Mark Twain said “It is better to deserve honors and not have them than to have them and not to deserve them.” In choosing the recipients of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor — from the first, Richard Pryor, to the latest, Will Ferrell — the Kennedy Center has selected “people who have had an impact on American society in ways similar to the distinguished 19th century novelist and essayist.”
In Thursday’s announcement, Kennedy Center Chairman David M. Rubenstein said, “Will Ferrell is clearly one of his generation’s finest comedic performers. He is a worthy successor to the 13 others who have to date received the Mark Twain Prize.” Ferrell added, “I am truly honored to receive this distinction. I will now begin cultivating a Mark Twain-esque moustache in anticipation of the event.” The ceremony takes place on Oct. 23 and will be taped for later broadcast.
At only 43, Ferrell is the second youngest honoree in the 14-year history of the award. The youngest was last year’s recipient Tina Fey, who had just turned 39 when she was named. Ferrell and Fey were castmates on “Saturday Night Live.” The other previous prize winners were Jonathan Winters (1999), Carl Reiner (2000), Whoopi Goldberg (2001), Bob Newhart (2002), Lily Tomlin (2003), Lorne Michaels (2004), Steve Martin (2005), Neil Simon (2006), Billy Crystal (2007), George Carlin (2008) and Bill Cosby (2009).