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Does Tina Fey deserve the Mark Twain Prize?

Tonight, in a lavish made-for-TV ceremony at the Kennedy Center, Tina Fey will receive the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.

Fey is the third woman since the prize's 1998 debut to receive the honor (Whoopi Goldberg won in 2001 and Lily Tomlin in 2003), and the youngest ever -- two things that distinguish her from previous recipients such as Bill Cosby, George Carlin, Neil Simon, Carl Reiner, Jonathan Winters and Bob Newhart. Read the full story.

By Jodi Westrick  |  May 25, 2010; 12:29 PM ET  | Category:  National Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Tina Fey would be a nothing without Sarah Palin.

Posted by: tcdif | May 25, 2010 1:51 PM

Fey is brilliant, from SNL to movies to 30 Rock to appearances on television. She was around long before SP, and she will be around long after SP fades from the spotlight.

Posted by: misplacednortherner | May 25, 2010 2:14 PM

She may deserve it, but not over Jon Stewart and several others.

Posted by: Fabrisse | May 25, 2010 2:21 PM

If this is a lifetime achievement award, then no, she doesn't deserve it, and it's pretty darn premature, I'd say. I say this as a fan...

Posted by: beegrace123 | May 25, 2010 2:30 PM

And Sarah Palin would be nothing without Tina Fey! Doh!

Posted by: Annisha | May 25, 2010 3:15 PM

Based on the comments of Mark Krantz, co-executive producer of the Twain salute:

"A lot of people felt it was a lifetime achievement award for an old person. It never has been. It is a prize, really, about somebody's depth and talent."

Yes, Tina Fey absolutely deserves the award. Though she may be young in relation to past winners, she's shares their immense talent and originality and, in her own way, excels at social commentary.

Posted by: scottmoore1 | May 25, 2010 3:30 PM

If this is not a "lifetime achievement" award, how do they justify Carl Reiner, Lorne Michaels, Neil Simon and Bill Cosby? And if this is not a "lifetime achievement" award, why does every recipient receive a multimedia career retrospective presentation? If you read the fine print, the Prize recipient is chosen with the assistance and advice of TV producers. This is a shameful money grab– how long until we hear that Comedy Central or NBC has picked up the broadcast rights? The Kennedy Center should either take more full control of the Prize or it should wash its hands of this sleazy enterprise.

Posted by: Mathonwy | May 25, 2010 3:40 PM

I think Tina Fey should get the award but not ahead of folks like Jon Stewart, or going back a few years, Stan Freberg. Ms. Fey has done a lot in a short period of time, but she doesn't deserve this right away.

Posted by: digital_fightnews1 | May 25, 2010 3:53 PM

Whether it was the intent or not, the award has become a lifetime achievement award. Tina Fey is very good, and no doubt will be great when she has more time under her belt. But there are so many people ahead of her who have not yet been honored. Just doesn't make sense to turn this into a "common" award now after a decade of amazing honorees. But too late now. Please forward Carrot Top's contact info to the Kennedy Center so they can line him up for next year's award....

Posted by: ajp2004 | May 25, 2010 4:05 PM


Posted by: zcezcest1 | May 25, 2010 5:37 PM

She was good (but hardly great) as an SNL member. Her TV show and her impressions of Palin are both brilliant. Her movies? Not so much.

But look at who isn't being honored. No Woody Allen or Mel Brooks? Both did groundbreaking work when they wrote for TV, did stand-up/radio and made some of the funniest films ever.

Dan Ackroyd? Better than Fey (and more groundbreaking) on SNL and in classic comedies Ghostbusters and Blues Brothers movies.

Among others more deserving at this time:

Jon Stewart

James Brooks (involved in creating Mary Tyler Moore Show, Taxi and The Simpsons)

Matt Groenig, Simpsons creator

Mary Tyler Moore

Jerry Seinfeld

David Letterman

Ellen DeGeneres (Finding Nemo, Emmy and Oscar host, in addition to groundbreaking sitcom and her talk show)

Tina Fey. She's very good, but the Twain Prize ... really?

Posted by: zcezcest1 | May 25, 2010 6:00 PM

Mark Krantz and David Rubinstein can burn in hell. Don Rickles should have the award named after him.

Posted by: cplcespod | May 25, 2010 9:38 PM

I can't decide whether they're overestimating Tina Fey or underestimating Mark Twain!

Posted by: RonHayes | May 26, 2010 7:56 AM

This is another example of "youthing down America". A lifetime of achievement counts for nothing now. If you're popular, no matter what your age, suddenly you "derserve" immediate recognition. One-trick-ponies are running rampant.

Posted by: jckdoors | May 26, 2010 10:53 AM

Tina Fey's Sarah Palin was, of course, beyond brilliant and I think her movies are fairly good, but she's being chosen for "30 Rock" which, apparently, very few have seen.

30 Rock is one of the most cleverly written, bizarre, subversive and absolutely hysterical TV shows ever produced and the credit goes to Fey. She produces and writes for the show, while playing the main character. None of the other award recipients have worn as many hats as successfully and shown as much talent in different facets as Fey.

She uses all three to pull spectacular performances out her fellow actors too: Alec Baldwin, who has always been the most talented Baldwin (duh), has proven to be a brilliant comic actor and is especially good in the scenes with Fey. Tracey Morgan, who is barely capable of speaking english has had his career ignited solely on the basis of Fey's writing his personal peculiarities into his character so he doesn't have to act.

On top of all that, she is incredibly quick-witted and fast on her feet. Like Twain she has a wonderful talent for the mot juste, always combining clever insight with self-deprecation and just the right amount of sarcastic, but good-natured snarkiness.

Sorry, this question obviously shows that the poser misses the broadness of her range of talent. I'm just glad she's young enough to be around for years to come: I can't wait to see what she comes up with next.

Posted by: joebanks | May 26, 2010 12:39 PM

Tina Fey? That pretentious idiot from Saturday Night Live?

I see I have a drastically different definition of humor than the TV sucking population does.

Posted by: Wallenstein | May 27, 2010 1:42 PM

Fey is a comedic actor who generally executes someone else's scripts. The award seems to have been previously reserved for humorists -- those who create and present in various media -- not for those who recite, lending only comedic timing.

When you look at her predecessors, you can see truly gifted liftime bodies of work by exceptionally talented individuals, not two TV roles and some stand-up.

Fey is very talented. But she has a long way to go before the essential credentials of greatness have accrued to her.

At least she didn't win the Peace Prize. This does bear some similarities, though.

Posted by: DOps | November 9, 2010 2:59 PM

Doesn't matter if she deserves it or not. She will forever hold the highest place in libdom for her caricature of Sarah Palin. That's all that matters.

Posted by: kbarker302 | November 9, 2010 3:26 PM

"Fey is a comedic actor who generally executes someone else's scripts."

Au contraire, mon frere. In addition to her sketchwork on SNL (which was quite limited, as I recall), the Weekend Update "anchor" does a significant amount of the writing for that segment. As for the Sarah Palin stuff, much of that she didn't have to write - she just repeated what Palin said. Outside of SNL, she created 30 Rock and wrote the movies "Baby Mama" (haven't seen it) and "Mean Girls" (quite good).

Is she enormously talented? Yes. Is she deserving of this award? Not yet.

Posted by: BSDetector | November 9, 2010 3:33 PM

Happy for her, but Carol Burnett comes to mind.
And if we're only focusing on comediennes, Vicki Lawrence, Madeline Kahn and Lucille Ball (both posthumously), Bebe Neuwirth, Shelly Long, Shelly Duvall, Goldie Hawn, Sandra Bullock (people sometimes forget it's taken her two decades to become an overnight success), and the list goes on.

Ah, well.

Posted by: robert1969 | November 9, 2010 3:34 PM

I love Tina, but this award is premature. How can Lucille Ball and Carol Burnett continually get overlooked for this prize? Tina is not much compared to them, better at writing than acting. Whoopi was a terrible pick, just a racial balance move.

Posted by: pookey12 | November 9, 2010 3:42 PM

I hope she thanks Sarah Palin..

Posted by: ssmitty1 | November 9, 2010 4:01 PM

Along with other contemporary comedians, she spouts a humor almost exclusively filled with sexually suggestive and provocative comments. I wonder how she would fare without such crutches, notwithstanding her Palin imitations.

Posted by: Rehcab1 | November 9, 2010 4:07 PM

Mark Twain is rolling in his grave.

Posted by: PlayByTheRules | November 9, 2010 4:14 PM

Seriously, the writer of "Baby Mama"? I thought the award had something to do with humor.

Posted by: PlayByTheRules | November 9, 2010 4:21 PM

Gilda Radner. Teri Garr. Jane Curtin. Carol Burnett. Mary Tyler Moore. Lucille Ball. Penny Marshall. Perhaps one day Tina Fey will attain their comedic stature.

Posted by: dmm1 | November 9, 2010 4:25 PM

I love most of the people mentioned above. The difference between Stewart, Letterman, et al is that it would appear that Tina does more writing. Stewart and Letterman are more of a filter to vast writing staffs that they employ. Tina was the first female head writer on SNL. She wrote very funny and successful movies. You can tell during an interview how quick of wit she is.

Posted by: jminadeo | November 9, 2010 4:35 PM

Isn't this comparable to a newly-elected president getting the Nobel Peace Prize? Oh, wait....

Posted by: capsfan77 | November 9, 2010 4:44 PM

Nobels, Mark Twains, Pulitzers....the list of leftist approved accolades is endless, self granted and affects nothing which matters at all.

Were the person at issue conservative then this would not be happening.

Leftists play to their own choir.....

Posted by: georgedixon1 | November 9, 2010 4:59 PM

I like Tiny Fey, she's funny; but she certainly doesn't deserve the award. She doesn't have the lifetime achievements and the social impact of Carlin, Cosby and the other greats not starting with C.

The problem is that awards shows are like bureaucracies, you create them and you think you have to keep it going every year. They've run out of deserving people so they're stretching in order to keep their own jobs going at the Kennedy Center. It's a pity.

Posted by: groucho42 | November 9, 2010 5:12 PM

I'm tempted to say that all such awards are given when the recipient's number comes up. But if that were true, Fey's number couldn't have come up before the likes of Robin Williams, Joan Rivers, Woody Allen, and Jerry Lewis.

Maybe later for Fey with a more varied portfolio, but certainly not now.

Among those who should NEVER be so honored: David Letterman, Larry David [c'mon!], Steven Wright[who?], Robert Klein, and [yes] Betty White, a mere script reader.

Posted by: clitteigh | November 9, 2010 5:23 PM

I think her time should come later. I agree with everyone who suggested that Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett, and Madeline Kahn are/were more deserving.

Posted by: carlaclaws | November 9, 2010 6:22 PM

Her imagination and skilled writing often requires an audience with conceptional abilities.

Posted by: whocares666 | November 9, 2010 6:32 PM

"Leftists play to their own choir...."

Which has a higher IQ than the conservative choir boys.

Posted by: therev1 | November 9, 2010 6:36 PM

How about Buck Henry???

Posted by: CCCinNaptown | November 9, 2010 7:04 PM

It seems as though most people don't realize that Tina Fey was SNL Head Writer from 1999 to 2006, when she also hosted Weekend Update. And as someone said, she does everything on 30 Rock, which is indeed the best show you're not watching.

As for the "lifetime achievement" aspect, she might not be a senior citizen but she's no infant either. She's 40, and paid her dues with The Second City comedy troupe in Chicago. She's been around and knows the ropes, as they say. The award will be only the latest in a stream of awards for writing, acting, producing, etc., and she deserves it.

Posted by: MadamDeb | November 9, 2010 7:43 PM

Agree with the posters who think that Fey is good, but nowhere near as good as so many people who have yet to receive this award.

Posted by: AdrianMole | November 9, 2010 7:53 PM

Pop Culture is the driving force behind many media events and this is another example of that trend. I agree with one of the earlier comments-Tiny Fey would be nothing without Sarah Palin. Since Palin was a product of the same media trends, why not Tina?

Posted by: ralphlion2002 | November 9, 2010 7:59 PM

She's OK but not brilliant and only mediocrely funny. She gets most of her milage from political bent and as media is slanted to the liberal, making fun of the "conservative" is an easy target - not at all a real marker of how funny one is. Liberals laugh and love anything that dipargages the right.

Posted by: Lynne51 | November 9, 2010 8:28 PM

She was a funny writer in her early years at SNL and an occasionally funny performer while there. That said, she is extremely overrated and much of the adulation directed towards is a reward for her partisan attacks on Palin.

30 Rock sucks. It is worse than unfunny, it is clichéd and predictable. The fact that it gets terrible ratings after years of strong lead-ins, guest stars and fawning by the liberal media should be a clue. It is not funny.

Posted by: bobmoses | November 9, 2010 8:48 PM

Her "attacks on Palin?" She's just an comic was playing a role (a role, I might add, thrust upon her by the public; she's was off SNL by that time). Do you think Will Ferrell "attacked" Pres. Bush when he did his impression? Or Dana Carvey with Pres. Bush 1 (who enjoyed Carvey's impression so much he invited him to the White House)?

Those of you who think only in terms of Tina Fey's one or two impressions of Palin as her only act show how limited your exposure to her has been, and how little your comment adds to the discussion.

Posted by: MadamDeb | November 9, 2010 9:30 PM

Tina Fey would be a nothing without Sarah Palin.
Posted by: tcdif | May 25, 2010 1:51 PM

This is a statement utterly devoid of fact and logic. You are obviously unaware of her long-time role on SNL. While 30 Rock is possibly the smartest and funniest comedy of the last 10 years. Fey and Baldwin are an unbeatable comic duo. It's a shame you let your politics blind you to that.

Fey's Palin caricature is almost an afterthought these days. She still does it very well, and that's what originally brought her to the attention of people like you. But Tina Fey was funny long before the fall of 2008.

Posted by: Shadow9 | November 9, 2010 10:18 PM

It's a shame there is not an intelligence test to comment on newspapers. Just as the sun rises in the morning before you wake up, Tina Fey did not suddenly appear just when these commenters started looking. She has been writing for almost 20 years, making everyone else seem funny. That is why they want to honor her-because she made fellow comedians look good. She rewrote other people's work for 2 decades. Lorne Michaels would not put her in front of a camera until she lost 20 pounds. She was respected for her hard work behind the scenes first. You don't have to look far for this info - most is in Wikipedia for chrissakes.

Posted by: saymyname | November 9, 2010 10:58 PM

I agree with the Carol Burnett nod. I like zcezcest1's list. I would add Robin Williams, Jim Carrey, and Eddie Murphy since I haven't seen those listed. I agree with Betty White's nomination. I completely forgot about Mel Brooks and Woody Allen, but I did mention Jerry Seinfeld before. And David Letterman and Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert should certainly make the short list within 10 years (or now based on Tina Fey's standards). And Steve Carrell is also a funny man who should be considered for the nod (one day).

Posted by: forgetthis | November 10, 2010 8:47 AM

what a complete joke it is to give her this award when you see the list of others who have received it and others who have not. almost as bad as giving Obama the Nobel Peace prize for doing nothing as well.

Posted by: johnfchick1 | November 10, 2010 10:01 AM

There are some excellent comments here which made me change my mind on Tina "deserving" award. Posters are correct Sarah Palin is why she's getting this award. I don't watch Tina's show after she left SNL but I LUV Jon Stewart. He says what I think and Oprah got this one right calling him funniest man in America because politicans wll kepp him working!!!

Posted by: MDlady2 | November 10, 2010 12:23 PM

I forgot to mention Rodney Dangerfield.

Posted by: forgetthis | November 10, 2010 1:20 PM

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