By Jessica Gelt
2:49 PM EDT, October 21, 2013
The stars shone bright on the red carpet in Washington D.C. on Sunday night as Carol Burnett was awarded the elite Mark Twain Prize for American Humor at the Kennedy Center.
Some of comedy's most popular names appeared onstage to sing Burnett's praises during the nearly two-hour long ceremony, including Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Maya Rudolph, Martin Short and Vicki Lawrence.
Fey called Burnett "the finest female sketch comedian in American history," and told Burnett, "I love you in a way that is just shy of creepy."
Indeed, most -- if not all -- of the comedians present were inspired by Burnett's seminal variety show, "The Carol Burnett Show," which ran on Saturday nights from 1967 to 1978. In many ways the show was a predecessor of "Saturday Night Live," which spawned some of the best comedians of our time and began its legendary run in 1975.
"SNL" alum Fey was honored with the Mark Twain Prize in 2010 at the tender age of 40, a fact that she still seemed astounded by. However, it was noted by Burnett on the red carpet that this was not the first time that the Kennedy Center tried to give her the prize. Scheduling never permitted it to work out until now.
"I've never smoked pot, but I don't think there could be a better high," Burnett said.
Other highlights of the evening included many clips of Burnett in action over the years, some good-natured roasting by Short and a touching performance of the song, "The Way You Look Tonight," by Tony Bennett.
The Mark Twain Prize caps a career of prizes for Burnett. "The Carol Burnett Show" won 25 Emmys, and Burnett has received a Peabody Award, a number of Golden Globes and, in 2005, the Presidential Medal of Freedom.
When Burnett finally took to the stage she had to calm the crowd, which gave her a prolonged standing ovation. When she spoke, she made it clear that her sense of humor had not dimmed with age.
“This is very encouraging,” she said. “It was a long time in coming, but I understand — because there are so many people funnier than I am, especially here in Washington.”
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