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The Mark Twain Prize for American Humor

The Mark Twain Prize for American Humor

Photo Credit:  PBS
  • Premiered: 
    January 20, 1999
    (Click date to see TV listings for that day)

  • Network: Comedy Central
  • Category: Series
  • Genre: Award
  • Type: Live Action
  • Concept: 
    Created by Mark Krantz, Peter Kaminsky, Bob Kaminsky & Cappy McGarr 
  • Subject Matter: Comedy
  • Tags: celebrity

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Plot Synopsis

Each year since 1998, the Kennedy Center has conferred the Mark Twain Prize to recognize a person who used comedy to impact American society in ways similar to the distinguished 19th century novelist and essayist best known as Mark Twain. Each honoree is presented a copy of an 1884 bronze portrait bust of Mark Twain, sculpted by Karl Gerhardt (1853-1940). The first annual Kennedy Center Celebration of American Humor took place at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on Sunday, October 18 through October 20, 1998. The celebration included lectures, symposia, and master classes, and culminated in the Concert Hall on Tuesday, October 20, 1998 when Richard Pryor was presented with the inaugural Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize. That first ceremony premiered three months later on Comedy Central. The second ceremony, which honored Jonathan Winters, was the last program to air on Comedy Central, and the Mark Twain Prize then switched to PBS for the 2000 awards program, where it has aired annually since.
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts presents the 22nd annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor to Dave Chappelle at event held on Sunday, October 27, 2019 and first broadcast by PBS on Tuesday, January 7, 2020 at 9pm (check local listings). The 90-minute special pays tribute to the humor and accomplishments of Chappelle, with a lineup of leading performers -- including Neal Brennan, Michael Che, Common, Bradley Cooper, Morgan Freeman, Tiffany Haddish, Colin Jost, John Legend, Lorne Michaels, Q-Tip, Trevor Noah, Sarah Silverman, Jon Stewart, Keenan Thompson and others -- saluting the comedian.

In his acceptance speech Chappelle said, "Standup comedy is an incredibly American genre. I don't think any other country could produce this many comedians. And I don't think there's an opinion that exists in this country that is not represented in a comedy club by somebody...The First Amendment is first for a reason. Second Amendment is just in case the first one doesn't work out."

Chappelle is an internationally recognized stand-up comedian and actor whose trademark wit and sharp, irreverent social commentary explores race, popular culture, sex, drugs, politics and fame. Arguably the most-touring comic on the circuit, Chappelle has performed more than 1,600 concerts worldwide in the past four years.


Other Titles

  • Full title: The Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for American Humor


  • The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts - Washington DC USA - Map It!