In a triumphant return to in-person festivities, the 2022 Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for American Humor was awarded to Jon Stewart on Sunday night time, the primary recipient of the award in additional than two years.
Stewart, the twenty third individual to obtain the prize, one in all comedy’s prime honors, was in a position to attract the largest names from the worlds of comedy and politics for the ceremony on the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington D.C., reflecting the comic’s attain and cultural affect.
The crimson carpet noticed a mixture of politicians and comedians, with the likes of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki and Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and husband Chasten strolling the carpet alongside Samantha Bee, Jimmy Kimmel, Dave Chappelle and Steve Carrell.
Speaker Pelosi, who has been the topic of Stewart’s ribbing prior to now, graciously acknowledged that she loved his work whatever the topic, “just so long as it’s funny.” “I’m excited about Jon Stewart for his humor of course,” stated Pelosi, “but from the standpoint of his impact on public policy, he’s been focused on what he knows about and cares about. He doesn’t just come at it as a celebrity,” Pelosi stated in reference to the comic’s tireless activism on behalf of veterans and 9/11 emergency employees.
Previous to Stewart’s large night time, the final individual to obtain the Mark Twain Prize was Chapelle in Oct. 2019, earlier than the COVID-19 pandemic hit. Sunday’s occasion might have been a contact low-key compared to earlier Twain awards in latest reminiscence, nevertheless it additionally contained extra Hollywood names than earlier ceremonies. Many have been on stage, however some merely slipped into the gang. Comedian John Mulaney quietly took his seat subsequent to associate and former The Daily Show alum Olivia Munn, whereas on the opposite aspect of the theater, Kim Kardashian clung to presenter Pete Davidson’s arm.
Kennedy Center chairman David Rubenstein opened the occasion with a nod to the seriousness of present occasions each at house and overseas, then added that Stewart was chosen as this yr’s Twain prize recipient as he’s not solely a fantastic humorist but in addition a social commentator who’s invested within the betterment of our nation.
Bruce Springsteen, like Stewart a New Jersey native, took the stage to accompany Gary Clark Jr., the night’s music director, for a canopy of the Beatles’ “Come Together” to start out the present, and would later shut the night with a slow-jams-style model of “Born to Run.”
The overwhelming sentiment shared by the presenters, that included Munn, Davidson, Bee, Kimmel, Chappelle, Carrell, Ed Helms and Stephen Colbert, was that of deep appreciation to Stewart for investing in them as each folks and professionals, and for stepping again from the highlight to permit their younger careers to develop. Munn shared a narrative of how Stewart discovered and inspired her, saying that Stewart additionally “changed the way my generation saw the news and public policy. “Jon made it cool to have an opinion on the news—and that’s why every goddamn asshole now has an opinion on everything,” Munn stated.
Stewart’s likeable persona runs deep, Davidson identified. “Everyone likes this guy, the most controversial thing he’s ever done is be friends with me. John is loyal at friendship, it isn’t something he half-asses, like acting, or gives up quickly, like directing,” Davidson stated. Former Daily Show correspondent Carrell described Stewart’s ethic as “making sense out of the insane and finding joy in the darkness.”
Stewart’s age was additionally the topic of lots of the lighter moments of the ceremony. Colbert, who gave his tribute just about as he was holed up with COVID-19, stated of Stewart’s look that “it looks like you drank out of the wrong chalice in an Indiana Jones movie.” Referring to the earliest days of the Daily Show, Colbert described Stewart and his fellow correspondents as “a band of merry pirates.”
Presidential biographer Jon Meachum paid tribute to Stewart by describing him as “a comedian with a conscience” including, “Night after night you’ve given a divided America a chance to get its moral bearings. Most comedians make jokes, but Jon, you make a difference.”
Accepting his award, Stewart started his speech by speaking brazenly and lightheartedly about his household, from his mom who raised him as a single mother to his spouse and his teenage children. He made a joke about Bill Cosby’s revoked award (“I am the 23rd recipient of this very prestigious award, and you know it’s prestigious because almost none of the other recipients turned out to be serial rapists”) and a few references to the Will Smith slap incident on the Academy Awards.
Stewart noticed that Hollywood and D.C. have rather a lot in frequent: “Washington is for people who like the ego and arrogance of L.A. but who think that that city is too well-designed,” a reference to D.C.’s notoriously poorly designed and infrequently interrupted road system.
Touching upon the continuing debate concerning the goal and way forward for humor, in addition to its biggest risk, The Problem host stated: “There’s a lot of talk right now about what’s going to happen in comedy. You know, there was the slap… But it’s not the fragility of audiences,” stated Stewart referring to the risk to comedy, “it’s the leaders. It’s not the Fresh Prince, it’s the crown prince,” he added.
He continued, “comedy is the bellweather, we’re the banana peel in the coal mine… Authoritarianism is the threat to art, theater, poetry… What we have is fragile and precious, and the way to guard against it isn’t to change how audiences think, but to change how leaders lead.”
The 2022 Mark Twain Prize ceremony will probably be broadcast on June 21 on PBS.