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Jay Leno will receive the Kennedy Center's Mark Twain Prize for American Humor

The Kennedy Center announced today that former Tonight Show host Jay Leno will receive its 17th annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, comedy’s highest honor. (Past recipients include Carol Burnett, Bill Cosby, George Carlin, Lily Tomlin, and Bob Newhart.) The award will be presented at a ceremony to be held Sunday, Oct. 19 in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall; it will air nationwide on PBS stations Nov. 23.

“Like Mark Twain, Jay Leno has offered us a lifetime’s worth of humorous commentary on American daily life,” Kennedy Center chairman David Rubenstein said while announcing the award. “For both men, no one was too high or too low to escape their wit, and we are all the better for it.”

“What an honor!” Leno quipped in a statement. “I’m a big fan of Mark Twain’s. In fact, A Tale of Two Cities is one of my favorite books!”

The comedian got his start in standup and went on to host NBC’s Tonight Show in 1992, taking over for the retired Johnny Carson. He stuck with late night’s longest-lived franchise (on and off) until February of this year, when he formally retired from Tonight. Throughout his TV career, Leno has kept up a relentless touring schedule, making over 100 live appearances at venues across the country each year.

When asked for comment about Leno’s award, the comedy community… had a few things to say.

Carol Burnett receives top U.S. humor prize

When Carol Burnett launched her namesake variety show in the 1960s, one TV executive told her the genre was “a man’s game.” She proved him wrong with an 11-year run that averaged 30 million viewers each week.

On Sunday, the trailblazing comedienne received the nation’s top humor prize at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Top entertainers including Julie Andrews, Tony Bennett, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, and others performed in Burnett’s honor as she received the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.

The show will be taped and broadcast Nov. 24 on PBS stations. READ FULL STORY

Jimmy Kimmel, Kristin Chenoweth to honor Ellen DeGeneres at Mark Twain Prize ceremony

Get ready for some dancing in Washington, D.C.

The celebrity speakers celebrating Ellen DeGeneres when she wins the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor later this month have been announced, and much like DeGeneres’ eclectic show biz credits, it’s a wide array of performers. The event will feature fellow talk show hosts Jimmy Kimmel and Steve Harvey, musicians like Jason Mraz and Kristin Chenoweth, actors including John Krasinski and Sean Hayes, and living comedy legend Lily Tomlin (who herself won the prize in 2003). The show will tape Oct. 22 at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. and highlights will air on PBS Oct. 30.

In addition to her Emmy-winning daily talk show, DeGeneres — the fourth woman to win the prize — is a successful stand-up comic. She began her career as a comedy club emcee in her native New Orleans. Soon after, she became the first female comedian stopping by Johnny Carson’s desk to chat, according to the AP. On her sitcom Ellen in the ’90s, she broke ground when both she and her character came out as lesbian. In addition to being an American Idol judge for one season, she’s also hosted both the Emmy Awards and the Academy Awards.

Read more:
Will Ferrell brings the funny at his Mark Twain Prize awards ceremony
FunnyOrDie congratulates Will Ferrell on Mark Twain Prize: VIDEO
Will Ferrell to receive Mark Twain Prize for Comedy. What’s his best role?

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