It seems like any number of people who have crossed Ellen DeGeneres’ path could say, “We had a little bit of a weird thing”—and now it’s Rosie O’Donnell’s turn.
On Thursday’s episode of Watch What Happens Live, O’Donnell revealed that she hadn’t been invited to guest on DeGeneres’ once-massive talk show for years—not until toward the end of its 19-season run. And when Larry King asked Degeneres about it, she replied, “I don’t know Rosie. We’re not friends.” This was news to O’Donnell, apparently, and very much hurt her feelings.
“I was in bed with [ex-wife Kelli Carpenter] and I went, ‘Did I just hear that, or was that like a hallucination?’” recalled O’Donnell to Andy Cohen. “No, and that’s what happened, and it hurt my feelings like a baby, and I never really got over it.”
While O’Donnell and DeGeneres, fellow lesbian comedians with legendary talk shows, were never known to be particularly tight, O’Donnell did refer to DeGeneres as “my buddy” during a 1996 episode of O’Donnell’s talk show that teased DeGeneres’ coming out. They joked about her big secret being that she’s “Lebanese,” a bit referenced during the WWHL interview.
In 2020, when rumors swirled about the toxic environment behind the scenes of DeGeneres’ show, a stunning counterpoint to the host’s “be kind” advocacy, O’Donnell expressed compassion for her. O’Donnell also told EW in 2021 that she was “glad that she’s, you know, going to be finished and she can get some time to herself,” upon the announcement that DeGeneres’ show was ending.
“I have compassion, even though, you know, I hear the stories and I understand. I think she has some social awkwardness,” O’Donnell said on the Busy Philipps Is Doing Her Best podcast. “I think that from knowing her for so many years, I have my own kind of history with her.”
O’Donnell also told Cohen that when the Ellen show finally did reach out to have her on, it was during the promotion of her Showtime series SMILF, which ran from 2017 to 2019. She suggested bringing along someone else from the show to make things less awkward, but that suggestion was turned down. And yet, the awkwardness lives on.