Inaugural Comedy Awards name highest honor after Johnny Carson

Comedy Central will debut its new awards show saluting top laughmakers on April 10. The cablecaster announced Monday that a lifetime achievement prize will go to “an individual whose groundbreaking body of work, like Johnny Carson’s, has made an extraordinary contribution to the art of comedy, whose impact and innovations have changed the comedy landscape and inspired future generations of entertainers.” 

Network exec Casey Patterson explained the choice thus: “Johnny Carson is one of the biggest legends not only in comedy, but all of entertainment. Having this award as part of our show sets the precedent of the premiere film, television and comedic talent that the Comedy Awards will honor each year and is fitting with Johnny’s legacy and love of the comedy community.”

Carson may have welcomed being part of a celebration dedicated just to comedy given his troubled history with the Emmy Awards. During his three-decade tenure, “The Tonight Show” lost seven bids for best variety show in the 1960s and 1970s. Carson then relented and entered the show in the special class category, where it won three times in a row beginning in 1977. After losing a fourth bid in that race in 1980 — though he received the Governor’s Award as a consolation prize — Carson competed unsuccessfully again in the variety category another seven times until he finally won for his farewell season in 1992.

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