Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who last year set a record with her sixth consecutive Lead Actress in a Comedy Emmy for starring on HBO’s Veep, will be the recipient of this year’s Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. The honor, in its 21st year being handed out by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, will be bestowed at an gala performance event October 21 at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall in Washington, D.C.
The award recognizes individuals who have had an impact on American society in ways similar to the distinguished 19th-century novelist and essayist Samuel Clemens, best known as Mark Twain. Richard Pryor was handed the first honor in 1998, and recent recipients have included Tina Fey. Will Ferrell, Ellen DeGeneres, Carol Burnett, Jay Leno, Eddie Murphy, Bill Murray and David Letterman last year.
“Like Mark Twain, Julia has enriched American culture with her iconic, unforgettable and outright hilarious brand of humor,” Kennedy Center President Deborah F. Rutter said. “Over four decades, her wildly original characters and her gift for physical comedy have left us in stitches. Julia is a role model for so many, and we look forward to honoring her on October 21.”
Said Louis-Dreyfus: “Merely to join the list of distinguished recipients of this award would be honor enough, but, as a student of both American history and literature, the fact that Mr. Twain himself will be presenting the award to me in person is particularly gratifying.”
Louis-Dreyfus has won eight Emmys overall, tied with Cloris Leachman for most-ever as a performer; she also has a record nine SAG Awards. Her career, which began at Second City and a stint at SNL, has included her iconic role as Elaine Benes in Seinfeld, where she won a Supporting Actress Emmy. She also won Lead Actress for The New Adventures Of Old Christine.
HBO’s Veep, on which Louis-Dreyfus produces and stars, has been renewed for a seventh and final season.