McKinnon routinely impersonates DeGeneres, so it was fitting that she was selected to give the TV personality the major award. She opened the speech by revealing all the things that DeGeneres personally gave her, which included “a road map for a way to be funny ... that is rooted in joy” as well as “two pairs of Stan Smith sneakers” and her “best collared shirts.”
While DeGeneres apparently contributed quite a lot to McKinnon's wardrobe, the actress was particularly grateful to DeGeneres for paving the way for other members of the LGBTQ+ community to believe they could see themselves on television. As a teenager, watching DeGeneres’ sitcom while "lifting weights in front of the mirror" allowed McKinnon to ask herself if she, too, was gay.
DeGeneres famously came out as gay during a 1997 of her sitcom The Ellen Show. The move — in which DeGeneres’ character inadvertently declares she’s gay into a microphone — garnered criticism, and her series was cancelled a season later. Despite the cancellation, the episode is now remembered as a major moment of pop cultural representation for the LGBTQ+ community.
“The only thing that made [realising I was gay] less scary was seeing Ellen on TV,” McKinnon said of DeGeneres’ famous moment. “She risked her entire career to tell the truth, and she suffered greatly for it. Of course attitudes change, but only because people like Ellen jump into the fire to make them change.”
“Thank you Ellen for giving me a shot at a good life,” a teary-eyed McKinnon added, just before mentioning: “And thank you for the sweater with the baby goat on it.”
Following a montage of DeGeneres’ biggest moments, the talk show host arrived on stage with a message for McKinnon.
“Kate, you’re incredible. I hate being asked to do things like this, so thank you for flying here, thank you for writing this, thank you for your words,” DeGeneres said, in a sparkling suit that nearly matched McKinnon's. “I love you.”
DeGeneres, who attended the event with wife Portia de Rossi (and joked for their non-existent kids to "go to bed") then expressed just how much the working on television has meant to her.
"All I've ever wanted to do was make people feel good and laugh, and there is no better feeling than one someone says I've made their day with my show, or that I've helped them get through a sickness or a hard time in their lives," DeGeneres said. "The real power of television for me, is that people watch my show and are inspired to do the same thing in their own lives: They make people laugh or be kind or help someone less fortunate than themselves. That's the power of television and I'm so grateful to be part of it."