Ellen Is an 'Idol' Asset -- When She's Being Funny, That Is

As the competition on American Idol intensifies, how is the popular comic faring in her unlikely new job?

Last week on Fox's American Idol, after Paige Miles faltered her way through Phil Collins' song, Against All Odds, Ellen DeGeneres weighed in. "I’m gonna start with the positive," she said, blue eyes twinkling. "You didn’t fall down, and that’s a good thing. Right? That’s an accomplishment. Those are high, high heels. I know. I’m wearing them right now. You look stunning. You look beautiful. [Deep breath] And I am now going to turn over the music critique to Kara [DioGuardi] and Simon [Cowell]." It was a sweet, funny moment, and one I wish we saw more of.

Let's face it: Adding levity is DeGeneres' strong suit. Determining pitch problems isn't. DeGeneres inadvertently made this point herself earlier this month on her talk show -- during an audience Q&A segment about her experience on Idol. Someone asked, "What's the best advice you've given?" DeGeneres's reply came in the same form that she delivers her judging comments. First a joke, then a self-deprecating attempt at a direct answer:

"Once I told Clint Eastwood, when he started his career, squint a lot," she said, sending the audience into a roar of laughter. "You know, I don't know," she continued. "I always think the best advice I tell anyone is to just be yourself. And to not try to be someone else, because we already have a lot of good singers out there. Just find out who you are, and be that and hopefully you'll be discovered by that." Yeah, thanks Ellen. That's exactly what my mom would say. And your average greeting card.

I think DeGeneres is at her best when she sticks to being herself -- funny -- and leaves the constructive criticism to the other judges. When DeGeneres made her guest judging appearance on Fox's So You Think You Can Dance, some of the show's fans criticized her for cracking jokes rather than offering advice. But I disagreed. I thought she added entertainment value to the episode. And that's why we watch TV, isn't it? To be entertained.

This season on Idol, there have been many lackluster performances. In these instances, it's particularly painful to move down the line of judges, with each critique worse than the last. Several times last week, DeGeneres just added her own, generic complaints to the chorus. "I just think it was not the right song choice," she told Didi Benami. "It wasn't fantastic and not a good song choice at all," she told Andrew Garcia. In fact, "wrong song" seemed to be her go-to answer for all musical missteps.

But there were other moments when she wasn't trying to be "a real judge," and instead she was just her silly self.

"You know how you have a favorite pen, because it writes just perfectly and the ink glides out and it’s so great?" she babbled gleefully to Lee DeWyze. "And you love that pen more than any other? And then all of a sudden it starts running out of ink and you’re like, oh no, I’m losing my favorite pen. And you start lighting a match under it, and you lick it, and things like that? So, my favorite pen is back! That was fantastic!"

"You have such an amazing voice," she gushed to Aaron Kelly. "And you’re what, like, in third grade or something?!"

I think DeGeneres is funniest when she goes off on zany tangents. "You have a lot of fans who absolutely love you," she told Tim Urban. "It felt like, to me, it was an audition for High School Musical. I don’t know what they’re on—six or seven now. Vanessa and Troy went to college, I know that…" And off she went, bringing the fun back to American Idol. And really, why be so serious? Aren’t we all supposed to be enjoying this?

PHOTOS: American Idol Top 10: Who's Poised to Win?

How do you think Ellen DeGeneres is doing on American Idol?

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