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Jay Leno to Receive Kennedy Center’s Mark Twain Prize for American Humor

WASHINGTON — Comedian Jay Leno has been tapped by the Kennedy Center to receive this year’s Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.

The award will be presented Oct. 19 at a Kennedy Center ceremony to be broadcast Nov. 23 on PBS stations. The comedy award, in its 17th year, will again feature a format of video clips embellished with light roasting from a parade of comics and other celebs at the Kennedy Center’s Concert Hall. The talent lineup will be announced later.

“Like Mark Twain, Jay Leno has offered us a lifetime’s worth of humorous commentary on American daily life,” said Kennedy Center chairman David M. Rubenstein. “For both men, no one was too high or too low to escape their wit, and we are all the better for it.”

Leno remarked on hearing his selection that he is a “big fan” of humorist Twain. “In fact, ‘A Tale of Two Cities’ is one of my favorite books!”

Leno ended his 22-year run as host of NBC’s “The Tonight Show” in February. He remains one of the biz’s most active standup comedians, playing some 300-plus dates per year even while he was holding down the “Tonight” desk.

The Twain Prize special will be exec produced for the KenCen by Bob Kaminsky, Peter Kaminsky, Mark Krantz and Cappy McGarr. Previous recipients of the kudo include Richard Pryor, Jonathan Winters, Carl Reiner, Whoopi Goldberg, Bob Newhart, Lily Tomlin, Lorne Michaels, Steve Martin, Neil Simon, Billy Crystal, George Carlin, Bill Cosby, Tina Fey, Will Ferrell and Ellen DeGeneres and last year’s honoree, Carol Burnett.

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