Comedian Jon Stewart accepted the 2022 Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for American Humor on Sunday night.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this was the first time that the award has been handed out in more than two years. The former “The Daily Show” host is the 23rd person to receive the prize, which is considered one of comedy’s top honors.
The award was presented at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., where Stewart and many other famous faces appeared to celebrate Stewart’s influential career in both comedy and politics.
Jon Stewart Awarded The Mark Twain Prize For American Humor Sunday Night
The Hollywood Reporter noted that there were many celebrities and politicians in the crowd, including House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki, Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, and his husband Chasten. They walked the red carpet alongside Stewart’s long-time colleagues, such as Samantha Bee, Jimmy Kimmel, Dave Chappelle, and Steve Carrell.
Pelosi said that she enjoys Stewart’s comedy “just so long as it’s funny.” She added, “I’m excited about Jon Stewart for his humor, of course, but from the standpoint of his impact on public policy, he’s been focused on what he knows about and cares about. He doesn’t just come at it as a celebrity.” Stewart has been lauded for his relentless activism on behalf of veterans and 9/11 emergency responders.
Kim Kardashian attended the event alongside “Saturday Night Live” comedian Pete Davidson. John Mulaney also attended the event with his new girlfriend, Olivia Munn. Many celebrities, including Munn and Davidson, took the stage to pay respect to Stewart’s impact on comedy and their own careers.
Olivia Munn & Pete Davidson Share Touching Stories About Jon Stewart
Olivia Munn shared a story about how Stewart encouraged her career as a budding actress. She said that Stewart “changed the way my generation saw the news and public policy.” She added, “Jon made it cool to have an opinion on the news—and that’s why every god—- a–hole now has an opinion on everything.”
Davidson added, “Everyone likes this guy. The most controversial thing he’s ever done is be friends with me. John is loyal at friendship, it isn’t something he half-a–es, like acting, or gives up quickly, like directing.”
Former “The Daily Show” correspondent Steve Carrell said that Jon Stewart’s ethic was “making sense out of the insane and finding joy in the darkness.”
Stephen Colbert ribbed his long-time friend, saying to Stewart, “looks like you drank out of the wrong chalice in an Indiana Jones movie.”
Presidential biographer Jon Meachum described Stewart as “a comedian with a conscience,” adding, “Night after night you’ve given a divided America a chance to get its moral bearings. Most comedians make jokes, but Jon, you make a difference.”
Jon Stewart Discusses Oscars Slap In Acceptance Speech
While accepting his award, Stewart began his speech by talking about his family and growing up with a single mom. He also discussed his wife and his now-teenage kids. He also took a shot at Bill Cosby’s revoked Mark Twain award, joking, “I am the 23rd recipient of this very prestigious award, and you know it’s prestigious because almost none of the other recipients turned out to be serial rapists.”
Stewart joked that Hollywood and Washington D.C. have a lot in common, saying, “Washington is for people who like the ego and arrogance of L.A. but who think that that city is too well-designed.”
He also made several references to the Will Smith slap and discussed the potential future of comedy.
Stewart said,”There’s a lot of talk right now about what’s going to happen in comedy. You know, there was the slap… But it’s not the fragility of audiences.” He added, “It’s the leaders. It’s not the Fresh Prince. It’s the Crown Prince.”
He described comedy as “the bellwether,” adding, “we’re the banana peel in the coal mine… Authoritarianism is the threat to art, theater, poetry… What we have is fragile and precious, and the way to guard against it isn’t to change how audiences think, but to change how leaders lead.”
Jon Stewart’s full remarks can be seen when the 2022 Mark Twain Prize ceremony is broadcast on June 21 on PBS.