Winners of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor of All Time


We all know laughter is the best medicine. It gets us out of bad situations, make us feel stronger, and help with the winter's gloom. It is especially during those cold months that comedy is most necessary. So when it is too cold to even leave the house, cozying up to a great comedy, watching a hilarious sitcom, or a comedy show special sounds like a really good idea. If you are not too familiar with the American comedy scene, it might be a good idea to start with the award winning ones. Since 1998, the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor has been awarded to outstanding comedians with remarkable careers. This year it celebrated its 20th anniversary, meaning that as of today there have been 20 recipients, 6 women and 14 men. So if you are looking for someone to crack you up, follow this list of recipients and get ready to LOL.

1998 - Richard Pryor

Alan Light [CC BY 2.0 ]

Known for his biting comedy around the issues of racism and social injustice, Pryor won an Emmy Award and five Grammy Awards before being the first ever recipoent of the Mark Twain Prize. He was also listed as one of the greatest stand up comedians of all time.

1999 - Jonathan Winters

Winters was in the business of making people laugh for over 6 decades. With his classic comedy albums and his appearances in hundreds of television shows and films, he was able to reach audiences of all generations. He was even introduced to the younger generation when he voiced Papa Smurf in the Smurfs movies.

2000 - Carl Reiner

One of the earliest comedians on American television, Reiner was an integral part of the Caesar's Hour, You Show of Shows, and The Dick Van Dyke Show. He also participated in many comedic films and formed part of a comedy duo with Mel Brooks. He also passed his creative talent to the next generations, with many of his relatives (including his son, daughter, and granddaughter) working in the industry.

2001 - Whoopi Goldberg

David Shankbone [CC BY 3.0]

Though she is known mainly for her comedy, Goldberg's break was in the drama "The Color Purple". She later went on to appear in "Ghost" and "Sister Act", among many other hollywood successes. Since 2007 she has been part of "The View" panel, being the moderator of the conversations, where she once again gets to show not only her comedic talent, but also her wisdom.

2002 - Bob Newhart

Jim Wallace (Smithsonian Institution) [CC BY 2.0]

In the 1960s, his album of comedic monologues was already a wordlwide bestseller. Following the success, he released another album which won similar praises. He went on to participate in countless movies and TV shows, most recently appearing as Professor Proton on The Big Bang Theory. This role awarded him an his first Emmy Award.

2003 - Lily Tomlin

Starting as a stand-up comedian and an Off-Broadway performer, Tomlin soon became one of the best known comedians of our time. She joined the sketch comedy show Rowan and Martin's in 1969 and gave life to many popular characters. She later went into leading a successful career in the film industry. Today she stars with Jane Fonda, Martin Sheen, and Sam Waterston in the Netflix show "Grace and Frankie".

2004 - Lorne Michaels

Peabody Awards [CC BY 2.0]

Michaels is the only recipient who was not born in the United States (his home town is Toronto, Canada). He is best known for creating the Saturday Night Live empire that gave rise to many of today's comedians. He is also the producer of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon since 2014. In addition, he has a star on two Walks of Fame, the Hollywwod Walk of Fame and Canada's Walk of Fame.

2005 - Steve Martin

Davidwbaker [CC BY-SA 4.0]

It seems like there is no title that doesn't apply to Martin. He started as a writer for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour in the 1960s, and moved on to performing comedy routines on national tours. Then he went into acting, participating in countless films and TV shows. As if this is not enough, he also became an author, playwright, pianist and banjo player. Among his awards are an Emmy Award, People's Choice Awards, Garmmy Awards, and an Honorary award in the Academy Awards.

2006 - Neil Simon

The American playwright, screenwriter and author that has received more combined Oscar and Tony nominations than any other writer. Simon started by writing comedy scripts for radio and television shows. Later, he started writing his own plays, among which is The Odd Couple. His name became a household name wordwide, which is very uncommon for writers and he also has the Neil Simon Theatre in New York named in his honor.

2007 - Billy Crystal

Gage Skidmore [CC BY-SA 3.0 ]

Crystal started his career by being part of a compedy trio and later went on solo to perform in multiple locations around New York. After multiple small appearances on TV, he gained recognition as Jodie Dallas on Soap. He later became a Holloywood star with many critically accliamed films under his belt, among which are "When Harry Met Sally" and "America's Sweethearts". He is also the voice behind Mike Wazowski in Monsters, Inc.

These are the first 10 recipients. Join us tomorrow for the second group of 10 amazing comedians, including the latest recipient from 2018.