Jon Stewart recently accepted the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor at the Kennedy Center. Stewart, the 23rd recipient of the prize, was lauded by other comedians and previous Mark Twain Prize winners in testimonies. Stewart gave a speech at Dave Chappelle’s Mark Twain tribute in 2019, and Chappelle reciprocated.
During his acceptance speech, he warned that concern over the survival of comedy in the face of increased cultural sensitivity was neglecting a serious and enduring threat: authoritarian governments around the world.
Comedy doesn’t change the world, but it’s a bellwether. When a society feels under threat, comedians are who gets sent away first.
Stewart cited Egyptian comedian Bassem Youssef, whose political comedy show was influenced by Stewart and gained him both popularity and self-imposed exile. Stewart described Youssef’s narrative as an example of the actual threat to comedy.
As celebrities and comedy royalty gathered to commemorate Stewart, who created the current template for blending the themes during his 16-year career anchoring TV’s “The Daily Show,” the junction of comedy and politics was the main theme.
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