Comedian Kevin Hart will be the 25th recipient of the Mark Twain Prize, which honors comedians for lifetime achievement. The 44-year-old will follow in the significant footsteps of former honorees Richard Pryor, Eddie Murphy, and others.
Pryor was the first recipient of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor back in 1998 because, like Twain, he never hesitated to speak the truth.
“Comedy is my outlet for social commentary and observations on life — I am grateful to the Kennedy Center for recognizing my voice and impact on culture,” Hart said in a statement about the honor.
Hart has been a box office mainstay for over a decade since starting out as Lil Kev at Philly comedy club The Laff House. His films, which include Get Hard, Jumanji, The Wedding Ringer, Ride Along, Central Intelligence, and an all-Black reboot of About Last Night, have made more than $4 billion worldwide. He’s also starred on TV and in standup shows, including I’m A Grown Little Man, Seriously Funny, Reality Check, Zero F— Given, and Let Me Explain.
The Kennedy Center has been handing out the award since 1998. It honors the comedy legacy of Mark Twain, the author, essayist, and humorist who wrote The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, which are considered classics despite criticism around Twain’s use of the N-word.
“I’ve been doing comedy since the inception of this award 25 years ago,” Hart added. “To be honored in this commemorative year feels surreal. “Comedy is my outlet for social commentary and observations on life… I can’t wait to celebrate!”
While Hart has not gotten the critical accolades of some previous nominees, his box office success has helped him become prominent in the comedy world. And forays into dramas like The Upside and the buzzy Netflix drama True Story, co-starring Wesley Snipes, have helped him develop even more broad-based appeal.
On the state of today’s comedy, Hart told Fresh Air in 2019 that what is acceptable has changed.
“If you were raised on comedy, that means you were raised on all the greats that came before you,” Hart told Fresh Air host Terry Gross. When you look at the greats, when you look at George Carlin, when you look at Eddie Murphy, Richard Pryor … the list goes on and on … when you look at all these comedians, edgy was funny. Racy, cutting-edge was funny. Now, today, that’s not funny. It’s deemed “unfunny.”
The Mark Twain Award will be handed out in a ceremony at The Kennedy Center on March 24, 2024, and then aired at a later date.
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