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Mark Twain The Eleventh Annual Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize celebrating the life and humor of George Carlin
Mark Twain
About the Show
Recipient George Carlin
All-Star Cast
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The All-Star Cast


An all-star cast of actors, performers and musicians celebrated the life and humor of George Carlin.

Richard Belzer

Lewis Black

Margaret Cho

Ben E. King

Denis Leary

Bill Maher

Joan Rivers

Garry Shandling

Jon Stewart

Lily Tomlin

Richard Belzer
Richard Belzer
Photo: Scott Suchman

Richard Belzer, veteran standup comic, actor, talkshow host, and author, was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Due to his “uncontrollable wit,” Belzer was politely asked to leave every school he ever attended.

Belzer began his career in show business with a starring role in Groove Tube, the counterculture film that went on to become a cult classic. Since then, Belzer’s comedic talents have been featured in every entertainment medium from Off-Broadway (The National Lampoon Show with Bill Murray, Gilda Radner, and John Belushi) to radio (“Brink and Belzer” on WNBC) to film (Fame,Author, Author, Night Shift and Scarface). He also appeared as himself in the Andy Kaufman biopic Man on the Moon. His other film credits include Species II, Get on the Bus, Girl 6, A Very Brady Sequel, North, The Bonfire of the Vanities, and The Big Picture. Additionally, Belzer starred in his own HBO comedy special Another Lone Nut, and released a comedy CD of the same title. He starred in the six-part comedy Showtime series The Richard Belzer Show, hosted the live Lifetime talk show, “Hot Properties,” and Court TV’s “Crime Stories.”

Richard Belzer continues to play Detective John Munch on Wolf Films/ Universal Media Studio’s “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” after first portraying Munch on NBC’s critically acclaimed drama series “Homicide: Life on the Street” for seven years.

Belzer and his wife, actress Harlee McBride, live in New York City while filming the series and in France during the remainder of the year.

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Lewis Black
Lewis Black
Photo: Scott Suchman

Lewis Black was born in Washington, DC and raised in Silver Spring, MD. He received degrees from the University of North Carolina and Yale Drama School.

In 1996 his friend tapped him to create a weekly segment for a show she was producing on Comedy Central called “The Daily Show.” The segment, a three minute rant about whatever was bothering him at the moment, evolved into “Back in Black.” It became one of the most popular and longest running segments on the show and also created a long and successful relationship with the network. Since then, Lewis has taped four specials for the Comedy Central Presents series, co-created “Last Laugh with Lewis Black,” presides over “Lewis Black’s the Root of All Evil,” and continues to perform “Back in Black” on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”

Black performs over 200 nights a year throughout Europe, New Zealand, Canada, and The United States. He is one of few performers to sell out multiple, renowned theaters, including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Brooks Atkinson Theatre, New York City Center ,and the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. In August 2007 he was the first stand-up comedian to ever perform in concert at the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles.

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Margaret Cho
Margaret Cho
Photo: Scott Suchman

Margaret Cho was born December 5, 1968 and raised in San Francisco. Margaret started performing stand-up at age 16 in a comedy club above a bookstore her parents ran.

In her early 20s, Cho hit the college circuit, where she immediately became the most booked act in the market and garnered a nomination for Campus Comedian of The Year. Arsenio Hall introduced her to late night audiences, Bob Hope put her on a prime time special and, seemingly overnight, Margaret Cho became a national celebrity. In 1994 she gained more visibility with her short-lived sitcom “All American Girl.”

In 1999 Margaret chronicled her experience on the sitcom in an Off- Broadway, one-woman show called I’m The One That I Want. The show toured the U.S. and was made into a concert-film and a best-selling book of the same name. After the success of her first show, Margaret launched Notorious C.H.O. in 2001, a 37-city national tour that was also recorded and released as a feature film. Margaret Cho embarked on her third sold-out national tour, Revolution, in 2003. The CD of Revolution was nominated for a Grammy for best comedy album of the year for 2003.

In 2004 Margaret took her politically charged State of Emergency tour through the swing states of the Presidential election. Her most political and topical work to date, Assassin, toured the U.S., Canada, and Australia and was filmed at the Warner Theatre in Washington, DC.

This year Margaret returned to her stand-up roots with a brand new tour, Beautiful. Her latest television venture, “The Cho Show,” airs on VH1.

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Ben E. King
Ben E. King
Photo: Scott Suchman

Ben E. King is a legendary Motown recording artist. Born in Henderson, North Carolina, Ben E. King had his first formal musical experience in hometown church choirs.

In 1961 after a wealth of hits with the Drifters, Ben E. King recorded “Spanish Harlem,” as a solo artist. The song became one of the year’s biggest hits, earning Ben E. the title of the outstanding vocalist of the year. “Stand by Me,” his next hit, went straight to Number 1 on the Charts. When it was rereleased in 1986 along with the movie of the same name, an entire new generation of fans was introduced to the voice that was responsible for such hits as “Amore,” “This Magic Moment,” “Save the Last Dance for Me,” “There Goes My Baby.” “Stand by Me” has also been used in many commercials by major corporations including Citibank and Buick. Walt Disney Pictures made “Stand by Me” into an animated short film with the characters from the Lion King.

Ben E. King was one of the original inductees of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Ohio. He continues to tour world-wide, makes frequent television appearances, and performed at President Clinton’s inauguration. He also is the founder and head of the Ben E. King Stand By Me Foundation, which generates funds for musical scholarships, educational programs, and other programs for young people in need.

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Denis Leary
Denis Leary
Photo: Scott Suchman

Denis Leary is a five-time nominee at the Academy of Television Arts & Science’s annual Emmy Awards. Most recently he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor In A Miniseries Or Movie for his role as Michael Whouley in HBO’s Recount.

Denis was nominated four times for Best Actor In A Drama and once for Best Writing In A Drama, for his work on FX’s critically acclaimed “Rescue Me.”

He was also nominated for a Best Actor Golden Globe by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association for the drama, hich follows New York City firefighters.

In 2006 he was given an Honorary Doctorate in the Fine Arts from his alma mater Emerson College, located in Boston, Massachusetts.

This month, his new book Why We Suck – A Feel Good Guide To Staying Fat, Loud, Lazy And Stupid, will be published by Viking Press.

Leary, a native of Worcester, Massachusetts, founded The Leary Firefighters Foundation in response to the 1999 warehouse fire in downtown Worcester that killed six firefighters, including his cousin. In the wake of September 11, 2001, The Foundation raised and distributed $1.9 million to the families of the 343 firefighters who perished in the greatest rescue operation in history, and has since made additional gifts to families that have suffered line of duty deaths, including the January, 2005 fire in New York City. Since it’s inception in 2000, The Foundation has gifted over $7 million to crucial equipment and training programs.

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Bill Maher
Bill Maher
Photo: Scott Suchman

For the last 15 years, Bill Maher has set the boundaries of where funny, political talk can go on American television. First on “Politically Incorrect” (Comedy Central, ABC, 1993–2002), and for the last six years on HBO’s Real Time, Maher’s combination of unflinching honesty and big laughs have garnered him 21 Emmy nominations. Religulous, directed by Larry Charles (Borat) hit theaters last month.

In addition to his television program, Maher has written four bestsellers: True Story, Does Anybody Have a Problem with That?, Politically Incorrect’s Greatest Hits, When You Ride Alone, You Ride with Bin Laden, and most recently, New Rules: Polite Musings from a Timid Observer.

Maher started his career as a stand-up comedian in 1979 and still performs at least 50 dates a year in Las Vegas and in sold out theaters all across the country. Two of his eight stand-up specials for HBO—2007’s The Decider and 2005’s I’m Swiss—have been nominated for Emmy Awards.

Maher was born in New York City, raised in River Vale, NJ, and went to Cornell University. He now resides in Los Angeles.

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Joan Rivers
Joan Rivers
Photo: Scott Suchman

Joan Rivers is a Comedienne; Tony-nominated actress; best-selling author; Emmy Award-winning television talk show host; playwright; screenwriter; motion picture director; columnist; lecturer; syndicated radio host; jewelry designer and cosmetic company entrepreneur; red-carpet fashion laureate; businesswoman and, most importantly to her, mother and grandmother. She is exhausted!

The daughter of immigrant Russian parents, Joan created her own brand of irreverent, unconventional comedy to forge her remarkable rise to stardom in the entertainment world. Joan’s career skyrocketed in 1968 when she appeared on “The Tonight Show.” Within three years she was hosting “That Show With Joan Rivers,” one of the first syndicated daytime shows, and went on to become the first sole guest host of “The Tonight Show.” Her own “The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers” helped launch the Fox Network in 1986. In 1989 she returned to daytime television with “The Joan Rivers Show,” winning an Emmy Award for Outstanding Talk Show Host the following year, and her own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

In 1990 she launched the Joan Rivers Classics Collection of fashion jewelry on QVC. She won an ACE Award from the Accessories Council in 1997, and continues to achieve unprecedented success with a record-breaking $500 million plus in sales to date. In 2000 she launched The Joan Rivers Beauty Line, a continually expanding line of products on QVC.

Along with her daughter Melissa, she hosted E!’s red-carpet events from 1996–2004. From 2004–2007 they continued their “must-see” red-carpet coverage for the TV Guide Channel, garnering the highest ratings ever for the channel.

Of course, her most joyous triumph is being grandmother to Melissa’s son, Cooper.

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Garry Shandling
Garry Shandling
Photo: Scott Suchman

Garry Shandling is a well-known American comedian, actor, and writer. After graduating college in Arizona, Garry moved to Los Angeles and began his show business career in 1977 as a writer for “Sanford and Son” and “Welcome Back Kotter.” While he was writing television pilots, he realized he wanted to try standup comedy.

By 1981 Shandling made his first appearance on “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson” which changed the focus of his career. Shandling went on to guest host the “The Tonight Show” many times. Shandling made his first cable comedy special for Showtime in 1984, and created his first television series, “It’s Garry Shandling’s Show” for the same cable network in 1986. It was nominated for several Emmys and won many Cable Ace Awards.

In 1990 Shandling did his first HBO special, Stand-up. In 1992 Shandling created the Larry Sanders Show for HBO, which ran until 1998 and received a record breaking 78 Emmy nominations. Shandling won the Emmy for best writing in a comedy series the final season of the show.

Shandling hosted the Emmy Awards in 2000 and 2004. Shandling has served as host of the Grammy Awards three times.

His voice was most recently heard in the 2006 DreamWorks’ animated feature, Over the Hedge which grossed $317 million worldwide.

Shandling recently released a Special Edition DVD, Retrospective of The LarrySanders Show.

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Jon Stewart
Jon Stewart
Photo: Scott Suchman

Jon Stewart is considered one of America’s top social and comedic voices. Over the past 10 years, Stewart has redefined political satire in Amer-ican culture from his perch atop the anchor chair on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.”

To date, Stewart and “The Daily Show” have received 22 Emmy Award nominations and won 10.

In 2001 “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” received the prestigious Peabody Award for excellence in its “Indecision 2000” campaign coverage and again in 2005 for “Indecision 2004.”

In 2004 Warner Books published AMERICA (THE BOOK): A Citizen’s Guide to Democracy Inaction and it immediately topped The New York Times Best Seller List, staying at #1 for 18 consecutive weeks, ending the year as a top 15 best-seller. Additionally, AMERICA was given the prestigious book of the year award in 2004 by Publishers Weekly. In addition to this, at the 2005 Grammy awards, both Jon and the Cast of “The Daily Show” were honored with Best Comedy Album, for AMERICA: A Citizen’s Guide to Democracy Inaction.

Stewart, his wife and two children reside in the New York metropolitan area.

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Lily Tomlin
Lily Tomlin
Photo: Scott Suchman

Lily Tomlin, one of America’s foremost comediennes, continues to venture across an ever widening range of media, starring in television, theater, motion pictures, animation, and video. Throughout her extraordinary entertainment career, Tomlin has received numerous awards, including: six Emmys; a Tony for her one woman Broadway show, Appearing Nitely; a second Tony as Best Actress, Drama Desk Award, and Outer Critics’ Circle Award for her one woman performance in Jane Wagner’s The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe; a CableACE Award for Executive Producing the film adaptation of The Search; a Grammy for her comedy album, This is a Recording, as well as nominations for her subsequent albums Modern Scream, And That’s the Truth, and OnStage; and two Peabody Awards—the first for the ABC television special, “Edith Ann’s Christmas: Just Say Noël” and the second for narrating and executive producing the HBO film, The Celluloid Closet.

In December 1969 Tomlin joined the cast of the top-rated “Laugh-In” and immediately rose to national prominence with her characterizations of Ernestine, the irascible telephone operator, and Edith Ann, the devilish six-year-old.

Tomlin had a number of successful movie roles in the 1970s and 1980s, including Robert Altman’s Nashville, which earned her an Academy Award nomination. For her extensive work in film, Tomlin has received the Crystal Award from Women in Film.

In the fall of 2003 she was honored as the 2003 recipient of the prestigious Mark Twain Prize for American Humor in Washington DC.

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About the Show  |   Recipient George Carlin  |   The All-Star Cast  |   Related Links  |   Feedback