Washington, D.C. — This October, The Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize salutes Ellen DeGeneres. The program airs Tuesday, October 30 at 8 p.m. ET on PBS stations nationwide. Taped at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on October 22, the 90-minute special features a star-studded cast of DeGeneres’ friends and colleagues including top entertainers Kristin Chenoweth, Steve Harvey, Sean Hayes, Jimmy Kimmel, John Krasinski, Jason Mraz and Lily Tomlin. The evening pays tribute to the humor and accomplishments of the television icon and motion picture star.
Upon learning she would receive the Mark Twain Prize, Ellen DeGeneres remarked, “It’s such an honor to receive the Mark Twain Prize. To get the same award that has been given to people like Bill Cosby, Tina Fey and Will Ferrell, it really makes me wonder… why didn’t I get this sooner?”
Ellen DeGeneres' distinctive comic voice has resonated with audiences from her first stand-up comedy appearances through her work today on television, in film and in the literary world. She has made a home for herself in the daytime arena with her hit syndicated talk show, The Ellen DeGeneres Show. The show entered its ninth season in September, fresh off winning the Daytime Emmy for “Outstanding Talk Show.” During its eight seasons, the show has earned a total of 35 Daytime Emmy Awards. Additionally, DeGeneres has won 12 People’s Choice Awards and most recently, the Teen Choice Award for “Choice Comedian” for a third consecutive year. Additionally, the show has won two Genesis Awards and a GLAAD Media Award for “Outstanding Talk Show Episode.”
DeGeneres has been included in Forbes 100 Most Powerful Women and was also included in Entertainment Weekly’s 50 Most Powerful Entertainers. She was honored with Television Week's Syndication Personality of the Year and has been included in Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People.
She hosted the highly rated 79th Annual Academy Awards® and was nominated for a Primetime Emmy Award for “Outstanding Individual Performance in a Variety or Music Program.” In addition to hosting the Oscars, DeGeneres has hosted the Primetime Emmy Awards three times. Her performance hosting the 2001 awards show garnered her rave reviews for providing a perfect balance of wit with heartfelt emotion to the post-September 11th telecast audience. DeGeneres served as host for an array of industry events including the 38th and 39th Annual Grammy® Awards®, for which she earned an Emmy nomination.
DeGeneres also received critical success for her HBO stand-up specials. The Beginning received two Emmy nominations in 2001 and the special entitled Here and Now was also nominated for two Emmys in 2003.
The best-selling author released her third book in October 2012 titled, Seriously…I’m Kidding, which includes a compilation of photos, quotes and stories from her life. Her second book, The Funny Thing Is…., comprised of the author's comedic short stories and essays hit the New York Times' bestseller list upon its release. In 2005, DeGeneres was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Comedy Album for the audio version of the book. Her first book, My Point…And I Do Have One, published in 1995, debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list.
DeGeneres’ career began as an emcee at a local comedy club in her hometown of New Orleans, which led to national recognition in 1982 when her videotaped club performances won Showtime’s “Funniest Person In America” honor. When DeGeneres moved to Los Angeles she filmed her first HBO Special, Young Comedians Reunion, then in 1986 Women of the Night. That same year, DeGeneres became the first female comedian to be summoned by Johnny Carson to sit down with him after her performance.
DeGeneres began her acting career in television on Fox’s sitcom, Open House. She moved on to ABC’s Laurie Hill, prior to being offered a part on These Friends of Mine by ABC. After the first season, the show was renamed Ellen. Running from 1994 to 1998, the show garnered record ratings, with DeGeneres receiving Emmy nominations each season in the Best Actress category. In 1997, DeGeneres was the recipient of the coveted Peabody Award as well as earning an Emmy for writing the critically acclaimed “Puppy Episode” when her character came out as a gay woman to a record 46 million viewers. DeGeneres followed with the CBS sitcom, The Ellen Show, which ran from 2001 to 2002.
In the course of producing and starring in Ellen, DeGeneres received numerous accolades including The People’s Choice Award in 1995, two Golden Globe nominations and two Screen Actors Guild nominations. Other television credits include Executive Producing and starring with Sharon Stone in the Emmy nominated If These Walls Could Talk II for HBO as well as a guest appearance on the Larry Sanders Show, for which she received another Emmy nomination. DeGeneres also served as the fourth judge on American Idol during its ninth season. The judging panel included, Simon Cowell, Randy Jackson and Kara DioGuardi.
DeGeneres has also been successful in her feature film work. DeGeneres scored unprecedented popular and critical response to her character, Dory, the fish with extreme short-term memory, in the blockbuster animated feature film, Finding Nemo. DeGeneres’ feature film credits include EDTV for director Ron Howard, Mr. Wrong, The Love Letter for Dreamworks, New Regency’s Goodbye Lover, and Coneheads.
Ellen DeGeneres is the 15th recipient of The Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. Past recipients of the prize have been Richard Pryor (1998), Jonathan Winters (1999), Carl Reiner (2000), Whoopi Goldberg (2001), Bob Newhart (2002), Lily Tomlin (2003), Lorne Michaels (2004), Steve Martin (2005), Neil Simon (2006), Billy Crystal (2007), George Carlin (2008), Bill Cosby (2009), Tina Fey (2010) and Will Ferrell (2011).
Ellen DeGeneres: The Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize is a production of WETA Washington, D.C.; CoMedia; Mark Krantz Productions; Cappy Productions and The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Executive producers are Bob Kaminsky, Peter Kaminsky, Mark Krantz, Cappy McGarr and Michael Kaiser. WETA executive producers are Dalton Delan and David S. Thompson.
Major funding for Ellen DeGeneres: The Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, PBS and public television viewers. Air travel is generously provided by American Airlines.
The Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for American Humor was created in 1998 by The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Mark Krantz, Peter Kaminsky and Bob Kaminsky and Cappy McGarr to recognize the art of humorists who have had an impact on American society in ways similar to the distinguished 19th century novelist and essayist best known as Mark Twain*. As a social commentator, satirist and creator of characters, Samuel Clemens was a fearless observer of society, who startled many while delighting and informing many more with his uncompromising perspective of social injustice and personal folly. He revealed the great truth of humor when he said, “Against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.” Ellen DeGeneres will be presented a copy of an 1884 bronze portrait bust of Mark Twain, sculpted by Karl Gerhardt (1853-1940). The bust and its images are courtesy of the Mark Twain House, Hartford, Connecticut.
The Kennedy Center, as the nation’s center for the performing arts, recognizes and presents all of the performing arts including opera, jazz, musical theater, drama, ballet and dance, as well as symphony and all kinds of smaller musical ensembles performing every imaginable kind of music.
WETA Washington, D.C., is the third-largest producing station for public television. WETA’s other productions and co-productions include PBS NewsHour, Washington Week with Gwen Ifill and National Journal, In Performance at the White House, The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, and documentaries by filmmaker Ken Burns, including The Civil War, THE WAR, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea, The Tenth Inning, Prohibition and The Dust Bowl. Sharon Percy Rockefeller is president and CEO. More information on WETA and its programs and services is available at www.weta.org.
*"Mark Twain Prize" TM/© Chase Manhattan Bank and Richard A. Watson as trustees of The Mark Twain Foundation Trust under license authorized by CMG Worldwide Inc., Indianapolis, Indiana, 46256 USA.