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On Sunday night, Carol Burnett received the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, the top comedy prize in the country, for making millions of Americans laugh for decades.
Burnett, 80, was the star of The Carol Burnett Show, which remains one of the most popular shows in television history. It won 25 Emmys, averaged 30 million viewers and is still making people laugh. One might think that it took the Kennedy Center too long to give her the prize, but she told reporters that they had asked her before.
“They asked me quite a few times, but I could never work it out with my schedule,” she told reporters on the red carpet, reports The Washington Post.
The ceremony included kind words from today’s generation of comediennes, including Tina Fey. “I love you in a way that is just shy of creepy,” the former 30 Rock star said during her speech. “A lot of female comediennes are going to come out and say that ‘I love you so much,’ but I’m saying it first!”
Fey said that Burnett was instrumental in fostering her love for sketch comedy. “Only in sketch comedy does a woman get to play Cher, Scarlett O’Hara, the Queen of England, a Girl Scout, Mrs. Wiggins — all in one night,” Fey noted.
Amy Poehler was also on hand, reports USA Today. “(Burnett) paved the way for any female comedian...she kind of taught us about not being afraid to be silly,” the Parks & Recreation star said.
Martin Short called Burnett “a clown in the greatest sense. She's timeless...that's the mark of a real artist,” adding, "She's been a massive influence. I think everyone who's ever done sketch comedy has been influenced by her.”
Julie Andrews also spoke fondly of her “dear chum” and recalled how they became friends. “We've laughed. We've been naughty. We've stood by each other...and there has been so much joy in our friendship.”
"This was a long time coming,” Burnett said when she picked up the award. “But I understand, because there are so many people who are funnier than I am -- especially in Washington.”
The ceremony airs on PBS on Nov. 24.
image: Wikimedia Commons