Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Billy Crystal to Receive 2007 Mark Twain Prize

This press release just arrived from the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts:

WASHINGTON, D.C.— The Kennedy Center will award the tenth annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor to Billy Crystal on Thursday, October 11 at 8 p.m. in the Kennedy Center Opera House. The award, named to honor one of America’s—and the world’s—greatest humorists, will feature a star-studded ceremony. The program, to be taped for the eighth year by WETA Washington, D.C. as The Kennedy Center Presents: The 2007 Mark Twain Prize, will air on PBS stations nationwide this fall. Tickets for the event will go on sale to the general public on Fri., Aug. 10.

“The Kennedy Center is pleased to give Billy Crystal the Mark Twain Prize for an extraordinary career,” said Center Chairman Stephen A. Schwarzman. “The work he has created for stage, film and television, has made an indelible impression. It is the work of not just a humorist but also a humanist.”

“To be given the same award as Richard Pryor, Steve Martin, and Neil Simon is a great honor,” said Crystal. “As my grandfather said, if you hang around the store long enough, once in a while they’ll give you something!”

He shared, “I told my grandaughter who is three that I won the Mark Twain Prize, and she said... ‘I have one too.’ I’m looking forward to a wonderful evening.”

Billy Crystal has created one of the most versatile and prolific careers in the entertainment industry, finding success in front of the camera, as a performer in film and television, and behind the scenes as a writer, director and producer. After touring with such stars as Billy Joel, Barry Manilow, Neil Sedaka and Sha Na Na, he became a regular on the popular series Soap playing the first openly gay character on a network television series. During the 1984-85 television seasons, Crystal was met with phenomenal national success on Saturday Night Live. He created, wrote and produced the critically acclaimed HBO series Sessions and became the first comedian to perform in the then-Soviet Union with his special Midnight Train to Moscow, one of four one-man specials he has done for HBO. He has hosted the Grammy Awards three times and, of course, the Oscars eight times.

He starred in Running Scared, Throw Momma from the Train, The Princess Bride, When Harry Met Sally, City Slickers I and II, Mr. Saturday Night, Forget Paris, Hamlet, Deconstructing Harry, Father’s Day, My Giant, Analyze This and That and America’s Sweethearts. Crystal’s film 61* for HBO films showcased him as both director and executive producer. It garnered 12 Emmy nominations including nods for Best Director and Best Made for Television Movie and also earned him a prestigious Director’s Guild nomination.

Crystal made his Broadway debut in 2004 with 700 Sundays, an autobiographical one-man play. The play opened to stellar reviews, and broke box office records, becoming the highest grossing non-musical in the history of Broadway and garnered him the Tony, Outer Critics Circle Award and the prestigious Drama Desk Award. In fall of 2005 Crystal took 700 Sundays on tour to Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Toronto breaking box office records. In October 2005, he adapted 700 Sundays into a book that joined his two children’s books, I Already Know I Love You and Grandpa’s Little One on the New York Times Bestseller’s List. Recently he took the show to Australia down in Sydney and Melbourne to standing ovations and sold out crowds each night.

A dedicated human rights advocate, he has co-hosted with Robin Williams and Whoopi Goldberg on all eight Comic Relief telethons on HBO, which have brought the plight of the nation’s homeless to the public and raised more than $40 million for housing and medical care for these people. Crystal, Williams and Goldberg reunited in November 2006 for a special Comic Relief to aid those affected by Hurricane Katrina.

Crystal is the recipient of six Emmy Awards, six American Comedy Awards and seven Cable Ace Awards. He has been married for 36 years to Janice, and has two daughters, Jennifer and Lindsay, and granddaughters Ella and Dylan.

The Mark Twain Prize recognizes people who have had an impact on American society in ways similar to the distinguished 19th century novelist and essayist best known as Mark Twain. As a social commentator, satirist and creator of characters, Samuel Clemens was a fearless observer of society, who startled many while delighting and informing many more with his uncompromising perspective of social injustice and personal folly. He revealed the great truth of humor when he said “against the assault of laughter nothing can stand.”

The Kennedy Center, as the nation’s center for the performing arts, recognizes and presents all of the performing arts including opera, jazz, musical theater, drama, ballet and dance, as well as symphony and all kinds of smaller musical ensembles performing every imaginable kind of music.

The proceeds of the evening are used for the Kennedy Center Education Department’s programs. As recipient of the Mark Twain Prize, Billy Crystal will receive a copy of an 1884 bronze portrait bust of Mark Twain sculpted by Karl Gerhardt (1853-1940). The bust and images of it are courtesy of the Mark Twain House and Museum, Hartford, Conn. The event is a joint production of the Kennedy Center, Mark Krantz, Bob Kaminsky, Peter Kaminsky and Cappy McGarr. Executive Producers for The Kennedy Center Presents: The 2007 Mark Twain Prize are David S. Thompson and Dalton Delan of WETA Washington, D.C. and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

The Kennedy Center Celebration of American Humor was instituted as an annual event in October 1998. Recipients of the Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize have been Richard Pryor (1998), Jonathan Winters (1999), Carl Reiner (2000), Whoopi Goldberg (2001), Bob Newhart (2002), Lily Tomlin (2003), Lorne Michaels (2004), Steve Martin (2005) and Neil Simon (2006).

Tickets will go on sale to Kennedy Center members on Wed., Aug. 1 and to the general public on Fri., Aug. 10. Tickets can be purchased in person at the Kennedy Center Box Office or charged by phone at (202) 467-4600 or toll-free at (800) 444-1324 for people calling from outside the Washington area.

Support for the Mark Twain Production is provided by USA Today.

For more information on the Kennedy Center, please visit www.kennedy-center.org.

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