Tina Fey becomes third woman to win Mark Twain Prize for American Humor

Last week, Tina Fey was awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. The ceremony, which was held at the Kennedy Center in DC, aired on PBS over the weekend, and featured some of Fey’s friends and colleagues, including Amy Poehler, Steve Carrell, Steve Martin, Jimmy Fallon, Jane Krakowski, Alec Baldwin and SNL creator and producer Lorne Michaels.

Watch the full episode. See more Mark Twain Prize.

Fey, who has also won seven Emmys, four SAG awards, four Writers Guild Awards and three Golden Globes. She is only the third woman to win the Mark Twain Prize. Of this fact, she said in her acceptance speech: “I’m so honored to be numbered Lily Tomlin and Whoopi Goldberg, but I do hope that women are achieving at a rate these days that we can stop counting what number they are at things. Yes,” she continued, “I was the first female Head Writer at SNL and yes, I was only the second woman ever to be pregnant while on the show, and now tonight I am the third female recipient of this prize. I would love to be the fourth woman to do something, but I just don’t see myself married to Lorne.”

The most touching tribute came from Seth Myers, who took over from Fey as Head Writer when she left to create, write and star in 30 Rock. Myers said that while he often hears about how hard it is to be a woman in comedy, he knows from experience that it’s also hard to be the man who has to follow Tina Fey as Head Writer at SNL. Myers, who wrote most of the political sketches during the 2008 election season, said that watching Fey transform into Sarah Palin was “like watching Superman put on glasses to transform into Clark Kent.” He then introduced sketch in which Fey and Poehler play Palin and Hillary Clinton – the cold open of the 2008 season, just weeks after Sarah Palin had been named to the GOP ticket. It is quite possibly one of the best sketches the show has produced in the last decade, and it’s a sketch that features only women and that critiques sexism in media and politics.

You can watch the whole ceremony at PBS’s website. It is seriously good comedy, featuring clips from SNL, Mean Girls, 30 Rock and even footage of Fey and Rachel Dratch on stage at Second City in Chicago.

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Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia. She joined the Feministing team in 2009. Her writing about politics and popular culture has been published in The Atlantic, The Guardian, New York magazine, Reuters, The LA Times and many other outlets in the US, Australia, UK, and France. She makes regular appearances on radio and television in the US and Australia. She has an AB in Sociology from Princeton University and a PhD in Arts and Media from the University of New South Wales. Her academic work focuses on Hollywood romantic comedies; her doctoral thesis was about how the genre depicts gender, sex, and power, and grew out of a series she wrote for Feministing, the Feministing Rom Com Review. Chloe is a Senior Facilitator at The OpEd Project and a Senior Advisor to The Harry Potter Alliance. You can read more of her writing at chloesangyal.com

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia.

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  • http://feministing.com/members/melaniesilver/ Melanie

    Tina Fey is an excellent comedian and undoubtedly deserving of this award. It is a pity that she is only the third female to ever achieve this honor, and it is indicative of the male-dominated world of comedy throughout pop culture. Women are making great strides in achieving gender equality, and this award for Tina Fey is simply one small example of the recognition women are getting in their chosen fields. Excellence cannot be denied, no matter how hard men may try, and great work will be acknowledged by the world. Though men and women are constantly being treated differently and held to different standards, talent can overwhelm a “glass ceiling”. While much is being done to advocate for the rights of women, I believe that women, performing to the best of their ability in whichever field they excel, can prove to the world that their talent is undeniable and in no way inferior to that of any man.