Carol Burnett was saluted in a star-studded ceremony as she accepted the 16th annual Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for American Humor on Sunday, October 20. The likes of Tina Fey, Amy Poehler and Maya Rudolph were out that night to help honor their senior.
"30 Rock" creator and star Fey was the first to take the stage, opening her speech with jokes about the government shutdown. "Enough politics. We are here tonight to celebrate the first lady of American comedy, Ted Cruz," she said, before praising Burnett.
"I love you in a way that is just shy of creepy. ...I am going first, and I love you," Fey continued, before revealing that as a kid, if she got into trouble her parents didn't allow her to watch Burnett's show as a punishment. "My parents used to use 'The Carol Burnett Show' as a disciplinary tool."
Poehler showed up in a gray wig, holding a tray of coffee and walking five dogs to channel Burnett's "longtime personal assistant, Roz." She jokingly said that Burnet wanted Roz "to stand on stage and publicly apologize for getting my coffee order wrong."
Martin Short quipped, "I am proud to call Carol Burnett my friend. It is not only because she is successful and rich, it is because it is both." He added, "When I think of Carol, and it is not often, I am aware that among me and my generation of comedians there was no greater influence."
"To prepare for her role as Miss Hannigan in Annie, she adopted an orphan and abandoned her only two weeks later," Short joked, before saying in a more serious note that Burnett "always handled herself with such elegance and class" and is "simply fearless."
Rudolph cracked, "The best thing about being included in such an historic night is getting out of the house. I just had my fourth baby... One of the things I loved so much about watching the Carol Burnett Show is watching the camaraderie among the cast. The way she treated people...it could have been 'The Tim Conway Show' or 'The Vicki Lawrence Show'."
Tony Bennett delivered a musical performance. His rendition of "The Way You Look Tonight" brought Burnett to tears. Julie Andrews then talked about her friendship with the "Annie" star. "My squeaky clean image goes right out of the window when I'm with he," so Andrews claimed.
When it was her turn to take the stage to accept the Mark Twain prize, Burnett said, "This was a long time coming. But I understand, because there are so many people who are funnier than I am - especially in Washington."
Burnett joined past honorees Fey, Bill Cosby, Steve Martin, Lily Tomlin and Ellen DeGeneres, who had been awarded the prize before. The celebratory gala will broadcast on November 24 as "Carol Burnett: The Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize" on PBS stations nationwide.