Comedian accepts Twain prize

Thanking Sarah Palin for an unexpected career boost, comedian-writer Tina Fey accepted the Kennedy Center’s Mark Twain Prize for Humor in a raucous affair Tuesday night that featured many of her pals from “Saturday Night Live” and “30 Rock.”

Fey, the youngest recipient of the 13-year-old honor, mixed sincerity with sarcasm during brief remarks after receiving the bronze bust from Kennedy Center chairman David Rubenstein to conclude the event. Following previous formats, Fey and family watched from a box seat as a parade of colleagues served derision and praise in equal measure.

Show will be aired by PBS stations Nov. 14.

On hand for the occasion were Steve Carell, Steve Martin, Fred Armisen, Jimmy Fallon, Jon Hamm, Jennifer Hudson, Jane Krakowski, Seth Meyers, Lorne Michaels, Tracy Morgan, Amy Poehler and

Betty White. White dryly observed that she had a leg up on the others because she had actually dated Mark Twain. “He wasn’t named Samuel ‘Longhorne’ Clemens for nothing,” she said.

Event featured the usual clip-a-thon of Fey’s work, beginning with an improv skit with Chicago’s Second City and fellow “SNL” alum Rachel Dratch. Also included was Fey’s landmark Palin “SNL” sketch with Poehler playing Hilary Clinton, credited with helping to impact the outcome of the 2008 election.

“SNL” patriarch Michaels revealed how the Palin-Clinton sketch came to pass as Fey, busy with “30 Rock” duties, first saw and practiced the material the night before going live. As former head writer for the show, Fey was the dependable “voice of ‘SNL’” who “not only wrote the sketches we wanted, but the sketches we needed,” he said.

KenCen chairman Rubenstein said Fey’s selection for this year’s Twain prize drew an unprecedented demand for tickets while raising a record $1.3 million for the center’s programs.

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