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Mark Twain Prize for American Humor

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 an individual who has made a significant contribution to American humor. The prize is presented and the show is taped in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall in Washington DC, during which the honoree is celebrated by his or her peers. 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.[1]

Mark Twain Prize for American Humor
Awarded for American humor
Country United States
Presented by John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
First awarded 1998
Website Official website

Recipients of the Twain Prize receive a copy of an 1884 bronze portrait bust of Mark Twain sculpted by Karl Gerhardt (1853–1940).[1]


Award historyEdit

The Mark Twain Prize is modeled after this sculpture

The award is the creation of the Kennedy Center along with Bob Kaminsky, Peter Kaminsky, Mark Krantz, and Cappy McGarr, who are also executive producers of the television show.[1]

The first Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for American Humor was presented to comedian Richard Pryor on October 20, 1998.[2] The first two years of The Mark Twain Prize (Richard Pryor and Jonathan Winters) were taped and broadcast on Comedy Central.[2] Since then, the award presentations have been taped for broadcast on PBS.

In 2004 Lorne Michaels became the first, and to date, only recipient of this American Humor prize to be born and raised outside of the United States (Michaels is Canadian-American).

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.[3]

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[4] , but after consultations with both Carlin's family and PBS, the ceremony took place as scheduled, with no major changes to the presentation format.[5]

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.[6][7] The Kennedy Center stripped Cosby of his award and his 1998 Kennedy Center Honors in May 2018 after his conviction for sexual assault.[8]

In 2010, 40-year-old Tina Fey became the youngest person to ever receive the award.[9]

Recipients of the Mark Twain PrizeEdit

Left: Richard Pryor was the first recipient of Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. Middle: As the first woman, Whoopi Goldberg received the award in 2001. Right: Tina Fey is the youngest recipient of the award.

a Carlin's award was presented posthumously.

b Cosby's award was rescinded in 2018.[16]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b c "The Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for Humor". Retrieved 2014-06-25. 
  2. ^ a b de Morales, Lisa (2015-12-01). "TV One to repeat PBS's Mark Twain Prize ceremony honoring Eddit Murphy". Deadline. Retrieved 2017-01-02. 
  3. ^ "Billy Crystal: The Tenth Annual Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize". WETA. Retrieved 2016-02-28. 
  4. ^ Trescott, Jacqueline (June 12, 2008). "Bleep! Bleep! George Carlin To Receive Mark Twain Humor Prize". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2013-09-22. 
  5. ^ "George Carlin becomes first posthumous Mark Twain honoree". Yahoo! News. June 23, 2008. Archived from the original on 2008-06-28. Retrieved 2014-06-25. 
  6. ^ Itzkoff, Dave (October 27, 2009). "Bill Cosby receives Mark Twain Prize". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-09-22. 
  7. ^ Farhi, Paul (2009-10-27). "Bill Cosby is awarded the Twain Prize for humor at the Kennedy Center". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2013-09-22. 
  8. ^ "Bill Cosby's Kennedy Center Honors, Mark Twain Prize Revoked". 2018-05-08. Retrieved 2018-05-08. 
  9. ^ a b "Tina Fey Celebrated for Being Hilarious | E! Online UK". 2010-11-09. Retrieved 2013-09-22. 
  10. ^ Powers, Lindsay (2011-12-05). "Will Ferrell to Receive Mark Twain Comedy Prize". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2013-09-22. 
  11. ^ Jacqueline Trescott (2012-05-16). "Ellen DeGeneres selected to receive Mark Twain Prize for American Humor". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2013-09-22. 
  12. ^ Mary Daily, Carol Burnett: UCLA's class clown takes national honors, UCLA Today, October 22, 2013
  13. ^ Falcone, Dana Rose (April 10, 2015). "Eddie Murphy to receive the Kennedy Center's Mark Twain Prize for American Humor". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 5 November 2015. 
  14. ^ Itzkoff, Dave (16 May 2017). "David Letterman Wins Mark Twain Prize for American Humor". New York Times. 
  15. ^ Rao, Sonia (23 May 2018). "Julia Louis-Dreyfus to receive the 2018 Mark Twain Prize for American Humor". The Washington Post. 
  16. ^ "Kennedy Center rescinds Bill Cosby's Honors and Twain awards". The Washington Post. May 7, 2018. 

External linksEdit