Carol Burnett will be this year's recipient for the Mark Twain prize for humor from the prestigious Kennedy Center. As the highest prize in comedy, the luminaries that Burnett will join are names like Carlin, Pryor, Winters, Cosby... although this year's prize breaks the recent trend of younger nominees like Tina Fey, Will Ferrell and Ellen Degeneres. But it still points to a trend of diversity with three of the past four winners being female. All in all, well-deserved.
It is a little bit of a mystery of who decides the Mark Twain Prize. And how do they decide?This story in Washington Post has an interesting look. First off, none of the folks on the selection committee are apparently in the comedy industry, which, if you're going to give out the prize, I actually don't have a problem with. This isn't a prize for comedians by comedians. It's a prize for comedians from the culture, which is mostly non-comedians (although judging from Twitter and Vine, this is less and less true.) And while the only absolute criteria seems to be breathing (which George Carlin promptly violated after winning the prize), the need to sell tickets and draw a rating are important. It's a rating on PBS, but still...
I should mention I am quoted at the end of the article questioning the need for comedy awards in the first place, filling the role of turd in the punch bowl.
The ceremony will take place on October 20th at the Kennedy Center and will be broadcast on PBS October 30.