The Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for Humor saluted Tina Fey. Betty White, Steve Martin and Steve Carell were on hand to honor and tease the funnywoman. The star-studded evening will air on PBS November 14.
Tina Fey was honored with the Mark Twain Prize for Humor on November 9 and Betty White, Steve Carell, Steve Martin, Jimmy Fallon, Jon Hamm, Jennifer Hudson, Jane Krakowski, Seth Meyers, Lorne Michaels, Fred Armisen, Tracy Morgan and Amy Poehler were just a few of the big names who turned out to celebrate the writer, producer, actress and comedienne.
“It is crazy. It feels crazy,” Tina Fey gushed. “I am honored to be here. I am so honored to be in the company of Lily Tomlin and Whoopi Goldberg, the other women who hold this prize. All the people that have this prize are heroes to me.”
Fey is the 13th Mark Twain Prize winner and only the third female to receive the honor. Past honorees include Richard Pryor, Carl Reiner, Bob Newhart, Bill Cosby and Saturday Night Live creator Lorne Michaels.
At only 40 years old, Tina Fey is also the youngest recipient. “She’s so young. I just hope I hang on long enough to see what she accomplishes when she learns to drive,” Betty White teased. “I’m the only one here who actually dated Mark Twain, and I can tell you they didn’t call him Samuel Longhorne Clemens for nothing.”
Joking aside, it’s no surprise Fey made the cut so young. Though some Americans may not have been aware of Fey before her Emmy-winning SNL performance portraying 2008 Republican Vice-Presidential candidate Sarah Palin, this funnywoman has been around.
With seven Emmys, three Golden Globes, four SAG Awards and four WGA Awards to her name, Fey was SNL‘s first female head writer and, along with pal Amy Poehler, wrote and co-starred in 2004’s Mean Girls and 2008’s Baby Mama.
Being honored by a room full of comedians, Fey’s big night included due praise, tempered with a healthy dose of ribbing.
Past Twain honoree Steve Martin kicked off the ceremony, saying, “We in the comedy community recognize genius when we see it, and Tina, you are.” Then he reminisced about Fey’s start on SNL. “Lorne said, ‘There’s a young new writer working downstairs. Let’s go down and have a three-way.'”
Fey’s Date Night costar Steve Carell told guests he and Fey used to date and when she denied that, he recounted, “We went to the Spaghetti Factory. I was extremely sorry when she had to leave early. I hope her cat is feeling better.”
Carell also gave a nod to Fey’s comedy genius, saying, “She has that uncanny ability to make something out of nothing.”
“We have great chemistry,” Fey’s former SNL Weekend Update co-anchor Jimmy Fallon said. “We’re like Sonny and Cher. We’re like Bono and The Edge. Reminds me of the song Bono once wrote for Tina: And I’d like to sing it to you.” Then Fallon performed his own twisted version of U2’s Beautiful Day.
Amid all the laughs, Jennifer Hudson made sure the night also included some Aretha Franklin style R-E-S-P-E-C-T — perfect song choice, Ms. Hudson!
The 90-minute, star-studded special The Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize salutes Tina Fey will air on PBS this Sunday, November 14. Check local listings.