Ellen Lee DeGeneres was born January 26, 1958. DeGeneres was raised in Metairie, Louisiana, the daughter of Elizabeth Jane DeGeneres, a speech therapist. She moved back to New Orleans to attend the University of New Orleans, where she majored in communication studies. After one semester, she left school to do clerical work in a law firm with her cousin Laura Gillen. She also held a job selling clothes at the chain store the Merry-Go-Round at the Lakeside Shopping Center. Other working experiences included being a waitress at TGI Friday's, a house painter, a hostess, and a bartender. She relates much of her childhood and career experiences in her comedic work. DeGeneres started performing stand-up comedy at small clubs and coffee houses. By 1981 she was the emcee at Clyde's Comedy Club in New Orleans. In the early 1980s she began to tour nationally, being named Showtime's Funniest Person in America in 1982. In 1986 she appeared for the first time on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, who likened her to Bob Newhart. When Carson invited her over for an onscreen chat after her performance, she became the first comedienne in the show's history to be treated this way. DeGeneres's comedy material became the basis of the successful 1994 - 1998 sitcom Ellen, named These Friends of Mine during its first season. Ellen reached its height of popularity in February 1997 but when the ratings started to decline the show was cancelled. DeGeneres returned to series television in 2001 with a new CBS sitcom, The Ellen Show. DeGeneres launched a daytime television talk show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show in September 2003. It was nominated for 11 Daytime Emmy Awards in its first season, winning four, including Best Talk Show. The show has won 25 Emmy Awards in its first three seasons on the air. In additions to her television series Ellen DeGeneres has written several books. Some of her titles include My Point...And I Do Have One, The Funny Thing Is... and Seriously...I'm Kidding which earned her a spot on Publishers Weekly Best Seller List.