Jon Stewart was honored with the 23rd annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor on Sunday night, during a star-studded program at the Kennedy Center which paid tribute to his expansive comedic career and social activism.
Many of Stewart’s friends, collaborators, and fans were in attendance, including Dave Chappelle, Steve Carell, Pete Davidson, Kim Kardashian, Bruce Springsteen, Samantha Bee, Jimmy Kimmel, Olivia Munn, and Gary Clark, Jr.
As host and executive producer of Comedy Central’s The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Stewart and The Daily Show racked up a collective 56 Emmy Award nominations and won 20 times during his 16-year run. Along the way, he also became a bestselling author and Grammy Award-winner for Best Comedy Album.
Stewart is known for being a dedicated social activist as well. His advocacy on the Hill played an integral role in the passage of the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund Bill and he is an ardent supporter of America’s wounded veterans through initiatives like the Wounded Warrior Project and Team Rubicon.
In fact, it was 9/11 first responder John Feal and retired Air Force Master Sgt. Israel Del Toro, a veteran wounded by an IED blast in Afghanistan back in 2005, who presented Stewart with his actual Mark Twain Prize (a copy of an 1884 bronze portrait bust of Mark Twain sculpted by Karl Gerhardt) on stage Sunday evening.
First awarded to Richard Pryor on October 20th, 1998, the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor “recognizes individuals who have had an impact on American society in ways similar to the distinguished 19th-century novelist and essayist Samuel Clemens, best known as Mark Twain.” Twain was a keen observer of people, and used the characters he created to satirize and comment on the social injustices and follies of his day.
Past honorees have included 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Michaels (2004), Steve Martin (2005), Neil Simon (2006), Billy Crystal (2007), George Carlin (2008), Bill Cosby (2009; rescinded in 2018), Tina Fey (2010), Will Ferrell (2011), Ellen DeGeneres (2012), Carol Burnett (2013), Jay Leno (2014), Eddie Murphy (2015), Bill Murray (2016), David Letterman (2017), Julia Louis-Dreyfus (2018), and Dave Chappelle (2019).
This year’s program will be broadcast nationally on PBS on June 21 at 9 PM.