Some of the nation's top comedians hailed Ellen DeGeneres as a trailblazer at the Kennedy Center last night as she received the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, the highest US humor prize:
- "For a lot of people, Ellen is their only homosexual friend. She's there in their living room every single day," said Jimmy Kimmel, who said her coming out on TV 15 years ago was a milestone.
- Sean Hayes said DeGeneres made his former gay-themed show, Will and Grace, possible. He said her "fearlessness" was her biggest contribution and that she changed America. "We didn't have a voice, until there was you," he said before breaking into a rendition of the tune "Til There was You."
- Glee star Jane Lynch said DeGeneres "took one for the team." "She's the one who went in there with a machete" and cleared the way for other shows with gay characters such as Glee, Lynch said. "Look where she is today."
- John Leguizamo saluted DeGeneres and PBS for planning to air the show. "How about that? A gay woman on PBS—with public money and the Kennedys," he said. "It's like the tea party's worst nightmare."
The show will be broadcast on PBS next Tuesday. "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 Mitt Romney's plans to stop funding public broadcasting.