Photo: Getty Images / Kris Connor
Monday night marked a big moment in Ellen DeGeneres’ career.The comedian was honored as the 15th recipient of the Mark Twain Prize for American humour at the Kennedy centre in Washington, D.C.
She joins the ranks with fellow comedians Tina Fey, Steve Martin, Bill Cosby, and last year’s winner, Will Ferrell. DeGeneres is the fourth woman to receive the award, according to Reuters.
“Through her television programs, stand-up appearances, movies, and even commercials, her special brand of humour has allowed us to find hilarity in the mundane and has kept us laughing for years,” said Kennedy centre Chairman David M. Rubenstein.
Upon receiving the award, DeGeneres joked about what her career could have been.
“I just thought I’d be a closeted gay comedian wearing parachute pants,” she said.
In addition to being known for her comedy, DeGeneres is also a leading advocate for gay rights. She first publicized her sexual orientation around the same time her character on the ’90s sitcom “Ellen” also revealed she was gay.
“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,” Jane Lynch of “Glee” said at the ceremony. “You really took one for the team.”
But long before she was a supporter of gay rights, DeGeneres got her start as a comedy club M.C. in her hometown of New Orleans. Her stand-up performances won her the title of Showtime’s “Funniest Person In America” in 1982, according to the Kennedy centre.
Four years after her national title, DeGeneres became the first female comedian Johnny Carson ever asked to come sit at his desk for a chat.
DeGeneres is currently in the middle of the 9th season of her daytime talk show, “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” which has earned the star 35 Emmys.
The ceremony will air on PBS October 30.
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