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Jon Stewart to receive prestigious Mark Twain Prize for American Humor

Former Daily Show host says he’s been influenced by work of Mark Twain, ‘or as he was known by his given name, Samuel Leibowitz’; Stewart’s given name was Jonathan Leibowitz

Jon Stewart speaks backstage a 'Stand Up for Heroes' benefit show in New York City, on November 4, 2019. (Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for The Bob Woodruff Foundation via JTA)
Jon Stewart speaks backstage a 'Stand Up for Heroes' benefit show in New York City, on November 4, 2019. (Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for The Bob Woodruff Foundation via JTA)

JTA — Jon Stewart, who has often referenced his Jewish heritage in his humor, will be awarded this year’s Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, one of the country’s most prestigious comedy awards.

The award, given by the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, will be presented in April. The honor, awarded annually since 1998, has not been given to anyone for the past two years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which scuttled the award ceremonies.

Kennedy Center President Deborah Rutter said in a statement that Stewart has “brightened our lives and challenged our minds as he delivers current events and social satire with his trademark wit and wisdom.”

He hosted “The Daily Show,” which catapulted political comedy to the forefront of pop culture, on Comedy Central for 16 years.

“I am truly honored to receive this award. I have long admired and been influenced by the work of Mark Twain, or, as he was known by his given name, Samuel Leibowitz,” Stewart said, according to the Kennedy Center’s press release this week. Stewart’s given name was Jonathan Leibowitz.

Twain was the pen name of Samuel Langhorne Clemens.

Mark Twain's business card, made for him in Constantinople in September 1867 by the sultan's official photographers (Photo credit: Courtesy: National Library of Israel)
Mark Twain’s business card, made for him in Constantinople in September 1867 by the sultan’s official photographers (Photo credit: Courtesy: National Library of Israel)

Past recipients of the award, which is given to comedians who have “had an impact on American society in ways similar to” Mark Twain, have included Steve Martin, Eddie Murphy and Carol Burnett.

Stewart recently made headlines when he pointed out the similarities between the portrayal of goblins in the “Harry Potter” movies and classic antisemitic portrayals of Jews. Stewart later walked the comments back, saying he was joking.

“Let me just say this, super clearly, as clearly as I can… I do not think J.K. Rowling is antisemitic,” he said earlier this month.

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