WASHINGTON – Jon Stewart paced the stage like it was 1987 and he was back in the late-night slot at the Comedy Cellar in New York’s West Village.
“There’s been a lot of talk about what’s going to happen to comedy – you know, ‘the Slap’ – and will comedy survive in this new moment? Comedy survives anytime,” Stewart said, referring to the recent Chris Rock/Will Smith brouhaha. He gestured to the bronze bust of Mark Twain standing next to him on a podium. “This man’s headless face reminds us that what we have is fragile and precious.”
Stewart, 59, took center stage at the Kennedy Center concert hall, becoming the 23rd recipient of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, a prestigious honor that began with Richard Pryor in 1998. The show airs at 9 p.m. ET on June 21 on PBS and pbs.org.
Photos: Jimmy Kimmel, Dave Chappelle and other comic strip party Jon Stewart
Sunday night gathering of comedic celebrities including Jimmy Kimmel, Dave Chappelle, Pete Davidson and many of the crew of Stewart’s groundbreaking “The Daily Show” – Steve Carell, Samantha Bee, Olivia Munn, Ed Helms and, via video, John Oliver and a COVID Stephen Colbert pulled aside – signaled the return of the event, which has been suspended since 2019 due to the pandemic.
Stewart’s passion for music also received a notable spotlight with Gary Clark Jr. and his four piece band as a house band. But the loudest cheers were reserved for “Bruuuuuuuuce” as Bruce Springsteen, Stewart’s brother at the New Jersey cathedral, sauntered out to storm through a powerful “Come Together” with Clark and later returned for a poignant acoustic reading of ” Born to Run”.
A few familiar faces sat quietly with their significant others in the artist box, including Kim Kardashian with boyfriend Davidson and comedian John Mulaney with partner Munn.
But for more than two hours, Stewart’s nearly 30-year career and expressive eyebrows were celebrated, from his boyish antics on MTV’s “The Jon Stewart Show” to the politically-breaking intellectualism and silly jokes of Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show” to his current attitude. as a grizzled elder statesman focused on change in Apple TV+’s “The Problem with Jon Stewart”.
Sometimes the jokes bordered on a soft roast. Stewart, Munn said, left “The Daily Show,” “to pursue his dream of dressing as a maintenance worker for the rest of his life.” Colbert, beamed in live from his home library, joked, “Years before anyone heard of COVID, Jon wore nothing but stained sweatpants and avoided human contact.”
Even some compliments were cloaked in thorns.
“The most controversial thing he’s done is be friends with me,” Davidson said. “Friendship isn’t something he half (does)… like acting. Or give up… like directing.”
But between the velvet-lined barbs lived a genuine appreciation for Stewart’s kindness and assistance to military veterans and 9/11 first responders. Air Force Master Sgt. Israel Del Toro and John Feal, who worked with Stewart as an advocate for first responders on Sept. 11, were the surprise presenters of the Twain Prize, which moved Stewart to tears as he hugged the two men tightly.
And Chappelle, the most recent recipient of the award in 2019, teased Stewart in his unscripted comments that the shindig was “like a taster at your funeral,” before praising his longtime friend for his trustworthiness and humanity.
“It’s a miracle to watch you perform,” Chappelle said, turning to face Stewart from the side of the stage. “You are a cure for what is wrong with our culture.”
Here are a few other highlights from the ceremony.
Save our shows: Vote to try to keep your favorite TV series alive
Jimmy Kimmel Adjusts Bill Cosby
Only one prize has been withdrawn in the history of the Mark Twain Prize. In 2018, the Kennedy Center withdrew its 2009 Twain statue of Bill Cosby, as well as its 1998 Kennedy Center Honors after Cosby was found guilty of aggravated indecent assault.
Kimmel told Stewart, “They didn’t make you a new trophy. We’re just giving you Bill Cosby’s old one.’
The late night host also reminisced about meeting Stewart in 1995, “when Jon would wear a leather jacket. He looked like a more Jewish Fonzie (or) Sylvester Shalom.”
Steve Carell remembers the pain
A deadpan Carell began his tribute by stating, “A humorist is a comedian who has been dead for over 100 years. We make an exception for Jon.”
The former “Daily Show” correspondent recalled some of the ridiculous stunts Stewart devised for the TV show, including sending Carell to a potentially deadly snake farm, making him eat Crisco for the camera, and six Long Island Iced Teas. to assess the effects of drinking on cognitive skills.
But Carell ended with a sweet sentiment: “Jon strives to understand the insane and find joy in the darkness.”
Samantha Bee shares her gratitude
As the first woman to be hired for “The Daily Show” in 2003—not coincidentally, she said, the team’s first year to win an Emmy Award for Best Comedy Show—Bee still has a deep appreciation for her former boss, who she said. called “the godfather”. of justified indignation.”
If Stewart hadn’t hired her, Bee said, “I’d be one of those Disney princesses who goes to kids’ birthday parties and teaches them the hard truth about getting older.”
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Jon Stewart Receives the Mark Twain Prize 2022 with Chappelle, Kimmel