Ellen DeGeneres, 50 is a Lesbian and married to Portia de Rossi, 35.

Ellen DeGeneres, 50 is a Lesbian and married to Portia de Rossi, 35.

In a surprise move, comedian Ellen DeGeneres is to take over the spot left by departing judge Paula Abdul on American Idol when it returns to TV screens next year.

She will join existing judges Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson and Kara DioGuardi.

DeGeneres announced the coup on her US daytime talk show on Wednesday. But she was quick to reassure her viewing audience that she was not giving up her “day job”.

“I’m not leaving here. Don’t worry about that. I’m going to have a day job and a night job. The times we’re living in we’re all doing that.”

She said she had been in negotiations over the deal for weeks and had had trouble keeping it a secret.

We just finally got the OK [to announce it] and I’m so excited.”

DeGeneres admitted that she was an unlikely pick for the role, which usually goes to veterans of the music business.

“Hopefully I’m the people’s point of view because I’m just like you,” she told the audience.

“I sit at home and I watch it. I’m not looking at it in a critical way from the producer’s mind.”

Idol’s creator Simon Fuller said: “I could not be more excited to have Ellen join the American Idol family.”

Executive producer Cecile Frot-Coutaz added: “Beyond her incredible sense of humour and love of music, she brings with her an immense warmth and compassion that is almost palpable.”

American Idol will return to TV screens in mid-January. In Australia, it will be shown on on Fox8.

A Fox8 spokesperson said that, as with previous seasons, it would screen “day for day” with the US but that an exact start date had yet to be set.

-The Age