million donation for the hospital. But that wasn’t all she did for Kimmel and his baby boy.
In February 2018 Ellen chose to welcome Kimmel onto her show. And at that time, she had a beautiful surprise for her fellow TV host. On camera, the star revealed that she hadn’t only raised cash for the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles; she’d also had a room in the institution named in Billy’s honor.
Plus, Ellen has often used her platform to speak out on causes in which she believes. And while, most of the time, her show steers clear of political topics, in 2008 the star nevertheless used her considerable platform to decry a law that would directly affect her personal life.
During that year, you see, California passed Proposition 8 – legislation that barred same-sex couples from tying the knot. And this decree had naturally had an effect on Ellen, who had only recently married her wife, actress Portia de Rossi. So, she used her show to speak out on behalf of herself and other same-sex couples who may have felt discouraged by such an obstacle to their rights.
And Ellen has shared other messages of hope in trying times. After a gunman killed dozens at the 2017 Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas, for example, the TV host made a poignant speech that may have brought some of those watching at home to tears. Speaking candidly, Ellen proclaimed, “The world is full of amazing people. Good will always win. Love will always win. We will continue to shine a light on those people on our show.”
Ellen has put her money where her mouth is, too, by continuing to demonstrate kindness on her show. In fact, she’s even helped to stage surprises for the people who work with her on a day-to-day basis. And as it happens, Ellen’s staff have often made for some of the most memorable recipients of their boss’ goodwill.
In true Ellen fashion, though, such gestures often came as a shock. And one stunning segment actually began pretty inauspiciously. To start with, the host segued into a feature helmed by The Ellen DeGeneres Show’s then-producer Aaron Pinkston, who could be seen standing outside with fans.
“Let’s check in with Aaron at Loyola University in Chicago,” Ellen announced at the time. Again, this wasn’t an out-of-the-ordinary event, as it’s not rare for Ellen to send her field producers out to speak with fans – even those far away from her Burbank, California, studio. Then cameras started to roll on a segment filmed outside of her sound stage.
As the stream flipped from Ellen’s stage to the college campus, viewers could see producer Aaron Pinkston bundled up in a hoodie and knit cap. “You got the top ten people with you?” Ellen asked, seemingly ready to helm another of her famous contests or giveaways.
The ten contestants behind Pinkston seemed to be dressed to be noticed – and in a rather wacky way at that. Among them, they boasted unusual makeshift garments made of paper towels, newspapers and printer paper. “Everyone dressed in paper! That’s fantastic,” Ellen said after the Chicago feed went live.
“Is it cold there? What’s the temperature there?” Ellen then asked Pinkston, clearly aware of Chicago’s notoriously chilly weather. However, the crowd behind him was so excited and so loud that Pinkston eventually had to shush them to hear the questions.
“Hey Aaron, is it cold there?” Ellen repeated. But she didn’t get an answer – even after the people in paper had quietened down. Instead, the producer folded his arms and stared at the camera without saying a word.
Of course, he wasn’t being rude or shy – he was a field producer for the show and likely used to being in front of the camera, after all. He simply seemed to have a bad audio connection, which Ellen soon seemed to realize.
“Aaron? Aaron?” she repeated. The producer apparently heard nothing. He pressed his ear, seemingly in an attempt to hear something, anything, coming through his headset. Then Ellen tried again, saying, “Aaron, can you hear me?”
“I lost… we lost signal,” he finally said, looking confusedly at crew members filming the segment. “Can you hear me?” he asked the talk show host, though his camera operator answered the question by moving the camera as if it was shaking its head.
At that point, Ellen seemed to realize that fixing the audio wouldn’t be a quick process. So she asked her team in Burbank, “Should we stop while we work on it?” An off-camera voice answered, “They’re trying to work on the sound.”
But as her team descended upon the stage, Ellen stopped them. “Can we get Jen out here for a second?” she requested instead. Jen Schoening was a wardrobe assistant for the show, and she quickly made her way on stage when called by the talk show host.
“I feel like I have… like a…” Ellen said, pointing to the side of her jeans. Schoening leaned down to look at the garment, preparing to adjust or repair an uncomfortable fit of the fabric. As she did, however, Ellen looked back at the feed showing Aaron in Chicago.
“Look how cute Aaron is,” the host said, eliciting giggles from the crowd. “He’s so cute,” Schoening responded, the slightest hint of a blush running across her cheeks. Schoening and Pinkston were a couple, and Ellen was well aware of their relationship.
“That must be hard when he’s in Chicago. He should be here,” Ellen said, again making Schoening laugh. And with the adjustment to her outfit complete, the host tested her microphone. “Aaron? Aaron, can you hear me? Where is Aaron?” she asked. “He should be here. He really should.” She then pointed Schoening’s attention to the corner of her stage from which celebrity guests make their entrance.
But rather than an A-list singer or actor walking out, it was Pinkston, dressed to the nines in a black suit. The audience then collectively gasped as Schoening asked her beau, “What are you doing here?” He didn’t say anything, though, choosing rather to wrap his girlfriend in a hug. “Hey,” she said, again receiving no response. Instead, he reached into his pocket and dropped down to one knee.
Again, the audience gasped, realizing now that Pinkston was ready to propose – and that the entire audio failure had been a ruse to make the whole thing happen. The crowd fell silent as soon as he began his proposal. “You are my everything, you know that,” he said. “You are my heart and my soul. And I want nothing more in life than to spend the rest of my life with you, okay?” he professed. “Will you marry me?”
Breathlessly, Schoening replied, “Yeah!” Her knees even buckled as she looked down at the ring. Then Pinkston slipped it on her finger as the audience – including Ellen, who had a front-row seat for the proposal – clapped and cheered.
Schoening then looked at the talk show host in shock, seemingly unable to believe that she had been so blindsided by the surprise proposal. “Congratulations!” Ellen shouted as she joined them on stage, hugging the newly minted fiancés.
And a year on from that adorable moment, the couple would say their vows at Barr Mansion in Schoening’s native Texas. “May this beautiful token and pledge symbolize the completeness of my love,” Pinkston recited as he slipped a wedding band onto Schoening’s finger. “I give it to you to remind you of my constant faith and abiding love,” Schoening said – while this time giving her soon-to-be-husband a ring, too.
Eventually, the newlyweds relocated to Austin, Texas, along with their daughter, Parker. The family also expanded in 2017 to include their daughter, Ever. And Ellen remained in the picture for a while after that, too, as Pinkston continued his work as a field producer on her show until 2018.
As of early 2020, however, Pinkston is now an art director for Siete Foods. Jen has since moved on, too, although she still has her hand in fashion through a new children’s sleepwear brand called La Paloma. And although their lives have changed, both husband and wife can rest assured that their former boss continues to demonstrate the same generosity that ultimately brought them together on The Ellen DeGeneres Show’s set.