Ellen DeGeneres receives top humor prize in DC
Entertainer Ellen DeGeneres, second from front left, reacts as she is introduced, with wife Portia de Rossi, left, before DeGeneres receives the 15th annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor at the Kennedy Center, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
WASHINGTON (AP) — Some of the nation's top comedians hailed Ellen DeGeneres as a trailblazer Monday night as she received the nation's highest humor prize.
The Kennedy Center is awarding DeGeneres the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. The show will be broadcast Oct. 30 on PBS stations.
"Thanks to everyone at PBS. I am so happy to be part of your farewell season," DeGeneres joked in accepting the prize and taking a jab at Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's plans to stop funding public broadcasting.
On the red carpet before the show, DeGeneres said she doesn't see herself as political with her comedy, though, even though she's been a trailblazer.
Entertainer Ellen DeGeneres, left, with her wife Portia de Rossi, pose for photographers on the red carpet before DeGeneres receives the 15th annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor at the Kennedy Center, Monday, Oct. 22, 2012, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
"I just want to make people happy and make people laugh," she said.
DeGeneres, 54, began her career as a comedy club emcee in her native New Orleans. After a performance on Johnny Carson's show in 1986, he invited her over to his desk to chat. She was the first female comedian to receive that invitation from Carson.
Turning to acting, DeGeneres landed sitcoms on Fox and ABC, eventually starring in "Ellen" from 1994 to 1998. She broke new ground and a taboo in 1997 when she came out publicly as a lesbian and her TV persona then became the first lead character on prime-time TV to reveal she was gay. A record 46 million viewers watched the episode.