The Kennedy Center

David Letterman 20th Annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor celebrating David Letterman Airs Monday, November 20 at 8pm ET on PBS

Overview

Featuring

Amy Schumer, Bill Murray, Norm Macdonald, Eddie Vedder, John Mulaney, Paul Shaffer

Jimmy Kimmel
Steve Martin
Martin Short
Jimmie Walker
Al Franken
Amy Schumer
Bill Murray
Norm Macdonald
Eddie Vedder
John Mulaney
Paul Shaffer

Jimmy Kimmel, Steve Martin, Martin Short, Jimmie Walker, Al Franken

Jimmy Kimmel
Steve Martin
Martin Short
Jimmie Walker
Al Franken
Amy Schumer
Bill Murray
Norm Macdonald
Eddie Vedder
John Mulaney
Paul Shaffer

TV Tune in

Monday, November 20, 8pm ET on your local PBS station.

Watch a Playlist of Mark Twain Prize Videos

Celebrating David Letterman

On Sunday, October 22, 2017, an outstanding lineup of entertainers gathered in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall to salute David Letterman, recipient of the 20th 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 some of the biggest names in comedy, and taped for broadcast nationwide.

In addition to honoring this country's greatest comedians, the Mark Twain Prizealso 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.

Late Night Legend

Over 33 years on late-night television, David Letterman hosted 6,028 episodes of Late Night (NBC) and The Late Show (CBS), and was the longest-running late-night broadcaster in American history. As a writer, performer, and producer, Letterman is one of the most-nominated individuals in Emmy Award® history, with 52 nominations, resulting in 10 wins. Letterman is also a two-time Peabody-Award winner and a Kennedy Center Honoree.

Born and raised in Indianapolis, Letterman's first network break came as a writer in 1978 on the CBS variety series Mary, starring Mary Tyler Moore. In November of that year, he made the first of his 22 appearances on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, which he also guest-hosted numerous times. In 1980, Letterman began hosting a morning comedy-variety program, The David Letterman Show, which ran for three months on NBC. His groundbreaking show Late Night with David Letterman premiered in February 1982. Throughout its 11 years, Late Night earned five Emmys and 35 Emmy nominations. It was recently named as one of the top 20 greatest TV shows of all time by Rolling Stone.

On August 30, 1993, the Late Show with David Letterman made its debut on CBS, establishing itself as the first successful comedy/variety show in late night, outside of NBC. In its 22 years at CBS, Late Show launched the careers of countless comedians and musical acts. From his roots in comedy, Letterman also distinguished himself as an interviewer, sharing the stage with the U.S. Presidents, Cabinet officials, Medal of Honor recipients, and virtually every Presidential candidate for more than 20 years. Through his guest interviews, Letterman also brought to light important global issues such as world hunger and climate change.

Letterman announced his departure from Late Show in 2014, and aired his final episode on May 20th, 2015, to an audience of 13.76 million people.

David Letterman is 70, and resides in New York with his wife Regina and son Harry.

Two Decades of the Mark Twain Prize

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), Eddie Murphy (2015) and Bill Murray (2016) .

Past Recipients of the Mark Twain Prize

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