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In 1959, she starred as Princess Winnifred in the original Broadway production of "Once Upon a Mattress" and continued to prove her ambidextrous talents, vacillating between stage and screen before winning her first Emmy while on "The Garry Moore Show" in 1962.

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"I can't believe I'm getting a humor prize from the Kennedy Center," Burnett said in a statement. "It's almost impossible to be funnier than the people in Washington."

It's fitting that Burnett will return to Washington for the honor. Although born in San Antonio and discovered on the nightclub circuit in New York, her comedy Nike Air More Uptempo White Blue

44, winning in 2011, and Ellen Degeneres receiving last year's award when she was 54. Indeed, many of these honorees could have watched Burnett's show as children.

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career began with Washington. In the 1950s, she wrote and sang a love song to then Secretary of State John Foster Dulles, known as the most boring man in America. Titled "I Made a Fool of Myself Over John Foster Dulles," the song parodied the Elvis craze of the era and gained Burnett spots on Jack Paar's "The Tonight Show" and Ed Sullivan's "Toast of the Town."

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"She is iconic, really funny and has been her entire life," said Cappy McGarr, an executive producer of the show. "She makes us laugh at ourselves and laugh together. That's the great thing about Carol Burnett."

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Burnett is the third woman in four years to win the Mark Twain Prize. She is also one of the most decorated comedians to receive the award, having won the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2005, five Emmys, five Golden Globe awards and a Peabody Award. In 2003, she was honored alongside singers James Brown and Loretta Lynn, director Mike Nichols and violinist Itzhak Perlman as a Kennedy Center Honoree. Fellow winners of the Mark Twain Prize Bill Cosby, Neil Simon and Steve Martin have also won the Kennedy Center Honors.

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Since then, the awardees have skewed young, with Will Ferrell, then Nike Uptempo Gym Red

"From her Nike Vapormax Khaki television program and appearances, as well as her performances on Broadway and in film, Carol Burnett has entertained generations of fans with her vibrant wit and hilarious characters," said Kennedy Center Chairman David Rubenstein in a statement.

Julie Andrews helped to catapult her career: The two appeared on the Emmy winning television special "Julie and Carol at Carnegie Hall," that led CBS to sign Burnett to a 10 year contract to star in her own variety show.

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the 16th winner of the award, chosen for her vast array of stage and screen credits spanning five decades.

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´╗┐Carol Burnett to receive Mark Twain prize for American humor

Is the Kennedy Center moving back to honoring old guard comedians who, in some respects, paved the way for the young ones in their prime? "Not at all," McGarr said. "The prize honors people's body of works for humor and comedy. Burnett happens to be 80. Every one of our prize winners have inspired a generation of comedians, and Carol Burnett's influence is prevalent every time you turn on the TV."

The Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of American History now holds the curtain rod dress from one of her most popular sketches, "Went with the Wind," a nine minute parody of "Gone with the Wind" and Scarlett O'Hara's handmade velvet dress fashioned from curtains. Once billed as a lifetime achievement award for comedians, the Kennedy Center awarded the honor to Tina Fey in 2010, making her the youngest recipient of the Mark Twain Prize at only 40 years old.

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She is the first woman to win both the Mark Twain Prize and the Kennedy Center Honors, which she won in 2003. The 80 year old is best known as the star of her eponymous variety show "The Carol Burnett Show," which became one of the most decorated programs in television history, winning 25 Emmy awards and averaging 30 million viewers each week during its 11 year run from 1967 to 1978. She will be honored Oct. 20 at an awards ceremony at the Kennedy Center, which PBS will broadcast Oct. 30.

Some of the most famous names of 20th century cinema and television including Jimmy Stewart, Lucille Ball, Gloria Swanson, Betty White and Ronald Reagan appeared as guest stars on "The Carol Burnett Show."

Carol Burnett, the award winning actress, comedian and Broadway performer, has been chosen by the Kennedy Center for the 2013 Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, the center announced Tuesday.

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