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the take

Another Unfunny Person Given Humor Award

The piercing wit of Billy Crystal.Photo: Patrick McMullan


This year's Mark Twain Prize for Humor has been announced. The prize's mandate, according to the Kennedy Center's Website:

American history is filled with countless comedians and writers of piercing wit who have left their mark on our ideas, attitudes, and language. The Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for American Humor was created to honor the brilliant minds that elbow American culture to see if it's still alive—and make us laugh about it.


This year's piercing wit? Billy Crystal.

A survey of previous Mark Twain Award winners reveals that Crystal isn't the first unfunny person to be given the country's most prestigious award for funniness:

2006: Neil Simon (Unfunny!)
2005: Steve Martin (Funny!)
2004: Lorne Michaels (Unfunny!)
2003: Lily Tomlin (Funny!)
2002: Bob Newhart (Funny!)
2001: Whoopi Goldberg (Unfunny!)
2000: Jonathan Winters (Funny!)
1999: Carl Reiner (Just funny enough!)
1998: Richard Pryor (Funny! Perhaps the only award recipient who actually fits the prize profile!)

Our predictions for the next ten years of Mark Twain Prizes, maintaining roughly the same funny-to-unfunny ratio:

2008: James L. Brooks
2009: Bill Cosby
2010: Mel Brooks
2011: Goldie Hawn
2012: Jay Leno
2013: "Weird Al" Yankovic
2014: Robin Williams
2015: Lowell Ganz & Babaloo Mandel
2016: Eddie Murphy
2017: You

Billy Crystal, Clearly Funny [WP]
The Mark Twain Prize [Kennedy Center]