Dave Chappelle to Receive Mark Twain Award for Humor

Comedian Dave Chappelle will receive the 22nd annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor later this year at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts’ Concert Hall in Washington, DC.

In its May 7 announcement, the Kennedy Center called Chappelle a “no-holds-barred comedian” who “could always make people laugh.” The award “recognizes individuals who have had an impact on American society” as Mark Twain did. “Dave is the embodiment of Mark Twain’s observation that ‘against the assault of humor, nothing can stand.’ For three decades, Dave has challenged us to see hot-button issues from his entirely original yet relatable perspective,” said Kennedy Center President Deborah F. Rutter in a statement. “Dave’s a great guy and a hometown hero here in Washington, DC, where he grew up. We’re so looking forward to welcoming him back home.”

The award was given to comedian and actress Julia Louis-Dreyfus last year. Other comedians who have won the award include David Letterman, Bill Murray, Eddie Murphy, and Whoopi Goldberg. The first award was given to Richard Pryor in 1998, according to the Kennedy Center’s website. In 2018, the center rescinded its 1998 Honors award and 2009 Mark Twain Prize to Bill Cosby after he was convicted of sexual assault, the Washington Post previously reported.

Chappelle has won several awards for his comedy over the years. The comedian won two Emmys, one for Outstanding Guest in a Comedy Series for hosting an episode of Saturday Night Live in 2017 and another for Outstanding Variety Special for his Netflix show Dave Chappelle: Equanimity in 2018.

The Kennedy Center called Chappelle’s debut Saturday Night Live appearance, in which he delivered a “memorable, panoramic monologue” four days after the election of President Donald Trump, as “the comic relief the country needed following the 2016 presidential election that reflected our nation's deep racial divide.”

In 2003, Chappelle created the sketch comedy show The Chappelle Show, which became one of the highest rated programs on Comedy Central and was nominated for three Emmys, it also became the best-selling TV show in DVD history. The comedian and actor has also appeared in feature films like A Star is Born, Spike Lee’s Chi-Raq, The Nutty Professor, Half Baked, and Robin Hood: Men in Tights. He also wrote and starred in the documentary Dave Chappelle’s Block Party, which had a theatrical release in 2005.

The stand-up comedian recorded his first hour-long special in 2000, Dave Chappelle: Killin' Them Softly, and followed with Dave Chappelle: For What It's Worth in 2004. In March 2017, Chappelle aired two stand-up specials on Netflix, The Age of Spin and Deep in the Heart of Texas. He released two other specials by the end of 2017, Equanimity and The Bird Revelation, according to the Kennedy Center.

Rolling Stone listed Chappelle as number nine on its 50 Best Stand-Up Comics of All Time list, stating that the comedian “talks race, celebrity and politics in a way that belies the incisive and ferocious nature of his observations.”

Chappelle will be given the award on October 27, at a gala in Washington, DC with performances from other comedians across the world, according to the Kennedy Center’s statement. The program will be broadcast on PBS stations on January 6, 2020.

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in the various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.