Mark Twain Prize for American Humor
This article is missing information about the nominating process, the selection process, and whether there has been any open debate about either the process or the choices.(February 2018)
The Mark Twain Prize for American Humor is an American award for humor awarded by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts annually since 1998. It is named after the 19th century novelist, essayist and humorist Mark Twain and is presented to individuals who have "had an impact on American society in ways similar to" Twain. A copy of Karl Gerhardt's 1884 bust of Twain is presented in an autumn ceremony taped in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall in Washington DC, during which the honoree is celebrated by his or her peers. The tape is televised on the Public Broadcasting System. The event is a significant fundraiser to benefit the Kennedy Center, which sells tickets as well as access to dinners and after-parties featuring the celebrities.
|Mark Twain Prize for American Humor|
The Mark Twain Prize is modeled after this sculpture.
|Awarded for||American humor|
|Presented by||John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts|
The award is the creation of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts' Bob Kaminsky, Peter Kaminsky, Mark Krantz, and John Schreiber, who along with Cappy McGarr, are executive producers of the television show. The prize is awarded to individuals who have "had an impact on American society in ways similar to the distinguished 19th century novelist and essayist best known as Mark Twain." The token is a copy of an 1884 bronze portrait bust of Mark Twain sculpted by Karl Gerhardt. The presentation ceremony in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall in Washington DC is a significant fundraiser to benefit the Kennedy Center, which sells tickets as well as access to dinners and after-parties featuring the celebrity presenters.
The first Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for American Humor was presented to comedian Richard Pryor on October 20, 1998. The first two years of The Mark Twain Prize (Richard Pryor and Jonathan Winters) were taped and broadcast on Comedy Central. Since then, the award presentations have been taped for broadcast on PBS.
In 2007, the Mark Twain Prize celebrated its 10th anniversary and presented the prize to Billy Crystal. The show was held in the Opera House of The Kennedy Center on October 11, 2007 and was broadcast on November 12, 2007 on PBS. The evening's presenters included Bob Costas, Robert De Niro, Danny DeVito, Jimmy Fallon, Whoopi Goldberg, John Goodman, David Letterman, Jon Lovitz, Rob Reiner, Paul Shaffer, Martin Short, Joe Torre, Barbara Walters and Robin Williams.
George Carlin died on June 22, 2008, just four days after it had been announced he would be that year's honoree. Commentators wondered whether there would be alterations to the presentation, but after consultations with both Carlin's family and PBS, the ceremony took place as scheduled, with no major changes to the presentation format.
Bill Cosby accepted his award at the Kennedy Center on October 26, 2009. He had twice refused the honor, stating that he was disappointed with the profanity used in the inaugural ceremony honoring Richard Pryor. After Cosby was convicted of sexual assault on April 26, 2018, the center stripped Cosby of his award and his 1998 Kennedy Center Honors.
Recipients of the Mark Twain PrizeEdit
- 1998 – Richard Pryor
- 1999 – Jonathan Winters
- 2000 – Carl Reiner
- 2001 – Whoopi Goldberg
- 2002 – Bob Newhart
- 2003 – Lily Tomlin
- 2004 – Lorne Michaels
- 2005 – Steve Martin
- 2006 – Neil Simon
- 2007 – Billy Crystal
- 2008 – George Carlin – the only posthumous award, due to the timing of Carlin's death
- 2009 – Bill Cosby – rescinded in 2018.
- 2010 – Tina Fey
- 2011 – Will Ferrell
- 2012 – Ellen DeGeneres
- 2013 – Carol Burnett
- 2014 – Jay Leno
- 2015 – Eddie Murphy
- 2016 – Bill Murray
- 2017 – David Letterman
- 2018 – Julia Louis-Dreyfus – announced; ceremony scheduled for October 21
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- Mary Daily, Carol Burnett: UCLA's class clown takes national honors, UCLA Today, October 22, 2013
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- Itzkoff, Dave (16 May 2017). "David Letterman Wins Mark Twain Prize for American Humor". New York Times.
- Rao, Sonia (23 May 2018). "Julia Louis-Dreyfus to receive the 2018 Mark Twain Prize for American Humor". The Washington Post.