WASHINGTON — Ellen DeGeneres received the Mark Twain Prize for humor Monday night at the Kennedy Center, but the all-star tribute was as much about the joyful comedian’s landmark personal revelation as about her comedic talents.
Ellen came out as a lesbian in 1997. That, as much as her substantial body of work as a comedian, actress and talk-show host, elicited praise and gratitude from some of her comic colleagues and contemporaries.
“I’m pretty darn sure I could not have the career I have, that I could not live as openly as I’ve lived, if it hadn’t been for you,” said “Glee” star Jane Lynch. “You really took one for the team” in revealing her sexuality on her first sitcom.
As her friends made clear at the Twain ceremony, DeGeneres has played splendidly across the media gamut. She’s been an awards show host, a sitcom star, a voice actor, a commercial shill and an advocate for various causes.
For all the talk of equal rights, DeGeneres is just the fourth woman to receive the Twain Prize in its 15 years, following Whoopi Goldberg, Tomlin and Tina Fey.