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The 18th Annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor

On Sunday, October 18, 2015, Dave Chappelle, Whitney Cummings, Kathy Griffin, Arsenio Hall, Sam Moore, Kevin Nealon, Trevor Noah, Jay Pharoah, Joe Piscopo, Chris Rock and Other Special Guests will gather in the Kennedy Center Concert Hall to salute Eddie Murphy, recipient of the 18th 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.

Upon learning he will receive the Mark Twain Prize, Eddie Murphy commented, "I am deeply honored to receive this recognition from the Kennedy Center and to join the distinguished list of past recipients of this award."

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. Single tickets and 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. Murphy and other esteemed guests at the $25,000 level and above. Packages begin at $5,000 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 a post-show reception with the cast.

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

About Eddie Murphy

Eddie Murphy is the most commercially successful African American actor in the history of the motion picture business, and is one of the industry’s top-five box office performers overall. Murphy is on the very short list of actors who have starred in multiple $100 million pictures over the past three decades, from Beverly Hills Cop to Daddy Day Care. He is also the voice of Donkey in the Oscar®-winning animated film Shrek and its sequel, Shrek 2, which is the top-grossing animated film of all time. Murphy won an Annie Award and earned BAFTA and MTV Movie Award nominations for his performance in the first Shrek, and reprised the role of Donkey in the final installment of the hugely successful franchise, Shrek Goes Fourth. Murphy began his career as a stand-up comedian nearly 40 years ago. In 1980, at the age of 19, he joined the cast of Saturday Night Live, and has since gone on to establish a successful career on the big screen. His films have been among the highest-grossing comedies in the industry, including 48 Hrs., Trading Places, Dr. Dolittle, Coming to America and the Beverly Hills Cop franchise. Murphy garnered Golden Globe Award nominations for Best Actor in a Comedy for his performances in Beverly Hills Cop, Trading Places and 48 Hrs. In 1989, Murphy made his directorial debut with Harlem Nights, a period comedy he also wrote and starred in, opposite Richard Pryor and Redd Foxx. In addition, Murphy starred in and produced the hit comedy Life co-starring Martin Lawrence, and starred opposite Steve Martin in the comedy Bowfinger. He was also the voice of Mushu the Dragon in the successful animated epic Mulan. In 2007, Murphy received rave reviews and critical acclaim for his portrayal of James "Thunder" Early in the Dreamworks film Dreamgirls, a performance which would garner him the Golden Globe®, Screen Actors Guild, and Broadcast Film Critics Association Awardsfor Best Supporting Actor in a Motion Picture as well as earning him his first Academy Award® nomination in the same category.

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 characters, Samuel Clemens was a fearless observer of society, who startled 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 event is created by the Kennedy Center, and executive producers Mark Krantz, Bob Kaminsky, Peter Kaminsky, and Cappy McGarr. The Kennedy Center established The Mark Twain Prize for American Humor in October 1998, and it has been televised annually. Recipients of the Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize have been 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), and Carol Burnett (2013).

History of the Mark Twain Prize

Richard Pryor

The first annual Kennedy Center Celebration of American Humor took place at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts on Sunday, October 18 through October 20, 1998. The celebration included lectures, symposia, and master classes, and culminated in the Concert Hall on Tuesday, October 20, 1998 when Richard Pryor was presented with the inaugural Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize, named after one of the world's greatest exponents of humor. The program featured a gathering of leading American artists including Chris Rock, Morgan Freeman, Danny Glover, Whoopi Goldberg, Damon Wayans, and Robin Williams.

As a social commentator, satirist and creator of memorable characters, Samuel Clemens – the distinguished 19th century novelist and essayist also known as Mark Twain – was a fearless observer of society, who outraged many while delighting and informing many more with his uncompromising perspective of social injustice and personal folly.

Past Winners

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Event Information:

Sunday, October 18, 2015
Kennedy Center Concert Hall

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