Kevin Hart receives the 25th Mark Twain Prize for American humor Kevin Hart received the 25th annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor at The Kennedy Center Sunday night. Fellow comedians Chris Rock, Jerry Seinfeld and Chelsea Handler were there to roast him.

Kevin Hart takes home his Mark Twain Prize for American humor

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript


The Mark Twain Prize for American Humor is considered the highest honor in comedy. Past winners include Richard Pryor, Bob Newhart, Whoopi Goldberg, Eddie Murphy and this year, its Kevin Hart, honored at the Kennedy Center in Washington. NPR's Elizabeth Blair reports.

ELIZABETH BLAIR, BYLINE: Comedians love to rib each other. It's almost a requirement for the job. And there was plenty of that for Kevin Hart, starting with Jerry Seinfeld.


JERRY SEINFELD: If you look at Kevin Hart's career, it doesn't look like it was that hard to do.


BLAIR: And actor Regina Hall, who's played Hart's wife in several movies.


REGINA HALL: Now, look, I love you. I know you're not the funniest. We all do, right?


BLAIR: Younger comedians were much more charitable. Kevin Hart is known for championing undiscovered talent like Dave Burd, a rapper who goes by the name Lil Dicky. Hart has invested in his music and helped him create a new sitcom. Like Hart, Burd grew up in Philadelphia.


DAVID BURD: To, like, grow up looking at a screen, seeing a guy that you think is the funniest guy in the world, and then to have that guy, like, pull you in and be like, let me, like, help and let me, like, tell you everything I know about this industry, it is the stuff of dreams, if I'm being honest with you. So...

BLAIR: Kevin Hart's comedy is super energetic and physical. He's known for joking about the stuff of everyday life.


KEVIN HART: Kids play too rough. Me and this boy got into it at Chuck E. Cheese. It wasn't a fight. It was an altercation. We got into a little altercation because my baby was in the balls. He was throwing the balls at my daughter's head. Throwing the balls, hit my daughter right in the head. My daughter's so damn stupid, she thought it was a game. She was playing.


BLAIR: This is the 25th year the Kennedy Center has given out the Mark Twain Prize. And like any big honor, some comedy lovers believe there have been oversights. Neither Seinfeld nor Chris Rock has received the award. Mel Brooks turned it down. The Kennedy Center says he didn't say why. Sean McCarthy, who writes about comedy for The Daily Beast and Decider, says it's striking that people like Don Rickles, Phyllis Diller and Joan Rivers never received the award. He'd like to see the Twain Prize honor older comedians who've inspired younger generations.

SEAN MCCARTHY: I used to think that the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor was a lifetime achievement award, kind of like the Kennedy Center Honors, and it certainly felt that way until about 2010, when they began awarding the prize to people who were in their 40s, like Tina Fey and Will Ferrell. And now I don't really know what the prize means.

BLAIR: During the ceremony, comedian after comedian praised Kevin Hart for his talents as a performer and an entrepreneur. In addition to his standup and movies, he owns a production company and co-owns a tequila brand and restaurants. Growing up, Hart's dad was in and out of jail. He says he got his work ethic from his mom. She died in 2007. Had she been here, Hart believes she'd be proud.


HART: My mom was a firm believer that what you put into something, you get out of it. So because of my effort, because my mom knowing my effort, she would go it's supposed to happen.

BLAIR: "The Mark Twain Prize For American Humor" premieres on Netflix on May 11. Elizabeth Blair, NPR News, Washington.

Copyright © 2024 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.