Kennedy Center to honor Dave Chappelle with Mark Twain prize for humor

Dave Chappelle will receive this year’s Mark Twain Prize for American Humor from the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

Dave Chappelle thegrio
Dave Chappelle (Photo by David Livingston/Getty Images)

Comic legend Dave Chappelle will be awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor this year, the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts has announced.

The annual award honors influencers whose impact on American society is similar to that of 19th-century novelist and satirist Mark Twain.

Chappelle reportedly joins a prestigious group of comedians who have previously received the award, including Whoopi Goldberg, Eddie Murphy, Carol Burnett, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Ellen DeGeneres and Richard Pryor — who won the very first Twain Prize in 1998, according to The Huffington Post.

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The Washington, D.C. native “is an internationally recognized stand-up comedian and actor whose trademark wit and sharp, irreverent social commentary explores race, popular culture, sex, drugs, politics, and fame,” the Kennedy Center said in a statement Tuesday.

Deborah F. Rutter, president of the Kennedy Center, said “Dave is the embodiment of Mark Twain’s observation that ‘against the assault of humor, nothing can stand.'”

Chappelle is best known for starring in the hit sketch comedy series Chappelle’s Show on Comedy Central, which earned three Emmy nominations and became a bestseller on DVD. He has also won two Emmys, two Grammys and Pollstar awards for Comedy Tour of the Year in 2014 and 2018.

In 2017, Chappelle bagged his first Emmy for hosting the post-2016 election of Saturday Night Live, during which he dared to address some of the nation’s most controversial trigger topics.

He then released four stand-up comedy specials on Netflix to celebrate his 30-year career in comedy: The Age of Spin, Deep in the Heart of Texas, Equanimity, and The Bird Revelations.

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“For three decades, Dave has challenged us to see hot-button issues from his entirely original yet relatable perspective,” Rutter added.

Chappelle famously disappeared from the spotlight after turning down a reported $50 million deal for Seasons 3 and 4 of Chappelle’s Show.

The Mark Twain prize will be awarded at a Kennedy Center gala on Oct. 27, 2019, in Washington. The event will broadcast on PBS on Jan. 6 next year.