The Mark Twain Prize

Tracy Wuster


This year’s Mark Twain Prize for American Humor was awarded to Will Ferrell.  The show airs this week…check your local listings.

from the Kennedy Center website:

About the Mark Twain Prize

Portrait of Mark Twain

“The Mark Twain Prize recognizes people who have had an impact on American society in ways similar to the distinguished 19th century novelist and essayist best known as Mark Twain. As a social commentator, satirist and creator of characters, Samuel Clemens was a fearless observer of society, who startled many while delighting and informing many more with his uncompromising perspective of social injustice and personal folly. He revealed the great truth of humor when he said “against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.”

The event is created by the Kennedy Center, and executive producers Mark Krantz, Bob Kaminsky, Peter Kaminsky, and Cappy McGarr. The Kennedy Center established The Mark Twain Prize for American Humor in October 1998, and it has been televised annually. Recipients of the Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize have been 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), and Tina Fey (2010).”


The award seemingly always generates a good deal of discussion, sometimes consternation, on the Mark Twain Forum discussion list.  Over the years, posters there have suggested others who deserve the award.  I have placed some of these nominated folks in a poll below.

So, here is your chance to have a say in next year’s award–not any sort of say that matters at all, but a say. Vote–it’s your scholarly duty.

Feel free to comment on this year’s show, or to nominate people for next year’s poll…



9 responses

  1. Please leave comments. Who else could/should be nominated for this award?

  2. Of COURSE others will deserve it, but COME ON…Hal Holbroook is should get it NOW…he’s earned it many times over!!!

  3. I don’t even really like his output that much, but Lear is the kind of figure these awards are made for: obvious historical impact with numerous imitators, long career, and social relevance. We all love Allen, but the scandals and certain moments later in his career aren’t helping. Keillor is also worthy, but lacking in popular imprint. And I don’t think you can give it to Stewart or Colbert until after Lear has it.

  4. I watched this presentation on PBS the other night. It happened to be the same day I came across this blog so of course I thought of you.

    I love Will Ferrell’s work and enjoyed the show.

  5. […] you haven’t voted in our poll on who should, theoretically, win the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor next year, then you haven’t completed your, theoretical, duty to American […]

  6. […] in November, we ran a post on Will Ferrell’s winning The Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.  We held a vote on who […]

  7. have both the prize going to will ferrell and ellen degeneres debacles,in 2013 it should go to a real descendant of mark twain’s humor and wit.either woody allen or robin williams or mel brooks or even carol burnett.i would like to see woody allen get it this year,because he has twain’s dry wit and humor.he’s a genius.

  8. For the year 2014,the winner of the Mark Twain Prize should be some one who shares Mr. Twain’s wit and wisdom. Woody Allen,Mel Brooks,Jerry Seinfeld or even the Smothers Brothers.Someone with a folksy sense of humor in today’s world.

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