WASHINGTON (AP) — The joke is on Jay Leno this weekend as comedians salute the former “Tonight Show” host who will receive the nation’s top humor prize.
Jimmy Fallon, Jerry Seinfeld and Wanda Sykes will celebrate and poke fun of Leno on Sunday night as he receives the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor at the Kennedy Center in Washington. Garth Brooks, Kevin Eubanks and Chelsea Handler also will pay tribute.
The show will be broadcast nationally Nov. 23 on PBS.
The award honors people who have had an impact on American society in the tradition of Samuel Clemens, the writer, satirist and social commentator better known as Mark Twain. Past honorees include Carol Burnett, Ellen DeGeneres, Will Ferrell and Bill Cosby.
Leno built his career in standup comedy and still makes more than 100 live performances each year. He inherited the “Tonight Show” from Johnny Carson in 1992, beating out David Letterman, and for years was the top-rated late-night host.
The 64-year-old stepped down from the show for the second time this year, passing the “Tonight Show” mantle to Fallon. Now Leno is developing a new TV show from his Los Angeles garage about his other great passion: cars. “Jay Leno’s Garage” will premiere on CNBC in 2015.
Leno also plans to continue his live performances and will help launch a new comedy series next year at the Kennedy Center.
In selecting the comedy prize honoree earlier this year, show producer Cappy McGarr said the Kennedy Center wanted to celebrate Leno for long contributing humor to the national conversation.
“You know, we receive bad news every day, and it’s important for us to keep our humor intact, as difficult as that might be,” McGarr said. “And thank goodness Jay has contributed to our American humor for a generation and made us keep things in perspective.”
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