Congratulations to Julia Louis-Dreyfus, named today as the 21st annual recipient of The Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.
The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts will present Louis-Dreyfus with her award on Sunday, Oct. 21, 2018 in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall with a gala performance featuring her famous friends and peers.
The Mark Twain Prize for American Humor recognizes individuals who have had an impact on American society in ways similar to the distinguished 19th-century novelist and essayist Samuel Clemens, best known as Mark Twain. As a social commentator, satirist, and creator of characters, Clemens was a fearless observer of society, who startled many while delighting and informing many more with his uncompromising perspective on social injustice and personal folly. He revealed the great truth of humor when he said “against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.”
Kennedy Center President Deborah F. Rutter praised Louis-Dreyfus for her remarkable career achievements. “Like Mark Twain, Julia has enriched American culture with her iconic, unforgettable, and outright hilarious brand of humor. Over four decades, her wildly original characters and her gift for physical comedy have left us in stitches. Julia is a role model for so many, and we look forward to honoring her on October 21.”
Commenting on the prize, Louis-Dreyfus said, “Merely to join the list of distinguished recipients of this award would be honor enough, but, as a student of both American history and literature, the fact that Mr. Twain himself will be presenting the award to me in person is particularly gratifying.”
As recipient of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, Julia Louis-Dreyfus will receive a copy of an 1884 bronze portrait bust of Mark Twain sculpted by Karl Gerhardt (1853–1940). Previous recipients of the Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize are Richard Pryor (1998), Jonathan Winters (1999), Carl Reiner (2000), Whoopi Goldberg (2001), Bob Newhart (2002), Lily Tomlin (2003), Lorne Michaels (2004), Steve Martin (2005), Neil Simon (2006), Billy Crystal (2007), George Carlin (2008), Bill Cosby (2009; rescinded in 2018), Tina Fey (2010), Will Ferrell (2011), Ellen DeGeneres (2012), Carol Burnett (2013), Jay Leno (2014), Eddie Murphy (2015), Bill Murray (2016), and David Letterman (2017). The event has been broadcast nationally every year since the Kennedy Center established the Prize in 1998. The event was created by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Bob Kaminsky, Peter Kaminsky, Mark Krantz, and John Schreiber. The Kennedy Center is grateful to Cappy McGarr for his steadfast support of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor since its inception.