The Eleventh Annual Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize will air on PBS stations nationwide on Wednesday, February 4, at 9pm ET.
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Taped at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on November 10, the 90-minute special features tributes and comic testimonials from a star-studded cast including Richard Belzer, Lewis Black, Margaret Cho, Ben E. King, Denis Leary, Bill Maher, Joan Rivers, Garry Shandling, Jon Stewart, and Lily Tomlin.
George Carlin combined a once-in-a-lifetime voice, a face that could do anything, and be anyone, an understanding of language that William Safire (or William Shakespeare) would have tipped their hats to and—oh yeah—he was fearlessly funny. Before George passed away, he learned he was receiving the Twain and was genuinely pleased about it.
"Thank you Mr. Twain," said Carlin. "Have your people call my people."
Carlin was a Grammy-winning American stand-up comedian, actor, and author, whose career has spanned more than fifty years. Carlin released twenty-two solo albums and three New York Times best-selling books, which have sold over two million copies. The five-time Emmy nominated actor starred in an unprecedented fourteen HBO Specials and appeared in a wide variety of television and movie roles. He was the first-ever host of Saturday Night Live, and has appeared on The Tonight Show over 130 times.
The Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for American Humor was created in 1998 by The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Mark Krantz, Peter Kaminsky and Bob Kaminsky and John Schreiber to recognize the art of humorists who have had an impact on American society in ways similar to the distinguished 19th century novelist and essayist best known as Mark Twain. As a social commentator, satirist and creator of characters, Samuel Clemens was a fearless observer of society, who startled many while delighting and informing many more with his uncompromising perspective of social injustice and personal folly. He revealed the great truth of humor when he said "against the assault of laughter nothing can stand." Carlin's family will be presented a copy of an 1884 bronze portrait bust of Mark Twain, sculpted by Karl Gerhardt (1853-1940). The bust and its images are courtesy of the Mark Twain House, Hartford, Connecticut.
Major funding for "The Kennedy Center Presents: The 2009 Mark Twain Prize for American Humor," celebrating George Carlin, is provided by Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the Public Broadcasting Service. Corporate sponsor is Merrill Lynch.
A co-production of WETA Washington, D.C.; The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts; Mark Krantz Productions; and Comedia. Executive producers are Dalton Delan, Bob Kaminsky, Peter Kaminsky, Mark Krantz, Michael Kaiser, Cappy McGarr and David Thompson.