The Kennedy Center’s posthumous presentation of the Mark Twain Prize to George Carlin had the feel of an Irish wake as a who’s who of top comics paid irreverent tribute to the pioneering social satirist on Monday night.Jon Stewart, Lily Tomlin, Bill Maher and Joan Rivers were among those who took part in the raucous event at the Kennedy Center. Carlin was named this year’s Twain Prize recipient in June, one week before his death at age 71.
Presenters also included Lewis Black, Garry Shandling, Denis Leary, Richard Belzer and Margaret Cho. When they weren’t poking fun at Carlin or at frequent target Sarah Palin, comics were praising Carlin’s social criticism and his impact on their own careers.
Shandling reminisced about his experience as a Tucson teenager whose comedic ambitions were assisted by a generous Carlin. “He gave me my start,” Shandling said.
Carlin’s family looked down from a box at the center’s Concert Hall as a parade of video clips spanned the influential comic’s career, including the “Wonderful WINO” routine on “The Jimmy Durante Show” to his infamous “Seven Dirty Words” monologue, which spawned a challenge before the U.S. Supreme Court when a recording of it was played on radio in the early 1970s. Latter was heavily bleeped for the packed aud, drawing predictable outrage from comedian Black.
The Twain Prize, in its 11th year, is produced by Bob Kaminsky and Peter Kaminsky, Mark Krantz, Cappy McGarr and WETA Washington.
Event will air on PBS stations on April 1.