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Only in Comedy

Tina Fey

November 9, 2010 – Mark Twain Prize, Kennedy Center, Washington DC


Thank you very much. Thank you so much. Thank you all for dressing up. God. Listening to all of these speeches and performances for the last two hours, I cannot help but feel grateful that I put a bag of pretzels in my purse.

I want to thank everyone involved with the Kennedy Centre, or as it will soon be known, The Tea Party Bowling Ally & Rifle Range. It’s gonna look good, we can get about nine lanes in here. I want to thank everyone at WETA, and PBS, not just for televising this event, but for showing The Benny Hill Show so much when I was a kid. I don’t know how that qualified to be on PBS — we may never know.

I promise to put this award in a place of honour to make sure that my daughter does not pretend that it is Barbie’s older husband, who lost his body in an accident.

I never dreamed that I would receive the Mark Twain Prize for American Humour. Mostly because my style is so typically Austrian.

I never thought I would even qualify for the Mark Twain Prize for American Humour, I mean, maybe the Nathaniel Hawthorne Prize for Judgmental Nature, or the Judy Bloom Award for Awkward Puberty or the Harper Lee Prize for Small Bodies of Work. But never this. And yet, I hope that like Mark Twain, a hundred years from now, people will see my work and think, ‘wow, that is actually pretty racist’.

Apparently I’m only the third woman to ever receive this award, and I’m so honoured to be numbered with Lily Tomlin and Whoopee 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, I was the first female head writer at Saturday Night Live, 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.

I’m so grateful to my friends who came here tonight to perform. Some people came all the way from Los Angeles, and I know that you are all very busy people with families and it means so much to me to know that care about show-business more than you do about them.

I want to thank Alec Baldwin for not coming tonight. I already have a reputation as a liberal elite lunatic, I don’t need that guy followin’ me around. Johnny-Huffington-Post. Actually I do want to thank Alec genuinely for staying in New York tonight, to continue to shoot at 30 Rock, so that I could be here, so thank you Alec, I love you.

I’m not gonna get emotional tonight, because I am a stone-cold bitch. But, I want to thank my family. They say that funny people often come from a difficult childhood, or a troubled family, so to my family, I say, ‘They’re giving me the Mark Twain Prize for American Humour, what did you animals do to me!’ Yeah.

I know my Mother and Father are so proud of me tonight, so this is probably a good time to tell them, I’m putting you both in a home. We’ll talk about it later.

I met my husband Jeff when we were both in Chicago and I had short hair with a perm on top and I would wear oversized denim shorts overalls, and that is how I know our love is real.

At some point in the future, our daughter Alice will find a DVD of this broadcast, or I don’t know, download it into the sub-dermal iPhone in her eyelids, I don’t know how far in the future we’re talking about. But, I hope that it will make her laugh, and it will explain to her why her parents looked so tired all the time.

The one person without whom I really would not be here tonight, except of course for my Mother who is pretty sure she delivered me even though she had a lot of twilight sleep, the other one person is Lorne Michaels.

In 1997 I flew from Chicago to New York to have a job interview for a writing position at Saturday Night Live. And I was hopeful because I’d heard the show was looking to diversify, which, by the way, only in comedy, is an obedient white girl from the suburbs a diversity candidate. But, I remember, you know, I came for my job interview and the only decent clothes I had at the time, Lorne was right, was I had a pair of black pants and a sweater from Contempo Casuals. And I went to the security guard at the elevator at 30 Rockefeller Plaza, and I said ‘I’m here to see Lorne Michaels’ and I couldn’t believe the words that were coming out of my mouth, ‘I’m here to see Lorne Michaels’.

And I went up to the 17th floor and I had my meeting with Lorne, and the only thing anyone had told me about meeting with Lorne, having a job interview, they said; whatever you do, do not finish his sentences. A girl I knew in Chicago had done that and she felt like it had cost her the job, and so, whatever you do, don’t finish his sentences. And I was there and really didn’t want to blow it and Lorne said, ‘So, you’re from…’, and it just was hanging there, ‘So, you’re from…’, and I found I couldn’t take anymore, and I said, ‘Pennsylvania, I’m from Pennsylvania, suburb of Philadelphia’, just as Lorne was finishing his thought and said, ‘Chicago’, and I thought, That’s it. I blew it. And I don’t remember anything else about the meeting, because I just kept staring at him thinking, this is the guy from the Beatles sketch! I can’t believe that I’m in his office.

And you know I could never have guessed that a couple years later I would be sitting in that office until 2, 3, 4 in the morning thinking, if this meeting doesn’t end I’m gonna kill this Canadian bastard.

The last time I that was in Washington was in 2004 to take this Life magazine cover photo with John McCain. And Senator McCain gave my husband and me a tour of the Senate, and we all spent a lovely, busy afternoon together. And I have it on good authority that this picture of Senator McCain and myself has been hanging in his office, by his desk since 2004. And he has been looking at it every day since 2004, getting ideas. So I guess what I’m saying is, this whole thing might be my fault.

I would be a liar and an idiot if I didn’t thank Sarah Palin for helping get me here tonight, my partial resemblance and her crazy voice are the two luckiest things that ever happened to me.

Politics aside, the success of Sarah Palin and women like her is good for all women — except, of course, those who will end up paying for their own rape kit and stuff. But for everybody else, it’s a win-win. Unless you’re a gay woman who wants to marry your partner of 20 years. Whatever. But for most women, the success of conservative women is good for all of us. Unless you believe in evolution. You know — actually, I take it back. The whole thing’s a disaster.*

All kidding aside, I’m so proud to represent American humour. I’m proud to be American. I’m proud to make my home in the Not Real America. And I am most proud that even during trying times, like an orange alert, or a bad economy, or a contention election, that we as a nation retain out sense of humour. Anyway, I don’t wanna go on and on, because I know we still have to talk about the other four nominees, so thank you and good night.