Mark Twain Prize for American Humor
|Mark Twain Prize for American Humor|
|Awarded for||American humor|
|Presented by||John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts|
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.
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. 
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 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. After consulting with both Carlin's family and PBS, the ceremony took place as scheduled, with no major changes in the presentation format.
Bill Cosby, the 2009 recipient, 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.
Recipients of the Mark Twain Prize
- 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 (posthumously)
- 2009 – Bill Cosby
- 2010 – Tina Fey
- 2011 – Will Ferrell
- 2012 – Ellen DeGeneres
- 2013 – Carol Burnett
- 2014 – Jay Leno
- "The Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for Humor". Kennedy-center.org. Retrieved 2014-06-25.
- Trescott, Jacqueline (June 12, 2008). "Bleep! Bleep! George Carlin To Receive Mark Twain Humor Prize". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2013-09-22.
- "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.
- Itzkoff, Dave (October 27, 2009). "Bill Cosby receives Mark Twain Prize". The New York Times. Retrieved 2013-09-22.
- 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.
- "Tina Fey Celebrated for Being Hilarious | E! Online UK". Eonline.com. 2010-11-09. Retrieved 2013-09-22.
- Powers, Lindsay (2011-12-05). "Will Ferrell to Receive Mark Twain Comedy Prize". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 2013-09-22.
- Jacqueline Trescott (2012-05-16). "Ellen DeGeneres selected to receive Mark Twain Prize for American Humor". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2013-09-22.
- Mary Daily, Carol Burnett: UCLA's class clown takes national honors, UCLA Today, October 22, 2013
- Mark Twain Prize from the Kennedy Center website
- Mark Twain Prize from the PBS website
- Award ceremony videos (from the PBS website):