The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts will present the 22nd annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor to Dave Chappelle on Oct. 27, 2019 in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall.
As always, an all-star lineup will appear to toast the winner and recap Chappelle’s comedy legacy up til now. The event will be broadcast on PBS on Jan. 6, 2020.
Chappelle began performing as a teenager in D.C., and already had critically-acclaimed stand-up specials before the debut of Chappelle’s Show on Comedy Central in 2003. In recent years, he has won multiple Emmy and Grammy awards for his stand-up “comeback” specials on Netflix (as well as for hosting Saturday Night Live).
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.
Kennedy Center President Deborah F. Rutter said “Dave is the embodiment of Mark Twain’s observation that ‘against the assault of humor, nothing can stand.’ For three decades, Dave has challenged us to see hot-button issues from his entirely original yet relatable perspective. Dave is a hometown hero here in Washington, D.C., where he grew up. We’re so looking forward to welcoming him back home.”
As recipient of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, Chappelle 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Michaels (2004), Steve Martin (2005), Neil Simon (2006), Billy Crystal (2007), George Carlin (2008), Bill Cosby (2009; rescinded in 2018), Tina Fey (2010), Will Ferrell (2011), Ellen DeGeneres (2012), Carol Burnett (2013), Jay Leno (2014), Eddie Murphy (2015), Bill Murray (2016), David Letterman (2017), and Julia Louis-Dreyfus (2018).
“As America’s largest stage for the arts, PBS is proud to continue our longstanding tradition of broadcasting The Mark Twain Prize to households across the country,” said Paula Kerger, PBS President and CEO. “We look forward to celebrating Dave Chappelle and his indelible contributions to American humor.”