Why Ellen DeGeneres Hated Being An American Idol Judge

Have you ever had a job that you hated through and through? Sure, there are some good days, and maybe there are coworkers that don’t piss you off, but the functions of the job itself were just crap. For talk show host extraordinaire Ellen DeGeneres, that job was being a panel judge on American Idol, mainly because she doesn't like being a rude jerk.

DeGeneres appeared on The Howard Stern Show on Tuesday and spoke candidly about a lot of things, from her childhood to how being a lesbian has affected her career. At one point, Howard Stern asked if she hated judging American Idol during Season 9, and here’s her blunt answer.

Yes. That was the worst decision. That’s one of the worst decisions I’ve made.

Oof. When asked why she decided to do it, DeGeneres explained her motivations and what eventually led her to quit after just one season.

As a fan of the shows, it doesn’t matter that I sing or I know anything about pitch or anything. I’m just like everybody else at home. It’s American Idol, and you’re watching and you’re a fan. So I thought, ‘I’m gonna represent those people at home that have opinions, that like somebody or don’t.’ But then I just thought, ‘I can’t break this person’s heart. Let somebody else do that.’

“Compassion for the contestants” definitely isn’t a trait that one would think someone like Simon Cowell has, but Ellen is on the opposite end of the spectrum. Sure, she likes watching people get the shit scared out of them with various pranks, but she doesn’t like seeing them get their feelings hurt in the process. Stern, someone who just likes getting to the meat of a story no matter what the guest feels like, compared DeGeneres’ time on American Idol to his stint on America’s Got Talent, but he stuck around for four years, so he obviously didn’t mind judging people to their faces quite as much as DeGeneres did.

And it’s not like DeGeneres is the only former judge who has ripped on the show. Mariah Carey, who hosted opposite Nicki Minaj in 2013, shared a similar view by calling it the worst experience of her life. Though her problems were less tied to breaking contestants’ hearts and more to do with the producers’ intentions of having her and Minaj feud with each other. Ratings by any means necessary.

The rest of DeGeneres’ interview was equally entertaining, as she discussed tabloid stories about her and Portia De Rossi and why she chose to go after Caitlyn Jenner’s wishy-washy views on gay marriage on Ellen recently. But American Idol is still one of her worst decisions, and we can’t judge her for that.

Nick Venable
Assistant Managing Editor

Nick is a Cajun Country native and an Assistant Managing Editor with a focus on TV and features. His humble origin story with CinemaBlend began all the way back in the pre-streaming era, circa 2009, as a freelancing DVD reviewer and TV recapper.  Nick leapfrogged over to the small screen to cover more and more television news and interviews, eventually taking over the section for the current era and covering topics like Yellowstone, The Walking Dead and horror. Born in Louisiana and currently living in Texas — Who Dat Nation over America’s Team all day, all night — Nick spent several years in the hospitality industry, and also worked as a 911 operator. If you ever happened to hear his music or read his comics/short stories, you have his sympathy.