Carol Burnett Awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor Last Night
2:20 pm, October 21st | by Colette McIntyre
Some of your favorite funny ladies were in Washington D.C. last night to honor the living queen of comedy, Carol Burnett — and shame Ted Cruz, because how could you not? Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Julie Andrews, and others gathered to honor Burnett as she received the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. When it comes to Mrs. Wiggins, we have to second what Tina Fey, a former Twain winner herself, declared in the show’s opening number: “You mean so much to me that I love you in a way that is just shy of creepy.”
It may come as a surprise that Carol Burnett is just now receiving the country’s top comedy honor but evidently the Kennedy Center wasn’t the one playing hard to get. “They asked me quite a few times,” the 80-year-old variety star told reporters. “But I could never work it out with my schedule.”
The Carol Burnett Show aired on CBS from 1967 to 1978, winning 25 Emmys over its eleven-year run and breaking comedy’s glass ceiling in the process. It is because of Burnett and her astonishing repertoire of zany, smart characters that we have women like Fey, Rudolph, and Poehler today. Despite being overwhelmingly male-dominated, Saturday Night Live stands on the shoulders of The Carol Burnett Show, one of the most successful and longest running variety shows in the history of television.
Even on her big night, Burnett couldn’t help but live up to her reputation as female performers’ biggest ally, making a special request that upcoming comedian Rosemary Watson be part of the ceremony. Apparently Watson sent Burnett, the woman who introduced the world to Bernadette Peters and Vicki Lawrence, a fan letter, which turned into Burnett watching some of her YouTube videos. The comedy legend liked what she saw and made a few calls.
“The thing is, you pay it forward,” Burnett said, “because when I got started, somebody gave me a break when I was 21 years old, and I wanted to go to New York.”
Award or no, Burnett is still the self-deprecating, sharp performer that America loves. “This is very encouraging,” she deadpanned in her acceptance speech. “I mean it was a long time in coming, but I understand because there are so many people funnier than I am, especially here in Washington.
“With any luck, they’ll soon get voted out, and I’ll still have the Mark Twain Prize.”