Ellen DeGeneres receives top humor prize in DC

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“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,” she said. “Look where she is today.”

Kristin Chenoweth said DeGeneres has always remained kind.

“She’s not a mean girl comic,” she said.

When DeGeneres first heard she was receiving the same honor that Bill Cosby, Tina Fey and Will Ferrell won in recent years, she joked, “Why didn’t I get this sooner?”

After DeGeneres came out on TV in 1997, the show began to tank and was canceled a year later. The feeling of rejection was enough to send DeGeneres into a depression. Still, “Ellen” paved the way for future shows to feature gay characters, from “Will and Grace” to “Modern Family.”

DeGeneres came back with a CBS sitcom, movie roles and even a stint as an “American Idol” judge. Forbes magazine has ranked her as the 47th most-powerful woman in the world and estimated her earnings at $53 million last year.

Her hit talk show that debuted in 2003 is now in its 10th season. Among other achievements, that’s where she eventually persuaded President Barack Obama to dance.

“She’s brilliantly shined a light on society, and that’s what Mark Twain did,” said Cappy McGarr, an executive producer for the Mark Twain Prize show, when the award was announced.

The prize honors comedians in Mark Twain’s tradition of satire and social commentary. Past winners include Steve Martin, Lily Tomlin and Whoopi Goldberg.

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.”

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Follow Brett Zongker on Twitter at https://twitter.com/DCArtBeat

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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