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DeGeneres Conquers New Frontiers with Idol

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The New York Times offered an analysis Sunday of the latest chapter in the multifaceted career of the versatile comedian Ellen DeGeneres.

According to TV critic Alessandra Stanley, DeGeneres, who joined the judging panel of American Idol this year, already has come into her own with a reputation for "niceness."

"Ms. DeGeneres, one of America's most popular female comedians and talk-show hosts, is also one of its most beloved gay entertainers -- and one of the few who markets herself as such," writes Stanley. "And she finds a way to remind audiences of her sexual status on almost every episode of American Idol. More than in any other of her ventures, Ms. DeGeneres's performance on America's favorite television show suggests how hard she works to seem effortlessly funny and how determined she is to be openly but unthreateningly gay. She doesn't need the work, but she appears to want the demographic -- Idol is her chance to expand her reach to a younger, more pop-obsessed audience, the Hulu Generation of viewers, who prefer to download their entertainment rather than press the remote. And Ms. DeGeneres, funny, irreverent and also quite cautious onstage, is setting herself up as the Jon Stewart figure on Idol that people under 30 can trust."

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