Steve Martin cracks Mecca joke at Fey prize-giving

Nov 10, 2010
Jack Bremer

Martin among line-up to celebrate Tina Fey winning Mark Twain humour prize

You just can't trust a comedian to stay on message. While Barack Obama was in Jakarta yesterday, doing his best to mend fences with the post-Bush era Muslim world, back home in Washington DC comedy writer and actor Steve Martin threatened to spoil all the good work with a simple one-liner.


Martin was speaking at the Kennedy Center in a ceremony to award this year's Mark Twain Prize for American Humour to the comedian Tina Fey.


He was on good form. "It would be easy for me to stand up here [for the] next few minutes [and praise Fey], but this seems to be neither the time nor place," he said.


Then he threw in this: "Every year Washington DC becomes a comedy Mecca. And we know how funny Mecca is."


Tina Fey, best known for her Sarah Palin impressions on Saturday Night Live and for creating the TV sitcom 30 Rock, is only the third female comedian - after Whoopi Goldberg and Lily Tomlin - to collect the Mark Twain Prize in its 13-year history. At 40, she is also the youngest.


Among the writers and comedians who paid tribute to Fey at the Kennedy Center was the 88-year-old actress Betty White, once one of TV's The Golden Girls.


"I'm the only one here who actually dated Mark Twain," said White. "And I can tell you they didn't call him Samuel Longhorne Clemens for nothing."


Of Fey, who is less than half her age, White said: "She's so young. I just hope I hang on long enough to see what she accomplishes when she learns to drive."


On the other side of the world, President Obama's message to Indonesians was: "I have made it clear that America is not and never will be at war with Islam... Those who want to build must not cede ground to terrorists who seek to destroy."

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