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Ellen DeGeneres has subjected her guests to plenty of awkward moments on her eponymous talk show over the years, as Kanye West, Taylor Swift and Caitlyn Jenner can all attest to. But a particularly cringeworthy scene played out in December 2019 with country singer Blake Shelton.

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Shelton, who is currently a judge on popular TV talent show The Voice, received some good-natured ribbing from DeGeneres regarding his relationship with the singer Gwen Stefani. However, as we’ll explore later, Shelton’s reaction to the exchange showed that he wasn’t finding the presenter’s prodding as entertaining as the audience.

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Shelton is a multi-award-winning country singer and has also become ubiquitous as a talent competition judge. Through his latter role, he fulfils duties on Nashville Star and Clash of the Choirs, and he has been a perennial part of The Voice since the show’s beginnings in 2011. Furthermore, Shelton has been a coach in all 17 seasons of the program to date.

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Shelton has also had a couple of high-profile relationships that have attracted some intense media scrutiny. For four years from 2011 he was married to fellow country star Miranda Lambert, who the singer had met at the 100 Greatest Duets Concert. After the pair divorced, Shelton began a relationship with his co-coach on The Voice, Gwen Stefani – formerly of rock group No Doubt.

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Prior to his relationship with Lambert, meanwhile, Shelton had walked down the aisle with his long-term girlfriend Kaynette Gern in 2003. So having been married twice, it remains to be seen whether the singer plans to get hitched for a third time. However, this is the topic that DeGeneres felt was ripe for the picking during the aforementioned episode that caused Shelton visible discomfort.

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As many of us know, DeGeneres isn’t afraid to make her guests shift in their seats. A host of stars have been the victim of the well-known TV personality’s acerbic wit on her talk show. And it’s just one of the reasons that The Ellen DeGeneres Show has proven to be so enduring.

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For example, in November 2019 there was a particularly cringeworthy scene between DeGeneres and guest Dakota Johnson. The actor, famous for her role in the Fifty Shades film series, was surprised when the host asked why she hadn’t been invited to Johnson’s birthday party. The latter hastily replied, “Actually, no, that’s not the truth, Ellen. You were invited.”

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DeGeneres actually seemed surprised that she had, in fact, been invited to the actress’ birthday soiree. Johnson continued, “Last time I was on the show you gave me a bunch of s*** about not inviting you, but I didn’t even know you wanted to be invited. I didn’t even know you liked me.” Evidently, it was clearly an awkward moment between the pair.

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Such is the nature of talk shows that there are bound to be times when guests behave a little bit unpredictably. That is even more true when they themselves are known for their erratic behavior. One such example was Kanye West, who took the opportunity on The Ellen DeGeneres Show to spend over eight minutes ranting about various topics.

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During West’s monologue, DeGeneres took the opportunity to glance occasionally at the camera; indeed, a raised eyebrow communicated everything that the audience needed to know. Then at the end of his speech, West offered up an apology. The star said, “I’m sorry, daytime television. I’m sorry for the realness.” And after a brief pause to let the audience applaud, DeGeneres was at her witty best, quipping, “Well, it’s not daytime television anymore.”

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It’s moments like DeGeneres’ chat with West that have propelled her into the hearts of the American viewing public. Her eponymous program has won a total of seven Daytime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Talk Show. But perhaps DeGeneres’ greatest award was the one she received in 2016: The Presidential Medal of Freedom.

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Over the course of her career, DeGeneres has hosted several of the biggest industry awards shows: including the Academy Awards, the Primetime Emmy Awards and the Grammys. Not only has she written and starred in an award-winning sitcom, she has also featured in a host of movies as an actor. One of her best-known roles was the voice of lovable fish Dory in both Finding Nemo and Finding Dory. Furthermore, she has been a judge on the ninth season of the American Idol franchise, too.

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DeGeneres, therefore, is American television royalty. A slot on her show is highly valued by celebrities of all levels, and Blake Shelton certainly would have known what he was letting himself in for when he signed up to appear on the show in December 2019. Indeed, Shelton had previously appeared on the show a number of times over the years, so he was no stranger to DeGeneres’ wit.

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It was one of Shelton’s previous appearances on the talk show that set the scene for the aforementioned uncomfortable exchange between the host and her guest. The conversation revolved around Shelton’s current belle, Gwen Stefani, who has been a guest on the show on a handful of occasions herself.

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Shelton and Stefani had actually previously appeared on The Ellen DeGeneres Show back in 2014 – before they’d become a couple. The country singer was in fact married at that time to Miranda Lambert, but he and Stefani were appearing together as coaches on the seventh season of The Voice. It was also the latter’s debut on the popular American talent show contest.

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Stefani went on to appear in further runs of The Voice, featuring in season nine, 12 and 17. But it was her stint as a coach on season seven – her first – that saw the singer and Shelton meet and later become an item. Stefani had previously been married to Gavin Rossdale of the rock band Bush for 13 years, but she had filed for divorce in August 2015.

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Stefani and Rossdale have three sons together, who were all born over a six-year period from 2006. But in September 2015, only a month after Stefani had filed for divorce from Rossdale, it was revealed that she was in a relationship with Shelton. Meanwhile, the country singer himself had only announced his divorce from Miranda Lambert in July of the same year.

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When Shelton and Lambert announced their split in June 2015, the couple released a joint statement. They said, “This is not the future we envisioned and it is with [a] heavy heart that we move forward separately. We are real people, with real lives, with real family, friends and colleagues. Therefore, we kindly ask for privacy and compassion concerning this very personal matter.”

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Things were a little more complicated with Stefani and Rossdale, however. The couple also released a statement, in their case to People magazine in August 2015. It read, “While the two of us have come to the mutual decision that we will no longer be partners in marriage, we remain partners in parenthood and are committed to jointly raising our three sons in a happy and healthy environment.”

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A year later, Stefani was a little more candid in an interview with Cosmopolitan. The reporter asked the singer about whether anybody knew about what had happened between her and Rossdale. Stefani responded, “Nobody except for my parents, the people involved, and whoever they told. Nobody would believe it if I could really say what happened. I went through months and months of torture.”

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Stefani also went on to address rumors that the couple had split due to Rossdale having an affair. She responded, “All you have to do is listen to every single song I’ve ever written and it’s all there. It’s an ongoing theme that I’ve had for a long time.”

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The aforementioned break ups all happened at around the same time Stefani and Shelton were appearing on The Voice together as co-judges. And to the viewing public, it appeared that there was a certain frisson between the pair. The former told Cosmopolitan, “We were laughing our heads off when we saw the blind auditions. I love NBC, but they for sure edited stuff to look like we were flirting.”

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Though Stefani denied that anything was going on during season seven of The Voice, which was aired between September and December 2014, the singer noted that there was some chemistry. She continued, “[NBC] chose to run with that story [of us flirting] before anything was even real. I hardly knew him. But it was like it was in the air – happening before it happened.”

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After taking a hiatus on season eight of The Voice, Stefani returned in season nine – which aired between September and December 2015. This time, of course, any on-screen flirting between Stefani and her colleague Shelton was official; the pair were a couple, and one of the music industry’s hottest at that.

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And so to The Ellen DeGeneres Show, where the host has teased both Shelton and Stefani separately about their relationship and questioned whether they would get hitched or not. It all began when Stefani made an appearance on the hit program in December 2018. She and DeGeneres are friends in real life, and it showed as the presenter said some deeply personal things about her guest.

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DeGeneres gushed about her friend, “[Stefani] deserves everything she has. She deserves this love [with Shelton]. She deserves the life that she has and the career. Cause she went through a lot.” Naturally, many assume that DeGeneres was referencing the singer’s breakup with Rossdale in this case.

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DeGeneres’ kind words had a visible impact on Stefani and she started to weep. The star added, “Wow, now I’m crying on TV too.” From there, however, DeGeneres took the conversation to a more light-hearted level – teasing Stefani about her relationship. The former cheekily remarked, “So Blake told me that y’all are engaged now.”

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Stefani was then quick to fire back about DeGeneres’ claim that the latter had become engaged. The former No Doubt singer responded, “No he didn’t. No we’re not. No we’re not. No we’re not.” But DeGeneres wouldn’t let it go, adding, “Yes, he told me you’re engaged. So let’s talk about that.”

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Stefani again fought off the verbal assault from DeGeneres. The singer continued, “What are you talking about? We’re not. We’re not engaged, and we’re not married. And he’s my boyfriend still.” Still DeGeneres wasn’t done, and she pressed on, “But when will you get married?” Seemingly giving up, Stefani then replied, “I don’t know. I do not know.”

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And DeGeneres enthusiastically picked up the marriage theme again when Shelton appeared on her show in May 2019. After discussing his part in the movie UglyDolls, DeGeneres moved on to a tale about a former guest on the show. She said, “So… Jennifer Lopez was here and I wanted to help her out with [her boyfriend Alex Rodriguez] because she wanted to marry him, obviously, like [Stefani] wants to marry you.”

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DeGeneres continued with the Jennifer Lopez story, saying “… I gave her a clock and just to remind that she could give to him that the clock is ticking. That time is passing. So I gave her that clock and literally like a week later he proposed to her.” And all through this reveal, Shelton looked on awkwardly as a video screen showed the clock in question.

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But DeGeneres wasn’t done just yet. The host continued, “So what I want to do…so Mother’s Day is coming up. I have something for you to give to her.” By this time Shelton was visibly shifting in his seat, and at that stage an assistant brought out a clock with a picture of him and Stefani kissing. Looking a little awkward, Shelton then said, “Oh, look at that.”

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But let’s now fast forward six months and return to the now-infamous episode between DeGeneres and Shelton. The two first talked about John Legend, Shelton’s colleague on The Voice, who had been been voted People magazine’s Sexiest Man Alive., However, DeGeneres was quick to move the conversation on, remarking, “Let’s talk about [Stefani].”

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By Shelton’s reaction, it’s clear that the singer knew what was coming – but he was powerless to stop it. DeGeneres went on, “Now, I gave you a clock. Remember that clock I gave you? To remind you, time is ticking.” Shelton again then appeared to look sheepish as the audience giggled.

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It was at this stage that Shelton began to fight back, and an awkward exchange ensued between the guest and his host. He retorted, “But you didn’t give it to me. I walked backstage, and somebody back there was like, ‘Hey, thanks for being on the show. Can I have [the clock back?]’ And they took it.” He continued, “And I haven’t seen it. So they didn’t really – time didn’t really start ticking at that moment.”

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DeGeneres seemed a little shocked by Shelton’s revelation that he wasn’t allowed to keep the clock. The presenter remarked, “We haven’t given it to you? Well, that’s not right. We can’t – why do we need it?” It’s at this point that Shelton revealed his true feelings about the little joke that had begun during one of Stefani’s appearances on the show.

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Visibly ruffled, Shelton went on the attack, suggesting he knew exactly why he wasn’t allowed to keep the clock. He said, “You took it back because whoever your next guest was, you replaced the picture and did the same crap to them and embarrassed them.”

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But the problem when you go toe-to-toe with a quick-witted comedian like DeGeneres is that there is always a retort that will leave you with egg on your face. And that is exactly what transpired in this exchange with Shelton. The multi-award-winning host retorted, “You’re right – because we did [the clock gag] to Jennifer Lopez and now she’s engaged.”

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Kudos to Shelton, however, as not only did he shrug the exchange off, but he also got his own back on DeGeneres. Talking about a doll which had been made of his character in UglyDolls – which had then been presented to the host – Shelton responded, “I won’t take it back from you like you did the clock.”

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Of course it’s exchanges such as this that are a central aspect to why The Ellen DeGeneres Show has maintained its popularity. With the talk show in its 17th season at the time of writing, it’s clear that the viewing public can’t get enough of celebrities wriggling under the relentless drollery and charm of the eponymous host.

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