American actor Steve Martin was awarded the Mark Twain Prize For American Humour at Washington DC's Kennedy Center Concert Hall yesterday (23OCT05).

A galaxy of stars including Tom Hanks, Paul Simon, Eric Idle, Diane Keaton, Lily Tomlin and Clare Danes attended the gala evening to celebrate the 60-year-old's glittering career.

Idle hailed Martin as "the most intelligent man I ever met," adding, "Honesty simplicity and truth are the secret to comedy."

While Oscar-winner Hanks attributed Martin's comedy to "self-loathing and unhappiness".

But he added, "He redefined comedy by defining the moment of our ascendancy as a generation. As did Charlie Chaplin, as did the MARX BROTHERS, as did LAUREL AND HARDY define their own times, Steve Martin defined ours."

Accepting his award, Martin made mention of his previous honours, including a 1969 writing Emmy, saying, "But of course the Mark Twain Prize is more special to me - because it is more recent!"

Previous winners include Richard Pryor and Whoopi Goldberg.