Now that he’s retired, Jay Leno can start to reap the rewards of his free time.
Perhaps nothing quite as rewarding as the news this morning that The Kennedy Center has named Leno the 2014 winner of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.
“Like Mark Twain, Jay Leno has offered us a lifetime’s worth of humorous commentary on American daily life,” Kennedy Center chairman David Rubenstein in the press release this morning. “For both men, no one was too high or too low to escape their wit, and we are all the better for it.”
Leno’s official reply? “What an honor! I’m a big fan of Mark Twain’s. In fact, A Tale of Two Cities is one of my favorite books!”
The 17th annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor will be awarded to Leno in a gala ceremony in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall Oct. 19, with a national broadcast on PBS Nov. 23.
Leno, 64, stepped down as host of The Tonight Show earlier this year. He’d taken the job when Johnny Carson retired in 1992, and briefly abdicated in 2009 — hosting a variety hour in primetime instead for NBC before reclaiming the show from Conan O’Brien in 2010.
Past winners include: 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), Tina Fey (2010), Will Ferrell (2011), Ellen DeGeneres (2012), and Carol Burnett (2013).