Her stand up career started in the early 1980s, culminating in a 1986 appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, who likened her to Bob Newhart, and invited her for an onscreen chat after her set. She was the first comedienne invited by Johnny Carson to join him, a national, and the most influential endorsement available at the time for comics. As a film actress, she starred in Mr. Wrong, appeared in EDtv, and The Love Letter, and provided the voice of Dory in the Disney-Pixar animated film Finding Nemo, for which she was awarded the Saturn Award for Best Supporting Actress, the first time a voice performance has won a Saturn Award. In 2010 she was a judge on American Idol for its ninth season.
She starred in two television sitcoms, Ellen from 1994 to 1998, and The Ellen Show from 2001 to 2002. During the fourth season of Ellen in 1997, she came out publicly as lesbian in an appearance on The Oprah Winfrey Show.
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