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Stars set to honor Tina Fey in Mark Twain Prize ceremony at Kennedy Center

By Jacqueline Trescott
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, September 30, 2010; C10

An all-star reunion of talent from "Saturday Night Live" will headline the salute to Tina Fey at the ceremony for the Kennedy Center's annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.

Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers and Fred Armisen, as well as "SNL" creator and executive producer Lorne Michaels will share their stories about Fey. Steve Martin, who was never an official member of the cast but appeared in some of its most memorable sketches, has signed up. A few of Fey's other friends will drop by, including Steve Carell, Jon Hamm, Jane Krakowski and Betty White, the Kennedy Center announced Wednesday.

Jennifer Hudson will perform at the Nov. 9 sold-out event. The televised version will air Nov. 14 on PBS.

The Twain Prize was established 13 years ago by the Kennedy Center to honor an art form often overlooked in the industry awards programs. At 40, Fey is the youngest of the recipients, who have included Bill Cosby, Neil Simon, Billy Crystal, Lily Tomlin, Whoopi Goldberg and Martin.

Fey, who has won several Emmys for her writing and acting, has given the Twain gala's producers and writers plenty of skits and one-liners to work with.

A University of Virginia graduate, Fey got her start with the Second City Improv Group, then spent nine years with "SNL." Her role moved from the front of the camera to both onstage and backstage jobs when she became the first female head writer. She won a writing Emmy and two Writers Guild Awards for her work at the late-night satiric institution.

In 2006 she opened her own skit factory with "30 Rock," the weekly NBC show-biz comedy. Fey is also the show's executive producer and star. The show has scored three Emmys for best comedy series and last year was nominated for 22, the most ever for a comedy in a single season.

However, Fey never abandoned her "SNL" family. When a physical resemblance between her and Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin was noticed, Fey returned to the show to portray the "mavericky" Alaskan who could "see Russia from my house," as Fey famously zinged in a performance that earned its own Emmy, for Fey's "special guest appearance by an actress in a comedy series."

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