The Kennedy Center

David Letterman 20th Annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor celebrating David Letterman Sunday, October 22, 2017

Event Information:

Mark Twain Prize at the Kennedy Center
Date and Time:
Sunday, October 22, 2017, 8:00 PM
Kennedy Center Concert Hall
Individual tickets for this performance have sold out. Check back for last-minute ticket availability.

TV Tune in

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

To Make Reservations:

Call: (202) 416-8335
Fax: (202) 416-8325

Sponsorship Levels and Benefits



Bill Murray, Eddie Vedder, Jimmie Walker, Jimmy Kimmel, John Mulaney Martin Short, Paul Shaffer, Sarah Silverman, Steve Martin

Bill Murray
Eddie Vedder

Jimmy Kimmel
John Mulaney

Martin Short
Paul Shaffer

Sarah Silverman
Steve Martin

Watch a Playlist of Past Mark Twain Prize Videos

On Sunday, October 22, 2017, an outstanding lineup of entertainers will gather 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, will be given at a gala performance featuring some of the biggest names in comedy, and will be taped for broadcast nationwide.

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 Mr. Letterman 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.

The Mark Twain Prize continues to grow in popularity, and this year's event is expected to sell out quickly. Sponsorship packages are the best way to secure premium access to all of the evening’s festivities. To confirm your participation, please contact the Special Events office at (202) 416-8335 or Individual tickets for this performance have sold out. Patrons may call the box office or check regularly online for last-minute ticket availability.

About David Letterman

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.

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 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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