The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts this week announced that Jay Leno will be awarded this year’s Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. A ceremony to award Leno the prize will be held on October 19 at Kennedy Center Concert Hall in Washington D.C.
The Mark Twain Prize is an annual award given to comedians who have impacted American society in a similar way to 19th century satirist Mark Twain. Twain is best known for novels such as Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court. Twain’s novels provided both an accurate portrait and a scathing, humorous critique of post-Civil War America.
“What an honor! I’m a big fan of Mark Twain’s,” said Leno. “In fact, A Tale of Two Cities is one of my favorite books!”
— The Kennedy Center (@kencen) June 18, 2014
Leno is best known as the host of the The Tonight Show, having taken over the show’s hosting duties from Johnny Carson in 1992.
Leno will be the 17th comedian to be awarded the Mark Twain Prize. Past recipients of the award include comedy legends such as Carol Burnett, Bill Cosby, George Carlin, Steve Martin, Lily Tomlin, Bob Newhart, and the recently deceased Jonathan Winters. Contemporary comedians such as Ellen DeGeneres, Will Ferrell, and Tina Fey have also been awarded the prize. The first recipient of the Mark Twain Prize in 1998 was Richard Pryor.
Mark Twain Prize ceremonies typically feature other famous comedians who gather to praise the recipient’s work and life. The ceremony also serves as a fundraiser for the Kennedy Center. “Sponsorship” packages for this year’s event are available from anywhere between $1,000 to $50,000 and include perks such as admission to a rehearsal brunch, a pre-ceremony dinner, and a post-ceremony reception with Leno and other comedians.
Tickets for this year’s ceremony will be available for Kennedy Center Members starting July 28 and for the general public starting August 6. The ceremony will also be taped for a PBS broadcast on November 23.
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