Carol Burnett

Paul Morigi/WireImage

Carol Burnett has been making people laugh for more than 50 years.

For that reason, the iconic actress was presented with the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on Sunday night.

"This is very encouraging," the 80-year-old funnywoman joked. "It was a long time in coming, but I understand because there are so many people funnier than I am, especially here in Washington. With any luck, they'll all get voted out, and I'll still have the Mark Twain Prize."

Julie Andrews, Amy Poehler, Tina Fey and Martin Short were among the celebrities present at the event to share their kind words about the honoree.

"You were smart enough to know that sketch comedy is a great place for women," Fey, who received the award in 2010, said, "because only in sketch comedy does a woman get to dress up like Cher, Scarlett O'Hara, the queen of England, Norma Desmond, a Girl Scout and Mrs. Wiggins, all in one night. You mean so much to me. I love you in a way that is just shy of creepy."

Burnett took the stage near the end of the two-hour tribute, and explained that her love for comedy began while studying at the University of California, Los Angeles, where she got her first laugh by playing a hillbilly. "I was hooked on making those laughs forever," she said.

She then got her big break when she was spotted by talent bookers from TV's The Ed Sullivan Show and was invited to perform her rendition of "I Made a Fool of Myself over John Foster Dulles."

The Mark Twain Award will be an addition to the actress' several other honors, including Emmys and a Peabody, a Kennedy Center Honor in 2003 and a Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005.

Previous recipients include Bill Cosby, Ellen DeGeneres and Bob Newhart.

Carol Burnett: The Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize will air on Nov. 24 on PBS.

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