One of America’s trailblazing comics – Dave Chappelle – will be honored with what is probably the most prestigious award in the field of American humor. The Emmy nominee is set to receive the Mark Twain Award for American Humor, the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts announced this week. The host of the groundbreaking “Dave Chappelle Show” joins a prestigious group honored in the past, including Whoopi Goldberg and Richard Pryor, who was the first honoree in 1998.
“Dave is one of the truly original voices in comedy — the definition of a creative artist,” Matthew Winer, director of comedy and special programming at the Kennedy Center, told NPR. “He’s a modern day sociologist, skewering stereotypes, defying boundaries and showing us that laughter can be a way to contextualize issues that we struggle to understand.” Added Deborah F. Rutter, president of the Kennedy Center, “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.”
The prize will be awarded at a Kennedy Center gala on Oct. 27, and a TV special of the evening will be broadcast on PBS stations Jan. 6, 2020. Chappelle’s impersonations of Prince, Rick James and Lil Jon are legendary, and his show can still be seen in syndication more than 10 years after its run was ended (2006). It was “revolutionary,” must-see TV, wrote critic Rembert. “It was unacceptable to show up to high school the next day without knowing all the material from the previous night’s episode.”