Ellen DeGeneres Wins Comedy's Highest Honor: The Mark Twain Prize for Humor

Ellen DeGeneres is this year's recipient of the prestigious Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. Congratulations!

Ellen DeGeneres Wins Comedy’s Highest Honor: The Mark Twain Prize for Humor

Ellen DeGeneres is this year’s recipient of the prestigious Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. Congratulations!

-Lucia Peters

Ellen DeGeneres

Our love of Ellen DeGeneres is well-documented here at BettyConfidential. We kind of wish she was our best friend. A lot of people probably feel like this, too, so we’re pretty sure we’re in good company here. And hey, guess what? According to the Hollywood Reporter, Ellen is this year’s recipient of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor—nothing less impressive than comedy’s highest honor! ! She’ll be awarded the prize in October at the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC. Hoorah and congratulations!

The Mark Twain Prize for American Humor was founded in 1998. As social commentator, satirist, and creator of characters, Mark Twain—real name Samuel Clemens—was known not only for his biting humor, but perhaps more important for how he used it: To reveal the truths of social injustice and personal folly. As such, the Mark Twain Prize is awarded annually to an individual to has had an impact on American society in ways similar to the great writer. Its first recipient was Richard Pryor; since then, it has been awarded to such comedy greats as Whoopi Goldberg, Bob Newhart, Lily Tomlin, Steve Martin, Tina Fey (at 40, the youngest recipient ever of the award), Billy Crystal, Will Ferrell, and many, many more. How awesome is it that Ellen is joining their ranks?

Though Ellen has mostly been earning her bread (funnybread?) in recent years on the talk show circuit, let’s not forget how long she’s been around: She started doing stand-up early, and by 1981 when she was just 22, she had already become an emcee at Clyde’s Comedy Club in New Orleans. She began to tour nationally by that time, and she was named Showtime’s Funniest Person in America in 1982. Then in the ‘90s she took on the sitcom world with Ellen, and the rest as they say…

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And of course there are her contributions to LGBT tolerance. After she came out in 1997, the media exploded and her sitcom got cancelled amid accusations that she was “pushing a gay agenda” (a phrase which has always struck me as essentially meaningless)—but she has never let that stop her. In 1998, she told Diane Sawyer in an interview, “When I’m accused of becoming political, I’m showing love. How is that political to teach love and acceptance?” True that.

The Mary Sue rightly points out, too, that in addition to all of this—achievements which are already full of awesome—Ellen has always been extremely funny. Furthermore, she’s done it without being mean, crude, or mocking. I’ve mentioned before that what I appreciate most about Ellen’s pop culture send-ups is that they help us all maintain a healthy sense of the ridiculous. For this reason, I can’t think of anyone better to win the Mark Twain Prize. Case in point: Her response to winning the award. “It’s such an honor to receive the Mark Twain Prize,” she said. “To get the same award that has been given to people like Bill Cosby, Tina Fey and Will Ferrell, it really makes me wonder… why didn’t I get this sooner?”

Classic Ellen. Win!

And so in parting, I shall leave you with an encore of a recent Ellen hit: Her dramatic reading of 50 Shades of Grey. Whenever you get stressed out, just remember the paddle ball.


Well done, Ellen! Well done, indeed!

Lucia Peters is BettyConfidential’s associate editor.

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