It was a serious honor, but a very funny night. How could it not be? The comedian friends of Tina Fey had gathered at Washington’s august Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to pay tribute to Fey as she received the annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.
It’s the nation’s most prestigious award for humor and Fey, 40, was the youngest recipient in its 13-year history. In fact, it was only about 13 years ago that Fey first joined the writing staff of ‘Saturday Night Live.’ In the years since, she became head writer of ‘SNL,’ wrote and co-anchored ‘Weekend Update,’ made her mark in the movie business (‘Mean Girls,’ ‘Baby Mama,’ ‘Date Night’), created the award-winning ‘30 Rock’ and made history with her impersonations of Sarah Palin during the 2008 presidential campaign.
Betty White, 88, who’s been on TV since 1949, made fun of Tina’s relatively brief career. “I’m so proud of Tina,” Betty said. “She’s so deserving. And the fact that she’s only been in the business for five minutes makes her achievement even more special!”
White joined ‘SNL’ castmates, ‘30 Rock’ co-stars and other friends to pay tribute to Tina with jokes and video clips in the ‘Mark Twain Prize’ telecast that aired Sunday night on PBS. It was taped last Tuesday before an audience of Washington luminaries that included Nevada Sen. Harry Reid and MSNBC’s Chris Matthews. Among the highlights: Alec Baldwin appearing on videotape costumed as Mark Twain; and Jennifer Hudson, who came on stage and sang Aretha Franklin’s signature song “Respect” in Tina’s honor.
Here’s what some of Tina’s other friends had to say:
Steve Martin, ‘30 Rock’ guest-star and ‘Baby Mama’ co-star: “I once asked Tina, ‘Would you rather be remembered as a comedian or a writer?’ And Tina paused for a moment and she said, ‘Steve, this is the women’s rest room’!”
Amy Poehler, ‘SNL’ and ‘Baby Mama’ co-star: “Tina, I am so honored to be able to attend your comedy bat mitzvah tonight!”
Steve Carell, ‘Date Night’ co-star: “It is not only an honor to be here tonight, it is a contractual obligation.”
Tracy Morgan, ‘SNL’ and ‘30 Rock’ co-star: “In all seriousness, I rank Tina among the greats – Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett and the big lady who works in the Wendy’s down the block from where I live!”
Seth Meyers, ‘SNL’ head writer: “Tina has won seven Emmys, three Golden Globes, four SAG awards and four Writers Guild awards. And yet, for some reason, we still feel the need to honor her tonight!”
Lorne Michaels, ‘SNL’ and ’30 Rock’ executive producer: “Too bad [President Obama] isn’t here or even in town because he would have enjoyed tonight’s theme of very intelligent people with very low ratings.”
And what did Tina have to say when she accepted her award at the telecast’s conclusion?
“I want to thank everyone involved with the Kennedy Center – or, as it will soon be known, the Tea Party Bowling Alley and Rifle Range!”
She couldn’t resist thanking Sarah Palin too. Said Tina, “I would be a liar and an idiot if I didn’t thank Sarah Palin for helping get me here tonight. My partial resemblance and her crazy voice are the two luckiest things that ever happened to me!”
Did you watch the show? Who did you think was the funniest performer?