BY BRETT ZONGKER, ASSOCIATED PRESS
WASHINGTON -- Ellen DeGeneres is winning the nation's top humor prize 15 years after breaking ground as the first lead character on primetime TV to reveal she's gay.
The Kennedy Center in Washington is announcing Tuesday that DeGeneres will receive the 15th annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. She'll be honored Oct. 22 with a lineup of star performers.
In a statement, DeGeneres says receiving the same award as Bill Cosby, Tina Fey and Will Ferrell makes her wonder, "why didn't I get this sooner?"
It was in 1997 when DeGeneres came out on Time magazine's cover and on TV's "Ellen" to a record 46 million viewers. The sitcom was canceled a year later.
DeGeneres bounced back with movie roles, a hit talk show and as a judge on "American Idol."