Ellen DeGeneres became the latest recipient of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor in Washington D.C. on Monday night. A ceremony in her honor at the Kennedy Center brought out an all-star assortment of friends and fans.
Jane Lynch, Jimmy Kimmel, Sean Hayes, Jason Mraz and Lily Tomlin (a previous Twain prize-winner herself) celebrated DeGeneres for her achievements in stand-up comedy, TV, film and hosting.
Among the recurring themes was the bravery of DeGeneres’ decision to come out of the closet as a lesbian in 1997 — which is still seen as a watershed moment in pop culture. “I’m pretty darn sure I could not have the career I have, that I could not live as openly as I’ve lived, if it hadn’t been for you,” Lynch, who is also openly gay, noted in her remarks.
DeGeneres attended the event with her wife, “Arrested Development” actress Portia de Rossi, who told USA Today: “I am very, very proud of Ellen. She’s not only the funniest person I know, but she’s such a good person.”
The evening included many clips from DeGeneres’ career, causing her to quip in her acceptance speech: “[That was a] wonderful walk down memory lane, and a detour down mullet street.”
Other guests included John Krasinski, Kristin Chenoweth, Steve Harvey and John Leguizamo. Previous Mark Twain honorees include Tina Fey, Will Ferrell, Bill Cosby, Bob Newhart, Steve Martin, Whoopi Goldberg and Richard Pryor.
A PBS broadcast of the ceremony will air Oct. 30.