Watch a Playlist of Mark Twain Prize Videos
On Sunday, October 23, 2016, an outstanding lineup of entertainers gathered in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall to salute Bill Murray, recipient of the 19th annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. The Prize, which is named to honor one of the world's greatest humorists, was given at a gala performance featuring Aziz Ansari, Roy Blount, Jr., Jane Curtin, Miley Cyrus, Bill Hader, Jimmy Kimmel, David Letterman, Steve Martin, Brian Doyle Murray, Ivan Reitman, Paul Shaffer, Emma Stone and Sigourney Weaver and was taped to be broadcast nationwide Friday, October 28 at 9/8c on PBS.
In addition to honoring this country's greatest comedians, the Mark Twain Prize also serves as a major fundraising event—all contributions help support the Center's year-round educational and artistic initiatives that reach millions of students, educators, and families throughout the nation. Sponsorship packages ranging from $500 to $50,000 feature an array of benefits, including an invitation to attend an exclusive Artist Rehearsal Dinner with the Mark Twain Prize winner and other esteemed guests at the $25,000 level and above. Packages begin at $1,200 and include the festive pre-show dinner in a pavilion on the North Plaza, the tribute performance and formal presentation of the Mark Twain Prize in the Concert Hall, and an exclusive post-show reception.
Actor and comedian Bill Murray was born William J. Murray on September 21, 1950, in Wilmette, Illinois. In an attempt to find direction in his life, he joined his older brother, Brian Doyle-Murray, in the cast of Chicago's Second City improvisational comedy troupe. Murray eventually relocated to New York City, where he took his comedic talents to radio's National Lampoon Hour (1973-74) alongside Dan Aykroyd, Gilda Radner, and John Belushi. In 1975, he was in an off-Broadway spin-off of the comedy radio show when Howard Cosell recruited him for a show called Saturday Night Live with Howard Cosell (1975-1976). A year later, producer Lorne Michaels tapped Murray to replace Chevy Chase on a much bigger sensation, NBC's Saturday Night Live (SNL).
From over-the-top Nick the lounge singer on Saturday Night Live to a subtly brilliant Bob Harris Lost in Translation, Bill Murray created unique characters across the comedic spectrum. Laugh through our list and share your favorites.
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 memorable characters, Samuel Clemens was a fearless observer of society, who startled and outraged 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 Inaugural Mark Twain Prize was presented to Richard Pryor during the first annual Kennedy Center Celebration of American Humor, October 20, 1998. The event is created by the Kennedy Center, and executive producers Mark Krantz, Bob Kaminsky, Peter Kaminsky, and Cappy McGarr and is televised annually. Previous recipients of the Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize include 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) and Eddie Murphy (2015).
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