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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 Leno

Leno, 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.

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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."

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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


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