Mark Twain, Buster Keaton, Dorothy Parker, Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor . . . American history is filled with countless comedians and writers of piercing wit who have left their mark on our ideas, attitudes, and language. Each year the Kennedy Center dedicates one evening to honor the brilliant minds that elbow American culture to see if it's still alive - and make us laugh about it. The Kennedy Center's Mark Twain Prize is a tribute to the schtick, gags, wry anecdotes, and unflinching observations that remind us that we are human.
For a man who gleefully named characters Spinal Meningitis Snodgrass or Huckleberry, Mark Twain was always painfully aware of what he called "the baseness and hypocrisy and cruelties" of the human race. Twain's humor was always a thin veil, if any, of his social criticisms. His fearless observations outraged many while delighting many more. In this spirit, the Kennedy Center concludes the Celebration of American Humor with the annual Mark Twain Prize, an award that recognizes an artist who has made a significant contribution to American humor.
The recipient is selected by The Kennedy Center board of trustees.
The proceeds of the evening, given in the name of each year's recipient, are administered by the Kennedy Center Education Department in the form of grants to nurture the talent of young American humorists.
The Mark Twain Prize is a production of WETA, The Kennedy Center, Bob Kaminsky, Peter Kaminsky, Mark Krantz and Cappy McGarr.