WASHINGTON — It was a “9 to 5” reunion when Lily Tomlin received the Kennedy Center’s Mark Twain Prize for American Humor Sunday.
Co-stars Jane Fonda and Dolly Parton led a cadre of entertainers to fete the sixth recipient of the award, among them Catherine O’Hara, Elaine Stritch and Miss Piggy.
The evening’s undisputed highlight was the numerous clips of vintage Tomlin routines from TV shows and films including “All of Me” and “The Incredible Shrinking Woman.” Tomlin’s serious side also was cited, and her solo show “The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe” repeatedly invoked.
“She is fearless,” O’Hara said. “Her characters all have a message, but you didn’t notice because you were laughing so hard.”
Parton, dressed in sequins, offered an energetic rendition of “9 to 5” before deadpanning: “Lily has spent her entire life searching for signs of intelligent life. So what’s she doing in Washington?”
Tomlin affected Ernestine’s snorting persona when accepting the Twain prize from Kennedy Center chair James Johnson, noting the comedian shares some curious similarities with the 19th-century humorist: “She’s cantankerous, smokes a cigar and is developing a mustache.”
Also receiving her share of the tribute: Tomlin’s longtime partner and primary writer, Jane Wagner.