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Carol Burnett Honored With Mark Twain Prize for American Humor

Image: Carol Burnett Honored With Mark Twain Prize for American Humor

By Clyde Hughes   |  

Carol Burnett, whose variety show in the 1960s and 1970s helped blaze a trail for female comedians, received the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on Sunday.

Burnett, 80, was joined by former cast members Tim Conway and Vicki Lawrence along with current star female comedians like Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, reported USA Today.

"She's number one" said Lawrence who co-starred on "The Carol Burnett Show" and later starred in a spinoff, "Mama's Family." "I was going to be a dental hygienist. I would have been cleaning teeth if it weren't for (Burnett)."

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Burnett couldn't keep from poking fun at Washington, D.C., and the recent government shutdown while accepting the award, which will appear on PBS on Nov. 24, according to  The Associated Press.

"This is very encouraging," Burnett deadpanned in accepting the prize. "I mean it was a long time in coming, but I understand because there are so many people funnier than I am, especially here in Washington. With any luck, they'll soon get voted out, and I'll still have the Mark Twain prize."

Burnett, a Texas native, said in an AP interview that she originally wanted to become a journalist and attended UCLA. She said she ended up on stage while taking an acting course.

"I played a hillbilly woman, and coming from Texas ... it was real easy for me," Burnett said. "I just made my entrance, and I said, 'I'm Baaack.' Then they exploded. I thought whoa! This feels good. I wanted those laughs to keep on coming forever."

Burnett went to New York and eventually caught the attention of a booker from the legendary "The Ed Sullivan Show" who invited her to appear, according to the AP.

Burnett's longtime friend and actress Julie Andrews said she clicked with the comedienne during their first meeting, saying they "talked non-stop and haven't stopped since, and are going on our 55th year of friendship. We've laughed. We've been naughty. We've stood by each other. … and there has been so much joy in our friendship."

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USA Today said previous Mark Twain winners include Fey, Richard Pryor, Bob Newhart, Lily Tomlin and Bill Cosby.

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Carol Burnett, whose variety show in the 1960s and 1970s helped blaze a trail for female comedians, received the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on Sunday.
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