Tina Fey Takes Comedy's Top Award

No, it's not "the Judy Blume Prize for awkward puberty"

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On Tuesday, at Washington, D.C.'s Kennedy Center, Tina Fey was awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. Fey, a former head writer for Saturday Night Live and current executive producer and star of 30 Rock, is the youngest person and third woman to receive the Mark Twain Prize since it was established in 1998. The ceremony was a who's who of entertainment figures, with Amy Poehler, Seth Meyers, Steve Carell, Betty White, Jon Hamm, and former recipient Steve Martin in attendance, among others; all offered their thoughts on Fey's contributions to the comedy canon.

  • On the Famous Palin Impression  "I thought her stuff on Sarah Palin was absolutely magnificent because it wasn't really mean," Steve Martin told ABC News, referring to Fey's famous impression of Palin on SNL. "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."

  • On Fey's Career Goals  Amy Poehler quipped that back in 1996, Fey had a to-do list with the following items: "Win tons of Emmys. Check... And play a vice presidential candidate so well that I influence the 2008 election. Check."

  • On Her List of (Possibly Fake) Accomplishments  "A collector of fine cheeses... a hard worker... storm chaser... inventor of the George Foreman grill... longtime friend of the hip hop community... 'Wind' from Earth Wind and Fire... a hilarious woman and an amazing talent," said Jimmy Fallon in his remarks. "But enough about me."

  • On Conservative Women in Politics  The Washington Post reports that Fey took a few jabs at Republican women in her acceptance speech. "The rise of conservative women in politics, she said pointedly, is good for all women, 'unless you don't want to pay for your own rape kit... unless you're a lesbian who wants to get married to your partner of 20 years... [or] unless you believe in evolution.' The lines played first to nervous laughter and then to not much laughter at all."

  • On Other Prizes Fey Thought She'd Receive  The Post also quotes Fey as saying she thought she might have been eligible for "the Judy Blume Prize for awkward puberty or the Harper Lee Prize for small bodies of work."
  • On the Question of Whether Maybe Tina Fey Is Too Young for This Award  Back in May, when it was announced that Fey would win this year's Mark Twain Prize, Adam Bonin at the blog A List of Things Thrown Five Minutes Ago wrote the following: "I think Tina Fey is phenomenal--as a writer, actress, creator, risk-taker, ground-breaker ... she is a remarkable talent. She's also just forty years old. Back in 2007, I noted that the following people had yet to be recognized with this honor: David Letterman, Norman Lear, Eddie Murphy, Woody Allen, and Carol Burnett ... Indeed, the only justification I can think of for this is that they realized that a woman hadn't won since 2003 (Lily Tomlin) and Carol Burnett, Diane Keaton, Elaine May and Nora Ephron weren't interested."

  • Nahhh  The Post quotes Peter Kaminsky, one of the producers of the televised ceremony (which will air on Sunday), on the Kennedy Center board's choice of Fey: "We're recognizing a body of work that is important to our culture. What Tina has done has come to define humor in our culture today. It's not an award for quantity, and it's not a career-sunset award. It's for a person whose body of work is defining of our time."

  • Betty White Will Still Make Jokes, Though  "She's so young," White said of Fey at one point. "I just hope I hang on long enough to see what she accomplishes when she learns to drive."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.