WASHINGTON - Stars from television and stage honoured entertainer Carol Burnett on Sunday with the Kennedy Center's Mark Twain Prize during a night that highlighted her decades-long comedy career while poking fun at politicians in Washington.
Broadway and film actress Julie Andrews, comedian Tina Fey, and singer Tony Bennett were among the lineup of friends and colleagues who paid tribute to Burnett, whose variety series"The Carol Burnett Show" ran for 11 years.
"I'm overwhelmed, totally overwhelmed," Burnett told reporters ahead of the award ceremony. "I just hope after tonight they'll knock me down a few pegs because I think I'm getting a really big head."
The 80-year-old singer and actress, famous for tugging her ear at the end of her performances, watched from a Kennedy Center balcony as many of her contemporaries spoke of the example she set for their lives and careers.
"I love you in a way that is just short of creepy," Fey, a former lead writer and actress on NBC's "Saturday Night Live"and sitcom show "30 Rock," said to Burnett.
"I watched your show, and I thought: I could do that."
The award programme is scheduled to air on PBS on Nov. 24, but the October events in Washington featured prominently. The US government re-opened last week after a 16-day shutdown triggered by failed Republican efforts to delay or defund Democratic President Barack Obama's signature healthcare law.
"We are here tonight to celebrate the first lady of American comedy, Ted Cruz," Fey said to laughter and applause from the audience, referring to the Republican senator from Texas whose opposition to the law known as Obamacare helped inspire the shutdown.
Burnett also had zingers for the town in which her prize was delivered.
"It was a long time in coming, but I understand because there are so many people funnier than I am. Especially here in Washington," she said after coming on stage to accept the award.