Comedy Comes to Washington to Honor Tina Fey

By MichaelJames

Nov 9, 2010 10:31pm

ABC News’ Arlette Saenz reports:

As she prepared to receive the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, Tina Fey joined comedians and colleagues from "Saturday Night Live" and "30 Rock" on the red carpet at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., bowing humbly to the legends who came before her in receiving this award.

“I’m very, very grateful and very kind of humbled because all the other people who hold this prize are very meaningful to me,” Tina Fey told ABC News. “From Steve Martin to Lorne Michaels, Dr. Cosby, Lily Tomlin — these are people that I just have admired for so long, so I’m very honored to be among them.”

But Fey has made waves of her own in the comedy world. At the age of 40, Fey is the youngest person ever to receive the prize and is the third woman, joining Whoopi Goldberg and Tomlin in the elite group of honorees.

Friends and colleagues from Fey’s years in the comedy industry sang her praises on the red carpet before they took the stage to honor her.

“She’s such a great writer,” said Steve Martin, who won the prize in 2005.  “I’ve seen her grow as an actress just so much over her career — from a person who read lines on a, you know, on a sort of funny newscast to a real movie actress.”

“I think she’s going to get it tonight.  I know a lot of people have their fingers crossed, but I’m really confident she’s going to get it,” Seth Meyers joked to ABC News.  “I think she’s the one.  Tonight, my money’s on Tina.”

The Mark Twain Prize is bestowed upon individuals who demonstrate the characteristics of Mark Twain, one of the world’s premier social commentators and satirist. 

Steve Carell, Fey’s co-star in the movie "Date Night," likened the impact of Fey’s work as a comedian with the Second City Improv Group in Chicago, "Saturday Night Live," and "30 Rock" to the influence Mark Twain had on his own generation.

“I didn’t know Mark Twain personally,” Steve Carrell quipped, “but I think there are many similarities between them in the sense that they’re, you know, they’re very brave and they were sort of humorous for their generation. And I think that applies to her.”

Fey has won Emmys for her portrayal of Liz Lemon on "30 Rock" and for her writing and portrayal of Sarah Palin on "Saturday Night Live."

“I thought her stuff on Sarah Palin was absolutely magnificent because it wasn’t really mean,” Martin told ABC News.  “It made everybody sort of happy in a strange way and, you know, I didn’t feel it was mean politics.  I thought it was very good parody and satire.”

One thing all the comedians agreed on: The politics of Washington, D.C. produces a lot of comedy of its own.

“I think D.C. has an ample, ample share of comedy,” Jon Hamm said.  “Maybe it’s unintentional comedy, but they have quite a bit of comedy of their own.”

- Arlette Saenz

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