It’s the first time there will be no Mark Twain Prize given out since The Kennedy Center launched the prestigious honor for comedians in 1998.
“Our lives as we have known them have been upended by COVID-19, but the world continues to spin forward and we need artists now more than ever to help light the way,” said Kennedy Center President Deborah Rutter. “I am deeply proud of our staff and artists who have been forging new digital stages for audiences in the nation’s capital and across the country, and I am equally excited by the work being done to safely allow us to experience the arts once again in person as well. For our patrons with tickets to fall performances, we do ask for your patience and flexibility as we readjust season schedules.”
The Kennedy Center’s signature, nationally televised, annual fall events have been postponed. The 43rd annual Kennedy Center Honors will take place on March 7, 2021, and air at a later date on CBS. The 23rd Mark Twain Prize for American Humor will be presented on June 20, 2021, prior to a later broadcast on PBS. The National Symphony Orchestra (NSO) Opening Night Gala, scheduled for September 26, 2020, will not be held. Instead, the orchestra will be launching a special effort to support the NSO as it celebrates its 90th season in 2020-2021.
Dave Chappelle received the Mark Twain Prize in 2019.
Previous recipients have included 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) Carol Burnett (2013) Jay Leno (2014) Eddie Murphy (2015) Bill Murray (2016) David Letterman (2017) Julia Louis-Dreyfus (2018) and Chappelle (2019). The Kennedy Center rescinded Cosby’s award in 2018.