Ellen DeGeneres Reveals That A Girlfriend’s Tragic Death Inadvertently Started Her Career

And it all began with the thought: “Why is this beautiful, 21-year-old girl gone and fleas are here?”

In 1986, Ellen DeGeneres got her big break when she became the first woman Johnny Carson invited to sit on the couch after she performed her famous comedy bit “Phone Call to God” on “The Tonight Show.”

Yet, the hilarious routine — in which she calls God on the phone to ask why fleas exist — was inspired by a very tragic time in DeGeneres’ life.

On Monday’s episode of actor Dax Shepard’s “Armchair Expert” podcast, the comedian said she began writing the gag shortly after a former girlfriend was killed in a car accident.

The TV host explained that at the time she wasn’t doing comedy. She was a struggling 20-year-old waitress and couldn’t afford the couple’s shared apartment anymore. So, she moved into a “basement apartment” and slept on a mattress “infested with fleas” on the floor.

It was during this time that she thought, “‘Why is this beautiful, 21-year-old girl just gone and fleas are here?’” DeGeneres recalled to Shepard. “And I just thought it would be amazing if we could pick up the phone and call up God and ask questions and actually get an answer.”

Inspired, she began writing the idea down, coming up with other funny tidbits until the whole routine “just unfolded,” the comedian said.

“When I finished, I read it and I thought, ‘Oh my God, that’s hilarious. I’m going to do this on Johnny Carson and I’m going to be the first woman in the history of the show to be called over to sit down.’”

It appears we can add “fortune teller” to DeGeneres’ already impressive résumé.