Jay Leno Wins Mark Twain Prize for American Humor

The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts will honor comedian Jay Leno with the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, the nation’s top award for humor, according to the Associated Press.

Jay LenoLeno, 64, has a rich, long-standing career entertaining American audiences. He took over as host for NBC’s The Tonight Show after Johnny Carson stepped down in 1992. Since relinquishing his chair to Jimmy Fallon last February, Leno has created Jay Leno’s Garage, an online series dedicated to his love of cars, and has continued to perform as a stand-up comic across the country.

>> Get travel discounts with your AARP Member Advantages.

The Massachusetts native, who is the first late-night TV host to receive the award, will be honored at a Kennedy Center performance on Oct. 19. PBS will broadcast the festivities on Nov. 23 (check local listings).

Leno said in a statement that he was honored to receive an award in Mark Twain’s name – especially since, he joked, “A Tale of Two Cities is one of my favorite books!”

“Leno and Twain both have turned humor into a national conversation and a national conversation into humor, and I’m also quite confident they drove the same car,” Cappy McGarr, an executive producer of the humor prize, told the AP. “You know, we receive bad news every day, and it’s important for us to keep our humor intact, as difficult as that might be. And thank goodness Jay has contributed to our American humor for a generation and made us keep things in perspective.”

>> Sign up for the AARP Leisure Newsletter

Past winners of the Mark Twain humor prize include Carol Burnett, Ellen DeGeneres, Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, Whoppi Goldberg and Bill Cosby.


Photo: Courtesy of NBC


Also of Interest


See the AARP home page for deals, savings tips, trivia and more


lp952 5pts

This diminishes the meaning & importance of this prize. I have always made a point of watching the awards show...but I'll be skipping this year. Nothing against Leno personally, but there are many other candidates more worthy.

8588 5pts

Leno was the best. During the writers strike, he was the only late nite host who relied on his own wit. He was funny. I miss him. Fallon, Meyers, are not funny. Just SNL clones. Leno got the Boomer perspective on life.

Stoshie 5pts

Mark Twain must be rolling in his grave.  Leno doesn't have half the wit that Twain had, and Leno uses a team of writers to write his stale, barely-funny jokes. Leno is an imitator, not an innovator; he has added nothing to the art of stand-up or to comedy as an art form.  

There are other comedians out there today who are actually pushing comedy forward, and deserve this award far more that Leno does.  Leno is getting the award more for being around as long as he has as for his talent. 

myexper 5pts

Jay Leno is a great entertainer, wonderful person and humanitarian. He deserves this award and many more. Best of luck and keep on going Jay!!!

gershonzvi18 5pts

@myexper  I agree completely. The other comments must be from teen agers.

I watched Jay and was sorry to see him retire.

Stoshie 5pts

@gershonzvi18 @myexper Sorry, I'm in my 60's, and I stand by my comments.  Leno merely imitates stand-up comedians that came before him. He doesn't have an ounce of originality in his act.  He is nothing more than a cheap-rate Henny Youngman or Rodney Dangerfield.  Even an old-timer like Don Rickles has more talent.  You want to see somebody creating truly original comedy, try someone like Louis C.K.