Ellen DeGeneres is one of the most well-known and successful comedians in the world, exemplified by the fact that she is the world’s highest paid comedian. Due to her success, many people wonder what path she took to get there. More specifically, did she go to college?
Ellen attended The University of New Orleans in 1977, but she dropped out after one semester. She was majoring in Communications but did not enjoy College. So, she went on to pursue her career in stand-up comedy instead.
Continue reading to find out what Ellen did instead of going to College or University.
Ellen was born and raised in Metairie, New Orleans, Louisiana. Her parents got divorced when she was 13, so she moved to Atlanta, Texas with her mother. There, she attended high school and graduated from Atlanta High School.
After graduating, she moved back to New Orleans to attend The University of New Orleans and majored in Communications for one semester. Ellen did not enjoy university and did not seem to see the value in attending if she wanted to be a stand-up comedian.
So, she decided to pursue that career path instead.
She started out by doing small, sometimes unpaid, stand-up shows at clubs and cafes until she became an emcee at Clyde’s Comedy Club in New Orleans in 1981. Following this, she started to tour around America to perform stand-up and eventually became Showtime’s funniest person in America.
She then got her first big break on television for stand-up comedy in 1986 when she was on Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show.
This was her first appearance on network television and Ellen later said being on Johnny Carson’s show was on her bucket list. She was on 8 episodes of the show to perform her stand-up.
Other Celebrities Who Dropped Out
Though Ellen never graduated herself, she was invited to give the commencement speech in 2019 to Tulane University graduates. In it, she jokes: “I didn’t go to college at all, any college, and I’m not saying you wasted your time or money, but look at me, I’m a huge celebrity.” She is also not the only famous celebrity to have dropped out of college or university to find success another way.
Brad Pitt left the University of Missouri, only weeks before graduating to pursue acting in film. Oprah, another famous talk show host, left the University of Tennessee midway through her degree to pursue a position on the evening news and later a talk show in Chicago before getting her own show. John Lennon dropped out of his art school and began touring with his high school band, The Beatles.
Lady Gaga, real name Stefani Germanotta, dropped out of a prestigious conservatory program at New York University to pursue her music career. Tom Hanks dropped out of university after two years where he was studying theater. He pursued a theatre internship to learn about theatre instead, as he says school is not the only place you can study.
Actors, singers and comedians are not the only ones who dropped out of college and became successful. Famous businessmen and CEOS have as well and become very successful. Mark Zuckerberg, the creator of the social media platform Facebook, dropped out to focus on growing the website. Steve Jobs, CEO of giant tech company Apple, dropped out to focus on creating Apple products and growing the company.
Similarly, Bill Gates, CEO of Microsoft, dropped out of Harvard to create and focus on Microsoft. The school’s newspaper called Bill Gates “Harvard’s most successful dropout” as he is now worth $102 billion.
Though college and university can be beneficial for people, it is not for everybody. There are ways to be successful without formal post-secondary education as exemplified by Ellen DeGeneres and many other celebrities.