The Emmy-winning talk show host accepted the Carol Burnett Award for Excellence in Television for her unbelievably successful and hard-earned career on the small screen.
DeGeneres, 61, reflected on the ups and downs in her career and joked about her imaginary family. The award was presented to her by "Saturday Night Live" star Kate McKinnon.
DeGeneres said it took her a while to find her way in TV, even after she made history by coming out as a gay woman on her sitcom.
“I had a sitcom. And I lost that sitcom. Then I had another sitcom, and I lost that sitcom too,” she said. “I got to do something I always wanted to do: Make whiskey. Then I got a talk show. I got a talk show. And I was able to be myself. I feel like you all have gotten to know me. I’m an open book," she told the audience after receiving a standing ovation.
"Television inspired everything that I am today," DeGeneres said. "All I want to make people do is laugh, and make people feel good, and there is no greater feeling than when people say... I have helped them through a difficult time."
"That is the power of television and I'm so grateful to be a part of it," she added.
DeGeneres then poked fun at her sexuality, thanking her "husband Mark" who doesn’t exist. Her wife, actress Portia De Rossi, was caught laughing wiping tears from her eye from laughing so hard.
“I couldn’t have done it without my husband Mark. Mark, you are my rock,” DeGeneres said.
DeGeneres and de Rossi have no children, but DeGeneres talked to a couple anyway, looking at the camera and saying, “Rupert and Fiona go to bed.”
She also paid tribute to Carol Burnett, who received the inaugural award named for her last year before DeGeneres became the second recipient.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.