Mark Twain Prize for American Humor

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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
Official website http://www.kennedy-center.org/programs/specialevents/marktwain/

The Mark Twain Prize for American Humor is America’s foremost award for humor, and has been 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 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]

Recipients of the Twain Prize receive a copy of an 1884 bronze portrait bust of Mark Twain sculpted by Karl Gerhardt (1853-1940).[2]

Award history[edit]

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. [3]

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. For the first time in 10 years, 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 the Kennedy Center announced he would be that year's honoree and at first, and commentators wondered whether there would be alterations to the presentation.[4] After consulting with both Carlin's family and PBS, the ceremony took place as scheduled, with no major changes in the presentation format.[5]

Bill Cosby, the 2009 recipient, accepted his award at the Kennedy Center on October 26, 2009.[6] He had twice refused the honor, stating that he was disappointed with the profanity used in the inaugural ceremony honoring Richard Pryor.[7][8]

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

Recipients of The Mark Twain Prize[edit]

Left: Richard Pryor was the first recipient of Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. Middle: Bill Cosby received the award in 2009. Right: Tina Fey is the youngest recipient of the award.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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