All the best comedians in town were recently in attendance at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C to honor Jon Stewart. A comedian adored by so many, this was a monumental moment in comedic history not to be missed, as the star was to be awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. As the 23rd recipient of this prize, this is regarded as an incredible honor and the ultimate comedic acknowledgment. Fortunately, the meaning of the moment was not lost on the 59-year-old comedian, and he used his time on stage to not focus on his own achievements - but rather on the importance of comedy as a whole. Here's what went down.
"Comedy doesn't change the world, but it's a bellwether. We're the banana peel in the coal mine," he said. "When society is under threat, comedians are the ones who get sent away first. Authoritarians are the threat to comedy, to music, to thought, to poetry." Stewart also used this time to address the viral Oscars slap, which brought up many conversations about the future of comedy in today's climate. "It's not the fragility of audiences. It's not the world police that are going to be an existential threat to comedy. It's not the Fresh Prince. It's the Crown Prince. It's not the fragility of audiences. It's the fragility of leaders." His concluding message was that the goal "isn't to change how audiences think, it's to change how leaders lead."
Before going up to accept the award, his fellow comedians, including Jimmy Kimmel, Pete Davidson, and Ed Helms, took to the stage to honor the legend, congratulating Jon on his achievements so far. The Mark Twain Prize for American Humor was created in recognition of the writer and comedian himself and honors those who have contributed positively to society. It was first awarded in 1998 to Richard Pryor and has since been presented to comedians such as Steve Martin and Dave Chappelle - who also attended the event.
With his long-lasting comedic career, Stewart's award is seemingly long overdue. Starting out doing stand-up and then moving onto comedic movie and television acting, he more than earned his hosting gig on the Emmy-Award winning The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Last year he began his new project, The Problem with Jon Stewart, which airs on Apple TV+. Catch the award ceremony on June 21 at 9 p.m. on PBS!