Ellen DeGeneres gains top U.S. award for humor

Tue May 15, 2012 2:39pm EDT

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(Reuters) - Comedian and talk show host Ellen DeGeneres will receive the annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, following in the footsteps of previous female winners Whoopi Goldberg and Tina Fey.

DeGeneres, 54, will receive one of the nation's highest comic honors on October 22 at a special presentation night held at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall in Washington D.C, the Kennedy Center said on Tuesday.

After starting out as a stand-up comic in small comedy clubs, DeGeneres found worldwide fame through her Emmy Award-winning 1990s sitcom, "Ellen," during which she famously earned record viewers when she came out as a lesbian on the show and in real life.

She also wrote several bestselling comic books and appeared in several movies including the voice of Dory, the fish with the short-term memory, in the animated film, "Finding Nemo," before hosting her current Emmy Award-winning syndicated talk show, "The Ellen DeGeneres Show."

"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?" DeGeneres joked in a statement.

The Mark Twain Prize, established in 1998, recognizes people who have had an impact on society comparable to the 19th century satirist and writer of novels such as "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" and "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer".

(Reporting by Christine Kearney, Editing by Jill Serjeant)

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