Ellen DeGeneres was awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor Monday night at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in D.C. An illustrious collection of A-listers turned out for the event, including, of course, DeGeneres' wife, Portia De Rossi, and fellow out funny ladies Jane Lynch and Lily Tomlin, herself a recipient of the award in 2003.
Several of those stars paid tribute to DeGeneres' groundbreaking 1997 coming out, when her character on the titular sitcom came out as lesbian.
"The girl is really smart, and funny, and human, and universal," Lily Tomlin told the Washington Post.
Fellow out actor Sean Hayes, best known for playing flamboyant Jack on Will & Grace, said it was DeGeneres' courage which paved the way for his show's success. "I like to think that Ellen made Will & Grace possible," Hayes told USA Today. "And Will & Grace made it possible for Modern Family. [DeGeneres'] fearlessness was her contribution, and it continues to be.
"She's the one who went in with the machete and did it all by herself," Lynch told USA Today.
The Kennedy Center's Mark Twain Prize is awarded annually to those who impact American society in similar ways as did Mark Twain, famous for his biting wit, political and social commentary, and satire. The award has been given annually since it was established in 1998. DeGeneres is in good company with other female winners, including Tomlin, Whoopi Goldberg, and Tina Fey.
The awards ceremony will be broadcast to the public on October 30 on PBS as Ellen DeGeneres: The Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize.