This week's cover: 'American Idol' exclusive: The first interview with judges Ellen DeGeneres and Simon Cowell

While Simon Cowell and Ellen DeGeneres haven’t had a lot of time to spend together since DeGeneres signed on as the newest American Idol judge last September — he’s been in London shooting The X-Factor, while she’s been in LA working on her Emmy-winning talk show — the duo have no problem being honest with each other about their relationship as soon-to-be coworkers.

“Simon really is, in my opinion, mean to people sometimes,” says DeGeneres, who makes her first appearance on Idol when Hollywood Week kicks off on Feb. 9. “So I think I’ll be hard [as a judge], but if he’s rude, I’m going to let him know he’s rude.”

“And I may disagree with you,” Cowell retorts. “If everything is ‘After you,’ ‘No, after you,’ that’s uncomfortable.”

In their first interview together, daytime’s talk show sweetheart and TV’s grumpiest star tackle everything from seating arrangements at the judges’ table (“I think I’m on Simon’s lap,” jokes DeGeneres) to theme nights they’d like to see (“I’d like something with a bit more emotion. Something like Why I Hate You So Much,” says Cowell). As for rumors that Cowell might leave the show after his contract is up in 2010, DeGeneres is not going to let her new co-star escape without a fight. “If Simon goes, I go!” declares DeGeneres, prompting Cowell to laugh — and squirm a bit. “Oh, Ellen!… That’s quite a tricky situation you’ve put me into! I think right now we have to concentrate on the next season and just get through that and worry about everything else afterwards.”

For more with Simon and Ellen — including what the openly gay talk show host thinks of Cowell’s infamous gay-themed banter with Idol host Ryan Seacrest — as well as a winter TV preview featuring the scoop on 25 new and returning shows, pick up the new issue of Entertainment Weekly, on stands January 8.

Comments (113 total) Add your comment
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  • Elizabeth

    Was the subtitle on the cover, “Dude, you knew this what I was going to wear! Now we look like we planned to dress alike.”

    Sorry… not hating on either of them, just really bored at work.

    • Nick T

      At first I thought you were being mean. Then you explained yourself. Then I laughed.

      • amj

        Me too…LOL.

  • Redeye

    I will miss Paula very much. It will not be the same without her, as what happened when they added Kara last year. Paula was the heart of the show, and showed great emotion and support for the contestants. Ellen is funny and well loved on TV, but she should not constantly make jokes like she did on SYTYCD. In general, there should only be 3 judges. Too many judges and their talking takes away from the singers. They have to shorten their songs, and everything seems rushed to get in all of these comments. But still, I CAN’T WAIT FOR IDOL!!! Good luck to all!!!

    • Amy

      My prediction is that Paula will return next season. Don’t know how they’ll resolve it all, but no one plays the nice ditz like Abdul!

      • eteled tnemmoc

        I don’t think she’s PLAYING, lol.

    • GlitterGrrrl

      You forget that Ellen showed heart with Even on Season 5 of SYTYCD. She’ll be amaaaazing!

    • Kat

      Paula looked and spoke like she was on Drugs every week. The show is suppose to be about the Contestants, not Paula giving pre-written, rehearsed lines every week!

  • FAILURE!!!

    Ellen will bring this ship down.

    • Strepsi

      I think she’s great, and could be comic relief. I LOVE Ellen but her take on this show is wrong. “I’m the nice judge, representing the people at home.” Hello, the people at home represent OURSELVES with votes and itunes purchases. Secondly, WE’RE NOT NICE. We’re actually pretty brutally b*tchy.

      • ^ ^ ^ ^ ^

        Funny? Not a chance.

  • jc

    i still say get rid of kara and her “artisic” and “package artist” lectures.

    • Ed

      I actually disagree. Though Kara had her down moments, I did find her comments to be better as the season progressed. Actually, I’d rather they bring Paula back and get rid of Randy. I have never found Randy to be insightful; he adds nothing to the discussion.

      • crispy

        Right on! Randy is worthless.

      • Rebekah

        I agree. Randy’s comments as a judge are useless and nonsensical. After Paula’s unfortunate exit, I was hoping they’d leave the number of judges at 3. This maybe would’ve allowed for Kara to grow more on the audience. As for Ellen, I’m not sure what to expect. I just don’t like the idea of having 4 judges. It’s overkill.

      • eteled tnemmoc

        And will someone pleeeeease give Randy the current 2010 slang handbook??? He need never say the word “DOG” ever again.

      • amj

        I agree, I am not really a Randy fan either, haven’t been since about season 2. Would rather see Paula and Ellen gang up on Simon together with a rotating guest judge from the business which they did one season. Simon’s comments are always so sharp that you really only need him on the “mean” team anyway. I love Simon and love it when Paula ribs at him. So funny! Simon makes the show and I think Ellen will bring a fun and funny element to the show for sure. And, yes, if you are going to stay Randy, please no more dawg.

    • bunnyslippers

      Oh no! Kara is still on, too?? The four-judge format totally sucks. This is going to be the death knell for AI. Ellen was so, so bad on SYTYCD. So bad. Oh well. It was fun while it lasted.

      • me

        ellen was a guest judge on “dance” she’s a “permanent” judge on idol. if she does it right, i think she’ll be okay. she knows a lot about popular music and is good with people, so it may work. let’s give it a try before we get negative. and as far as kara, i just think she tries too hard.

  • Ed

    I will miss Paula too, but I am excited to see how this dynamic will work. And I want to see Simon on my TV again. He’s a big slice of sexy.

    • Tonya

      Simon sexy? But your a guy. Ewww.

      • Jake

        Perhaps you should go back to school, Tonya.. it’s “you’re a guy” not “your a guy”. Maybe by going bck to school you might also learn to be a bit more open minded, accepting and less judgmental and bigoted. So what if Ed’s a guy? Can’t men find other men attractive in the same vein that some women find other women attractive? What’s more, what is so “eeew” about Ed finding Simon attractive? Stop being so homophobic and catch up to the 21st century.

      • Telly B

        Poor Tonya, she’s never heard of a really radical concept called “gay”; See, that basically means that some guys like guys, some girls like girls. (Please, don’t faint)
        I hope your head doesn’t explode with that knowledge…(LOL< I bet you are one of those who still think Clay Aiken will find a nice Christian lady to settle down with and create a family…)

    • amj

      I agree, I find Simon sexy as well and I am a gal.

      • Adam

        Simon’s sexy, but I think it may be more his personality. I’m a guy, lol.

  • Mel

    EW, PLEASE tell me you’re going to have a LOST cover story in 3 weeks in time for the Season 6 premiere.

    • ^ ^ ^ ^ ^

      They’ll have those Twilight Twerps on there for some assanine reason.

    • crispy

      They’ve actually been pretty good to Lost.

  • GeeMoney

    Bring back Paula!

    • Jeanne

      I ditto that remark!!!!
      Paula was the most exciting judge and i will miss her. Might not watch A1 without her.

  • BLM

    This photo really annoys me for some reason–the smug looks, the pointing, the matching attire. I may have to tear off the cover when I get my magazine it in the mail tomorrow.

    • wg

      Could it be the bad photoshopping?

      • Frank Anderson

        Could it be that for the millionth time EW just uses a close up of stars in front of a white screen.

        Who is planning these covers out… are they stupid, or just boring?

  • Andrea

    I don’t find any of this interesting. I feel that this should be the demize of American Idol. Kick out Paula, who was the best women on the panel, and bring in a women who is suppose to stand up for womens rights, to take her place. I lost alot of respect for Ellen, who just jumped in and took a spot on this show, who has no background in music or dance. I no longer watch Ellen, and will no longer watch American Idol. Sink baby sink. Also, this was suppose to be a show of competition, not a comedy act. Enough, I’m done.

    • Robbyrob


      Please get a GRIP!! For your sanity and for everyone else who is in direct contact with you. It’s a freakin TV reality show!! Please deal some reality into your own life before you start flipping out. First of all, Paula left on her own accord. The producers of AI didn’t want to put up with her new managements demands and said adios. Happens all the time…it’s called show BUSINESS. Fox then contacted Ellen who loves the show. Ellen said yes. Ellen was AI’s first choice so they must know what Ellen can bring to the show. If you are that juvenile to whine about not watching her talk show because of it, well, then you deserve the breakdown you seem to be having. You also considered “Paula one of the best women on the panel”. A big WTF on that one. Paula made no sense and she only had to say 2 sentences to say tops. Paula only has her lack of coherence and greed to blame for not continuing with Idol. If that is your idea of ‘best’, well, then please use the time your not tuning into Ellen and AI to bettering yourself. See, we all come out winners.

      • eteled tnemmoc

        Wowwww Robbyrob….and you say ANDREA is the one flipping out?????????????………..

      • Victor

        Who’s insane here? Someone that responses to someone else’s OPINION on the show with a paragraph like that or the person that chooses to comment that she prefers Paula over Ellen. Geesh, get a life pal!

      • Shana

        How was Paula greedy when they offered her like $10million over THREE years and yet they publicly announced that Ryan is getting $15million a year and Simon like $30million a year.

    • alice

      i totally agree with andrea, and for Robbyrob do you know that paula abdul is a pop icon did you see her videos or her performing on stage ?? i think you didn’t because if you did you would know that she is the most important judge because she is a performer and knows what those contestants are feeling.

    • info

      @ Andrea..Ellen has experience in music and dance. She is connected to the business in every way and has promoted all the AI contestants, winners or runner-ups for years. She is perfectly qualified IMO. And, a little comedy will not hurt the show but only improve it.

    • PGVolley

      If you’ve been watching FOX Reality’s replay of Idol Season 8, you’ve seen that Paula is nothing but a stumbling, bumbling, idiot who could barely articulate the simplest thought. Paula was Never known for her singing, she was a Dancer. Anybody could sing Any of Paula’s songs and be a Pop Star! She was allowed to have a recording career because of the advent of MTV and music videos. If it weren’t for MTV, Paula would Still be looking for a recording contract!! Plus, after the first season of Idol, Paula had to hire a Writer to give her lines to use on the show every week! Paula Abdul is a joke and was the worst part of AI! Good Riddance!

      However, I do agree with all those who say, why do we need 4 judges? It’s suppose to be about the Contestants, not the judges!

      • Gary

        In the 80’s, Paula was the “Lip Sync Queen”… she *never* sang anything Live!! Which always put into question if she really had a singing voice… or was it all electronics? ;-) Her compassion for Idol Contestants is due to the fact Producers slammed the door on her because she did not have a singing voice. They ended up signing Paula for her looks, choreography, and dance ability. Sorry, but those are the Facts.

  • joesmom

    The 4 judge format is awful. I stopped watching last season and I’m certainly not going to watch KARA again! Bunch o’ yuck. Miss ya Paula.

  • Sara

    I never disliked this show until they brought Miss Kara wear-a-bikini-on-stage-at-finale-night DiGuardi. And then dropping Paula, adding someone irrelevant to music.. wow, Fox really wants this show to end, don’t they?

    • Ryan

      That did it for me. I won’t be watching it because of her and her antics to look good. Although I love Ellen, it’s still not enough to bring me back.

    • info

      I actually liked the bikini moment, for me it was the first time I felt Kara seemed human with a sense of humor. It was a tad rude but pretty funny. And daring.

      • mocwe

        I agree, it made me like her a little more, PLUS she did it for charity.

  • Lyn

    I’m mystified at the popularity of DeGeneres, who seems quite unfunny and self-obsessed (“look, I’m dancing again!”). But while she’s somewhat qualified to host a talk show, she’s not qualified at all to judge AI singers! I foresee incessant unfunny and self-obsessed comments from her . . . then again, I usually DVR the show and fast-forward through everyone’s comments but Simon’s, so what the heck.

    • Sas

      Really Lyn, while I believe everyone is entitled to their opinion and am tolerant of others, I am very surprised to read your post that Ellen is “self-obsessed’. While none of us really ‘knows’ a celebrity, if you have ever truly listened to her in interviews other than her own show, she generates a warmth and inner peace and joy that most of us strive for. To have that is a connection that is priceless. Self-obsessed would be the last adjective I would use when describing Miss DeGeneres. Love her, hate her or not care, she definitely gives back to people and animals. To me that is self-less, not self-obsessed. But again, to each their own. I just have an issue with people who give insight without knowledge. I never even post on these things, but when violence and intolerance rule our world, I celebrate people who can bring joy into the world, and for many Ellen DeGeneres does just that. Hate on those who deserve it. At leaset Ellen is using her celebrity to give back.

      • Tom

        Coo Coo, Coo Coo!!

      • Nori Ruoy

        LOL LOL

      • amj

        I agree, I love Ellen. And, her dancing is not self-obsessed but rather energetic and fun. Ellen constantly brings joy and gives back. She promotes knowledge, tolerance and charity. And, people really seem to like her on her show. She tolerated so much hate for so many years when she did her sitcoms (many of which were underappreciated) and took such risk. She seems real and genuinely friendly. So, thank you Sas for your eloquent description of her. Excited to see what she will bring to the show.

    • Cindy

      She’s popular because more people find her funny than not. I for one, also think she’s a generous and kind heated woman.

      • Cindy

        I meant “kind hearted woman”

  • michka

    Paula! Paula: Paula!

  • Agustina

    I don’t know if I will miss Paula as much as I would miss Simon if he leaves next season!!
    Can you imagine the 3 judges being Randy, Kara and Ellen???
    That would be awful!

    • Rebekah

      That’s a scary thought. Simon and Ryan are the anchors of the show. However, if Simon left, AI would tank.

    • Erik

      Soon after they’ll replace Randy with Randy Travis, who’s such a ball of energy.

    • amj

      Now, that’s a scary thought and might chase me away. I don’t think I would watch without Simon. He would have to be replaced and it would have to be a perfect choice. And, I agree Simon and Ryan ar the anchors.

  • gigi

    I’m really not excited about Ellen coming to Idol. I have a feeling she going to do the same annoying funny that she usually does and won’t bring real insight to the show. I might not be watching this season.

    • Mare

      Sure you will.

      • Pretty Betty

        I know right ? I say that at the beginning of every season , “I’m not watching, “I’m not watching”. Or if someone I like gets voted off, “I’m not watching anymore”, and yet where do I find myself? Of course, right back watching Idol.

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