Commentary on Kennedy Center Published in TownHall

THall logoThis past weekend, published my commentary based on an earlier blog post that laments the continuing decline in quality of the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor at the Kennedy Center.

Ellen DeGeneres, probably best known to the American public for having come out of the closet as a lesbian back in 1997, received this year’s prize.

As mentioned in the commentary the Twain Prize seemed to be more about her sexuality than her stagecraft:

At this year’s ceremony honoring Degeneres, reports described it as more of a celebration of her homosexual advocacy.  Since coming out of the closet in 1997, her social activism seems to have eclipsed her comedy.

For instance, honoring this transformation from joke-teller to truth-teller, Lily Tomlin said of DeGeneres: “She went from stand-up [comedy] to standing for something.”

As I observe the Twain Prize becoming more of a political affair, I make the prediction that the process is so plagued by politics that next year’s recipient will likely be Hispanic as a handy means of excusing the Kennedy Center and its director, Michael Kaiser, from accusations that Kennedy Center awards are overlooking Hispanics.

Because of all this focus on identity politics over who’s actually amusing and fostering a funnier future, I suggest the best days of the Twain Prize are behind it.  With an apparent focus on politics over merit — and a penchant for leaving many legends of comedy without recognition — I suggest it’s time to pull the plug on awarding the future prizes.

Mentioning past Twain Prizes that were issued to overtly political comedians with slim resumes such as Will Ferrell and Tina Fey, I note:

What DeGeneres, Ferrell and Fey do bring to the table is less shtick and more politics.  With a pivot to claiming the prize recognizes comedians who are at their “apex,” the Kennedy Center has really been rewarding mediocre comedians who have done more in the short-term to advance politics than contributed to their own craft.

It’s time for the shepherd’s crook to come out and yank the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor from the Kennedy Center’s stage.  It’s just not funny anymore.

To read the entire commentary on, click here.

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