[blues rock music playing] ♪ [drumsticks tapping] [The Beatles' "Come Together" playing] ♪ - How you been, man?
♪ - ♪ Here come old flat top ♪ He come grooving up slowly ♪ He got juju eyeball ♪ He one holy roller ♪ He got hair down ♪ To his knee ♪ Got to be a joker ♪ He just do what he please, yeah ♪ ♪ - ♪ He wear no shoeshine, he got toe-jam football ♪ ♪ He got monkey fingers ♪ He shoot Coca-Cola ♪ He say, "I know you ♪ You know me" ♪ One thing I can tell you ♪ Is you got to be free - ♪ Come together both: ♪ Right now ♪ Over me [indistinct chatter] ♪ ♪ He roller coaster ♪ He got early warning ♪ He got muddy water ♪ He one mojo filter ♪ He say one and one and one is three ♪ - Ha.
both: ♪ Got to be good-looking 'cause he's so hard to see ♪ - Come on.
both: ♪ Come together ♪ Right now ♪ Over me ♪ - Sing it if you want.
both: ♪ Come together - ♪ Yeah both: ♪ Right now ♪ Come together - ♪ Yeah both: ♪ Right now ♪ Over me - Please welcome the recipient of the 23rd Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, Jon Stewart, y'all.
[cheers and applause] ♪ - Thank you very much.
That's our show.
♪ [music ends, cheers and applause] Thank you very much.
[cheers and applause continue] - Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. Jon Stewart!
- My grandmother-- it's embarrassing, to be honest with you.
We go into restaurants, and she's like, "Hello?
Reservations for the chosen ones."
Hey, I'm Jon Stewart, and welcome to "You Wrote It, You Watch It."
- He's always been the same guy.
As long as I've known him, he's exactly the same.
[upbeat music] - Welcome to "The Daily Show," ladies and gentlemen.
Are you eating it with a fork?
A [bleep] fork?
- He doesn't take himself seriously.
He takes what he does seriously.
- Gitmo, it's true.
President Obama's already started closing Guantanamo.
He's even put an end to those enhanced-interrogation techniques.
- Then why Gitmo still have hand up his [bleep]?
- America didn't create all the corruption that cripples Middle Eastern governments.
You know what?
♪ We didn't start the fire - He became a cornerstone for what political comedy and news comedy is and political satire is, not just in the United States, but everywhere else.
- What Jon's really great at is, when there's something so negative, he always finds the positive.
Even if it's the [bleep] smallest thing, he always knows how to bring people together in a very kind and, like, effortlessly genuine way.
And there's not a lot of people in this business that can do that.
- We hear how fragile our country is, torn by polarizing hate, and how it's a shame that we can't work together to get things done.
But the truth is we do.
We work together to get things done every damn day.
[cheers and applause] - He's, like, fearless.
Like, he doesn't care about what other people think.
He's always been instrumental in just, like, sharing your truth and being, like, fearless.
- The impact can be seen around the world.
But for me, specifically, I just feel like both Dave and Jon have freed me to be the comedian I need to me.
- I think Jon Stewart might be the single best person I've ever met in comedy.
He's a great, great, great man.
announcer: Please welcome the 2019 recipient of the Mark Twain Prize, Dave Chappelle.
[cheers and applause] - You know, this might come as a surprise to many of you.
I didn't prepare a speech.
[chuckles] But that's not because I didn't care.
In fact, it's because I cared so much.
If you could imagine sitting down and trying to write something about someone that you feel so much about, the way I feel about Jon, it's very difficult.
I won this prize two years ago, and I imagine, Jon, this is a surreal experience.
I imagine you probably didn't even give a [bleep] till last night.
And then last night you saw all your friends gathering, you saw everyone dressed nice, and you realized you were still alive to see this.
It's like getting a preview to your funeral.
In our line of work, context is everything.
And me and Jon have a very unlikely friendship.
The context of that friendship happened in a comedy club in New York City-- Jon being ten years my senior.
I was 17 the first time I saw Jon Stewart.
Right before he walked in the door, I heard two waitresses at the club talking about how handsome he was.
And then they go, "Oh, my God, there he goes."
And I looked over, and I said, "Eh, he's all right."
- So, what happened was at night, I would go to the Comedy Cellar, and they'd put me on as the last guy every night.
There's six billion people in the world.
You can't make six billion anything without some of them being very [bleep] up.
Open up a bag of potato chips.
What are there, 40 in there?
At least five of them are [bleep] burnt and bent over and [bleep]...
It's the slot that they give someone that, for some reason, they think, "Let's just see what happens to this guy."
- The thing I remember, being 17 in an adult world trying to make something of myself, is how kind he was.
People like Jon made me feel safer.
He's a friendly guy.
Now, the early part of any comedian's career is embarrassing in hindsight because so many of us imitate our influences or try on different personalities to see what works.
But Jon has been... he's been the same since the very first time I met him... nice and present.
[sighs] In 1999, he got "The Daily Show."
That show languished for three years before he got it.
No disrespect to Craig Kilborn, but you know what I mean?
It was like the body of the show was there, but when Jon got the show, it had a soul.
It made people take notice.
And in 2002, suddenly, somehow, he became the most popular news show on television.
Actually, I know how.
He had a good lead-in with "Chappelle's Show."
[cheers and applause] And in that context, it was post-9/11.
In my career, it was the first time that I can really remember that there was a stove too hot to touch.
No comedian was allowed to talk about the war or Janet Jackson's [bleep] coming out at the Super Bowl.
You remember that?
You remember that memo that went around?
[chuckles] As we've all learned in our lives, war time is crazy in America.
They do what Noam Chomsky called "manufacture consent."
And the news was off the chain, and Jon was the only voice that helped people decipher that madness.
It was a really remarkable thing to watch.
- We told you that it wasn't gonna go so well.
Yes, we called it Shock and Awe, but we meant that in the way of, you'll be shocked at how it doesn't go so well.
And that will make you say, "Aw."
- He's been a great friend to me.
I'm not here because I love Jon Stewart.
I'm here because he loves me.
'Cause there's never been a time that I called on him and asked him for his help that he wasn't the first responder.
When it was "Half Baked" and I was doing my first movie and I needed a celebrity lift, Jon was the first one to say, "Ah, [bleep] it, I'll do it."
I didn't even know if he smoked weed.
He seemed like a coke guy.
And a few years back, the city close to where I live, Dayton, Ohio, had a terrible mass shooting.
Nine people were killed.
And I called my friends, and they all pulled up.
But, Jon, you were the first one that said, "Oh, I'll be there."
And just days after that massacre, we took that neighborhood and made a much better memory for them.
They saw love and support from voices that they trust.
When we were on Comedy Central, I picked the brand of irreverence.
I said, "I'll touch everything they say I can't touch."
But Jon's voice became one that was synonymous with trust.
And he left right before the Trump administration, the most cynical time in American politics... a time when nobody trusts our media, when a guy like Donald Trump can just say "fake news," and you say, "[bleep] it.
I just believe this orange-haired guy."
And we miss you very much.
[applause] During the pandemic, when my town was dying and I needed to help raise money to get the economy of the town straight, Jon was the first responder.
He was terrified of COVID, and he got on a plane anyway.
After his friends had died and he lost loved ones, he had the courage to get on a plane.
He came out and met me, and we did shows that whole weekend.
And every comic who came out there had been off for at least 100 nights.
They were all nervous, and they were all scared, except for Jon.
Jon did 25 minutes off the rip because he had something to say, because he actually means what he says, because he actually thinks about what he says.
A lot of comics will take this job for granted.
The younger comics, they do what I call wokes.
They're not jokes.
They don't know the difference between a good point and a good joke.
Jon is very true to the muse.
He takes a good point, and he makes a good joke of it.
Jon, it's a miracle to watch you work.
You are a cure to what ails our culture.
You're a voice that people consistently trust.
I wish that you'd run for president.
[cheers and applause] But I imagine that would be hard for a coke guy to do.
When you started your career, you never imagined that you would reach a point like this.
And the Mark Twain Prize might feel like a finish line or an end to a movie.
It is a starter gun.
You are still young.
You are still strong.
You are still funny.
And I do not have the words to say in front of these people how much I love you and how much I respect you, but just know, whenever you call on me, I will come, because you have been one of the greatest friends that I've made in 35 years.
I'm honored that you got this award.
[applause] - Thank you.
- I'm sorry I got it before you.
But I'm your lucky lead-in.
Jon Stewart, ladies and gentlemen.
[cheers and applause] - Thank you, David.
I can't thank you enough.
I love you, my man.
- I love you, too.
[rock music playing] ♪ - You crushed that, man.
You really crushed that.
- For comedians, it's kind of a solitary existence.
You're a bit of a traveling salesman, and you've got these group of people that you kind of grew up with in the New York clubs, but when you graduate, you're sort of sent out on your own postal route.
To get a chance to get back together and just remember how much you really loved their company-- they're just some of the funniest, smartest people I know in my life.
It's wonderful to get a chance to just be with them in an environment without smoke.
- He's my Knicks buddy.
We go to watch them lose at least, like, you know, twice a month.
He's just such a good dude.
And, you know, he's just, like, a comic icon.
So, like, never would I think, in a million years, I'd be homeys with him, you know?
We met, like, maybe four years ago when he was touring with Chappelle.
And I would come and, you know, bomb and open for them.
And we exchanged numbers.
And he always looks out for me.
I think people know how good of a guy he is.
I've been at the Garden tons of times.
I've never seen a reaction bigger than when they throw Jon Stewart up on the screen.
It's like, Nas, Jay-Z, [bleep] this guy, that guy-- you know, big.
Jon Stewart goes up there, it's like everybody loses their [bleep] mind.
And I think that speaks true to the person he is.
Let me just say how amazing it is to be here tonight honoring Jon Stewart in front of the largest audience he's had in years.
I can't believe I'm here.
Like, look at all these respected giants of political satire and Ed Helms.
Jon is the voice of reason for a generation, and I'm the reason you stopped watching "SNL."
I think the only thing we all have in common is we all keep losing Emmys to "Last Week Tonight."
And don't worry, Trevor-- Jon can explain what an Emmy is after the show.
[laughter and groans] Ah, come on.
It's not the Oscars.
Oh, all right.
There you go.
[cheers and applause] There you go.
The reason we're all here to honor Jon Stewart is because he's just so universally respected.
I mean, like, who couldn't love this guy?
Seriously, I mean, the most controversial thing he's ever done is, like, be friends with me.
And that really means a lot to me, Jon, 'cause, like, I have other famous friends, but they're, like, kind of in the closet about our friendship.
I'm kind of, like, Hollywood's side chick.
And that's why I love Jon, 'cause Jon isn't afraid to [bleep] me in public.
Jon is loyal.
You know, friendship isn't something he half-[bleep], like acting.
- [laughs] You know, or gives up on quickly, like directing.
It is really crazy to me, though, that he's my buddy.
Like, I seriously don't know if we're really friends or this is, like, a Make-A-Wish type thing.
Like, are you, like, my boy or just, like, kind of concerned?
Jon is really such an exceptional person that, you know, he really could be president tomorrow, and he's smart enough to not want the job.
Seriously, but he is a leader.
In 2019, he testified before Congress about our government's shameful lack of health care for the men and women who responded to the events of September 11th.
Yeah, you know, people like my dad, who ran into the towers that day, but instead of, you know, giving their lives in a moment, they walked away with a lifetime of illness and pain.
And Jon sat there with those responders behind him and Congress before him and gave the least funny speech he's ever made.
- They did their jobs with courage, grace... [voice breaking] Tenacity, humility.
18 years later, do yours!
- He got them to reauthorize the 9/11 Victim Compensation Bill.
[cheers and applause] And I know if my dad were here-- well, let's face it, I'd be working at a Denny's somewhere, but if he was, I know he'd be happy that you're looking out for him and his friends after all these years.
So thank you.
Jon Stewart is a hero and a true man of the people.
And I'm so blessed and lucky to be able to call him my friend, and I appreciate you as much as whoever this [bleep] Mark Twain guy is.
Thank you very much.
I love you so much, Jon.
- Love you.
- Thanks for having me.
[cheers and applause] - That was funny.
That was funny.
[applause] - Thank you.
- Pete, you did great.
You did really great.
- It's so scary, but it's awesome.
- Oh, my God.
- I mean, people call him a kingmaker of-- you know, the opportunities he gave people.
But rather than just looking at it that way, I think it's more that he built a whole family of performers and writers, people all with the same vision.
- Senator, how to you reconcile the fact that you were one of the most vocal critics of pork barrel politics, and yet, while you were Chairman of the Commerce Committee, that committee set a record for unauthorized appropriations?
[laughs] I'm just kidding.
No, I don't even know what that means.
He just wanted it to be good, and he wanted you to be good on the show.
And I think he inspired everybody to try to do their best work.
And he's a nut.
He would basically try anything.
And I always thought of him as a collaborator.
- Jon would pop into the edit room and sit, watch it down with us, and then just give some quick off-the-cuff notes, and those notes were so... so consistently perfect.
What if I told you that I'm wearing Speedo right now?
- Uh-- You see?
- I am Seamus Murphy, a simple, lazy dad who drinks the Shamrock Shakes and roots for the Dames of Notre.
- Was that your Russian accent?
Oh, uh, no, that was actually my Irish accent.
announcer: Please welcome Olivia Munn.
[applause] - Hey, Jon.
[cheers and applause] - Hello.
- So Jon Stewart changed my life.
In 2010, I was cohosting a show on a video game network, when I got a call that Jon Stewart wanted to interview me.
So I went to "The Daily Show" studio located in the heart of New York City-- 52nd and 11th.
It was technically in the river, if you remember.
I met Jon in his office that day, and I was amazed.
His office, no exaggeration... was a garbage can.
It was a mess.
There was actual trash in it.
Like, anything free he had ever been given, he just put on his desk.
And then there was a treadmill in the corner of his office, and the treadmill had clothes on it.
I could describe it more, but then I would just be naming garbage.
So I start getting nervous.
I'm like, "Oh, is this why he wants to hire an Asian-American woman-- to help organize?"
But, honestly, we had an amazing conversation that day, the first of many.
And then he offered me a job as a correspondent, and it was incredible.
So, on my way out of his office, I see this gold, glowing light coming from behind the door.
And then I see, on the ground, there's this cardboard box filled with Emmy Awards.
They were just, like, haphazardly thrown in there.
So I said, "Are these your actual Emmy Awards?"
And he said, "Yeah, that's where I keep them."
Look, some people might put their Emmys on a shelf or behind glass.
But not Jon Stewart.
His are in a cardboard box shoved behind a door... because that's who he is-- lazy and vaguely disrespectful.
[applause] Jon, you know this, but you are like a small big brother to me.
You have given me so much wisdom to navigate so much in my life.
You gave me advice during the MeToo movement, and more recently during the Stop Asian Hate movement, and I will always, always be grateful for your friendship.
So, in 2015, Jon announced he was leaving "The Daily Show."
He walked away from the desk and the suits by Canali in order to pursue his dream of dressing like a maintenance worker for the rest of his life.
Jon, I know that you left the show for many reasons, but a big part of it was to spend more time with your family and experience more that life has to offer.
But then last year, Jon decided to go back to work.
Yeah, as it turns out, after spending more time with his family, Jon decided to spend less time with his family.
- Oh, she's kidding.
- It's too late.
It's too late.
Look, Jon, whether you acknowledge it or not, you changed the way my generation saw the news and saw public policy.
You made each issue relatable and funny and human, and you always, in the most hilarious way, placed the news of the day in a larger historical context.
Jon actually made it cool to be informed and have an opinion on the news.
And that's why today, every [bleep]damn person has an opinion on every [bleep]damn thing that happens every [bleep]damn second.
Well done, Jon.
- Thank you.
- Jon, I am so honored to be here, and I hope you're enjoying this night because you really deserve it.
And I really can't wait to see what filthy cardboard box you dump this award into.
I love you, buddy.
[smooches] - Ah, Olivia!
[applause] - Aw, thanks, guys.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Aw, I did it.
Thanks for your help.
- We all--all the people who are pictured, we gave so much of ourselves to the show, and so did he, just in terms of molding your point of view and molding kind of the way you approach your work.
It was like going to comedy college, really.
So let's talk about race.
- If you scared, say you scared.
- [laughing] Why would I be scared?
I'm so happy to be here.
It feels very full circle.
It is so great to be together for this event after a two-year hiatus.
You know, I haven't been to D.C. since January 6th.
Not for the reasons you think.
I had a lunch planned with Ginni Thomas.
I don't know.
She stood me up.
She must have been busy with something else.
I first met Jon when he rescued me from obscurity to work at "The Daily Show" in 2003.
And when I arrived, I was ready to give up on the entertainment industry.
When I learned that I was even gonna have a chance to audition for "The Daily Show," I cried.
My husband said, "Babe, this is just the audition.
Cry if you get the job."
And then I actually got the job, so I cried a lot more.
I will never forget how stunned I was that Jon actually... he saw something in me, and he took me seriously, and he believed in me maybe when I didn't even believe in myself.
Truly, if it weren't for Jon, I'd probably be one of those Disney princesses who comes to children's birthday parties and introduces them to the hard truth about aging.
Look, it is no secret that in the early days, "The Daily Show" was a place where... men could finally be free to do comedy, just all together in a sea of plaid and, for some reason, mainly shoeless.
There I was, plowing through scripts that required multiple stopover economy flights to places where Ed Helms couldn't safely pack his banjo.
But I knew that I was lucky.
Back in the early days, "The Daily Show" felt like a startup.
We were all just kind of figuring it out as we worked.
And what we learned... is that satire solves the world's problems.
Don't believe me?
Look at all the satirical shows we now have and how amazing the world is doing.
Jon taught me what it looks like to stand behind the values you espouse, and he's taught me that there's no such thing as "it's perfect," which was so infuriating when I came back with something that was so perfect.
But perhaps most importantly, he taught me how to have a holiday party and that I should never, ever show up at it.
Like, shake some hands and pretend to do a shot, and get the hell out.
I literally cannot believe he hasn't done an Irish exit tonight already.
Thank you so much, Jon.
I love you.
[applause] [rock music] ♪ - I got to say--I think the kids are having a good time and not just because they were doing shots in a wine bar.
I love this boy.
- Yeah, I can tell.
- He's my favorite boy.
The best decision I ever made was taking "The Daily Show."
And the other best decision I ever made was leaving "The Daily Show," because I got to spend their years as teenagers just being with them.
He's a bully.
He's a bully.
Being present in their lives was such a great joy, and something I know I-- that's something you can't get back.
When they were little, in my office, we got, like, "Blue's Clues" tiny furniture.
- Oh, yeah.
- And he-- Hey!
What are you guys doing?
- Coming to see you.
- Get in here.
♪ announcer: Please welcome Steve Carell.
[cheers and applause] - A humorist is a comedian who has been dead for over 100 years.
But in the case of Jon Stewart, we are making an exception.
I first met Jon, or Bulldog, as all of his good friends call him, in 1999 when I became a correspondent on "The Daily Show."
It was a dream job.
I shared an office with my friend Stephen Colbert.
I traveled the country doing field reports about interesting and eccentric people.
I worked with an incredibly talented production team.
And above all else, I had front-row seats to witness the magic of Jon Stewart.
It is impossible to exaggerate the amount of physical and mental effort that went in to making "The Daily Show."
And Jon carried the bulk of that work on his sinewy, narrow shoulders.
He was our leader, and we would do anything for him.
One of my first assignments was an interview with a man who ran a venom research facility in Nebraska.
When I got there, the research facility was actually a mobile home full of snakes... some in cages, some free-range.
The "scientist" who ran the facility had been bitten by his snakes so many times that the hospital wouldn't send an ambulance all the way out to his home anymore.
It was terrifying, as I have a phobia of things that can kill me.
Fortunately, I managed to not get bitten or squeezed to death.
Jon loved the interview.
As he watched it, he jokingly said over and over that it would have been great if I'd actually been bitten by a snake.
I remember him saying, "That would have been great "if you'd been bitten by one of those snakes.
"I would have loved that.
That would have been so funny."
Do you remember that, Jon?
- I do.
- Another time, Jon sent Stephen and I out to do a report about the effects of alcohol on motor skills.
In a loosely controlled experiment, I drank 6 Long Island Iced Teas in the course of about 45 minutes while Stephen tested my cognitive abilities.
On the way home, I threw up out the window of Stephen's car.
Unfortunately, the window was closed.
Jon loved that I had pushed the envelope, that I had jeopardized my personal health and well-being for the sake of a two-minute comedy sketch.
He asked if there was any extended footage of the vomiting.
He also reiterated that he'd like to see me bitten by a snake at some point.
- You have to stop.
- Jon was always supporting us, always cheering us on from the comfort and safety of his office.
He once had me eat Crisco on camera.
It could have been vanilla frosting, because that looks exactly the same, and I told him so, but Jon, Jon is a perfectionist and would have none of it.
"Go big or go home," Jon used to say.
He loved that phrase.
He also liked, "I'm getting too old for this [bleep]."
And also, "Did I do that?"
[snickers] My years of working with Jon were wonderful, full of excitement, fear, physical distress, and laughter.
And as much as pains me to do this, I have to be earnest for a minute.
Jon, you are a great writer and performer.
You are articulate and thoughtful.
You are funny and kind, and you care deeply.
As most of you know, "The Daily Show" was shot in New York City, and, naturally, the show stopped filming after 9/11.
Production was shut down, and the city struggled to recover.
We didn't know when we would go back on the air because it was hard to imagine trying to be funny again.
When Jon finally decided to resume the show, his first night back, he delivered a commentary.
Speaking from the heart, he took on the immensely difficult job of finding some context, some hope in the wake of such a devastating tragedy.
- Any fool can destroy.
[sniffles] But to see these guys, these firefighters, these policemen, and people from all over the country, literally with buckets... rebuilding... [sniffles] That, that is... that's extraordinary.
- In that moment, he encapsulated, at least to me, why the show existed and what sets him apart.
He strives to make sense out of the insane and to find joy within darkness.
Jon, your intellect, sense of humor, and fearlessness are an inspiration to me.
I thank you for that.
We thank you for that.
[applause] - One of the biggest things that I ever did when I was younger in my career was I got to interview Carlin for his 40th anniversary show for HBO.
It was like talking to the old, wizened sage of comedy.
You know, he was my hero.
Do you feel your place in comedy now?
- I think, you know, longevity is a wonderful thing.
Sometimes you get applause just for not being dead, when you say--It's true.
- Tonight I was thinking for a second-- I was like, "That's so funny that we're doing"-- And then I'm like, "Oh, wait a minute.
I'm him now.
I'm the old man."
- 55, 58, whatever now versus then is different.
Like, "The Golden Girls" were 55.
Betty White was, like, 50.
- Except for Estelle Getty, who was, like, 80.
- No, actually, she wasn't.
- She was the youngest one.
- She was the youngest.
She was in makeup.
- It's pathetic that we know this.
- It is sad.
- Like, No!
Getty was the-- - [bleep] you, man!
- Bea Arthur!
It was Bea Arthur!
- Flips table.
- What are you doing?
- Jon Stewart is as good an interviewer as there is.
- You're here to fire me, aren't you?
- We've longed for this moment.
I mean, you are enormously popular among the right sort of people.
- He was kind of the Mark Twain of our time.
- He brought his humor to serious issues... - How's the world?
- And focused people's attention with that.
- I believe that there is no difference between a man and a woman.
I even believe that a woman is more powerful than men.
Malala... - [laughing] - This was going so well.
- Stewart's known not just for doing good interviews but doing very knowledgeable interviews.
- With all the financial shenanigans that have gone over the years, the only person we've really brought to heel is Martha Stewart, and that's got to tell you something about just how tilted this thing is.
- You've forgotten a little bit about Bernie Madoff.
- Speaking of Bernie Madoff, who came up with payment for order flow?
- We have done things that some folks don't even know about.
Four million kids-- - What have you done that we don't know about?
- Well... - Are you-- - No, no, no, no, no.
- Are you planning a surprise party for us... filled with jobs and health care?
announcer: Please welcome Jimmy Kimmel.
- Jimmy Kimmel!
[applause] - Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Hey, how great is it that we're here?
[cheers and applause] Some of the funniest people in the world are here.
At the end of this night, Marjorie Taylor Greene will have us all in handcuffs.
I've never worked for Jon, so I can't talk about what a kind and generous boss or how brilliant he was in the room, but...
So I have to go with what I know.
And what I know is that, Jon, when you wear your tiny sweaters, you look like Stuart Little.
This is a big deal.
Jon doesn't go out much.
I wouldn't say he's a shut-in, but his office at home-- on the shelf behind his desk, there are more jars of urine than Emmys.
And he has a lot of Emmys.
I think he has all of the Emmys there are.
In fact, Jon, they didn't want me to tell you, but this award tonight, they didn't make a new trophy.
We're giving you Bill Cosby's old one.
It's better for your beloved "environment."
Before Jon, we had no idea you could make a TV show where you played clips of another TV show and then said, "Boy, that other TV show sucked."
Jon took on Fox News every night.
He exposed their hypocrisy, their cynicism, their lies.
And thanks to his heroic work, they were never heard from again.
I've known Jon since 1995, back in the days when Jon would wear a leather jacket to... to get his headshot.
This was his headshot.
He looks like an even more Jewish Fonzie.
This is... Sylvester Shalom, if you will.
And I hesitate to share this because it doesn't reflect well on me... but I'm gonna do it for Gilbert Gottfried because I know he wouldn't hesitate to share this story.
[cheers and applause] So... when Jon was doing "The Daily Show" on Comedy Central, I was doing "The Man Show" on Comedy Central.
Please don't tell anyone.
We'll keep that between us.
But we're doing "The Man Show," and for a while, Jon's show came on right after ours on Wednesday nights, and I had this idea.
And, again, I'm not proud of this, all right?
But at the time, I thought it was a really good idea.
I was with Jon in New York.
And I said, "What I want to do is... "fart into a Ziploc bag... and mail it to you to open on your show."
So, at the end of our show, as we're saying our good nights, my plan was I would fart into the bag, sandwich size, and put it in a box, and mail it to Jon in New York.
And then Jon, the thought was, would open it and see if there was still anything in the bag... to teach people about science, you know?
But... Jon very nicely said, "No, I'm not gonna do that."
And that is why Jon Stewart is getting the Mark Twain Prize... and I'm not.
- I don't think, like, many people here in the United States realize the impact that he has outside of the United States.
- Jon Stewart leaves a legacy of inspiring comedians across the globe.
- His witty style has inspired... - Most comedians... - Inspired by Jon Stewart.
- It's all you, Jon.
We're getting everything from you.
You're the prophet.
- You're the prophet.
- Here he is-- a man so hateful, his hands won't even make the heart symbol.
- [speaking German] - Here.
- The only show that we look up to is "Daily Show," man.
- Do they know I'm Jewish?
- [laughing wildly] - [speaking native language] - Mm... - Does satire get you into trouble?
- It doesn't get me into the kind of trouble it gets you into.
[Red Hot Chili Peppers' "Around the World"] - Political satire is banned in their country.
- ♪ That life is beautiful around the world ♪ - Hello.
This is Baghdad calling.
- Satire has never been as popular in Iraq as it is now, even though it's an extremely dangerous game to play.
- We do it just like "The Daily Show."
The government want our program to disappear.
- [speaking native language] - Ladies and gentlemen, Jon Stewart!
[cheers and applause] - Cairo, Egypt, 2003.
That was the first time I ever saw Jon Stewart on something called a television.
We didn't have Comedy Central there, and YouTube was not even invented.
But every Arab home had CNN.
You see, after the first Iraq war, CNN functioned as an early warning system to know where America will strike us next.
And it was CNN when I first saw Jon Stewart.
It was the once-a-week global edition of "The Daily Show."
And, honestly, I didn't really understand his jokes.
And for someone like me, living in the Middle East, I didn't understand, who are Democrats?
What is a Republican?
And why is he so pissed at Fox News?
But because of Jon, I became aware of political satire and American messed-up politics.
I had a dream to have a similar show in Egypt.
But at that time, it was almost impossible.
We had a president for 30 years, and in the Middle East, that is a very short first term.
But Cairo, Egypt, 2011, the Arab Spring happened, and we had an opportunity.
I made a couple of YouTube videos channeling a very cheap knockoff version of "The Daily Show," and it went viral.
And before I knew it, I was on television with a very small show.
On that day, I left medicine, and because of that decision, many more patients are alive today.
People in Egypt loved the show.
Authority, not so much.
And then during my show, there was a warrant for my arrest.
I was interrogated for six hours.
And they asked me, straight up, "Does Jon Stewart sponsor you?"
I said, "That's ridiculous.
Everybody knows he's a cheap [bleep]," so...
He keep Emmys in a box behind the door.
I went on his show in 2012, and after the show, I told him, "I'm gonna make you a promise.
"I'm going to create the biggest political satire show ":in the Middle East, "with the first-ever show with live audience.
And I would love you to come."
And he made me a promise.
He's like, "I will come."
I had the most popular show in the Middle East, but there were also riots in the streets.
There were teargas.
We had to smell it in every day when we were doing the show in the theater.
And even the State Department issued a warning telling Americans not to go to Egypt.
But you came.
You fulfilled your promise.
[applause] Two weeks after that, the military seized power from the Islamists.
I called Jon.
I said, "I'm scared.
"I don't know what to do.
"The new authority is too popular, too loved.
"I'm scared people will turn against me and I would lose my popularity."
So he said, "Well, you need to ask yourself, "do you want to do comedy, or do you want to do something that would last forever?"
So I went all the way.
I pushed the envelope.
I spoke up.
And as expected, my show was canceled.
People turned against me.
I faced lawsuits and defamation, and I had to escape from Egypt.
So [bleep] you, Jon!
- I don't-- - Thanks for nothing, buddy!
- I don't know what happened!
- I could have stayed and be a sellout, a very rich sellout.
You had to be an "inspiration."
But I'm glad I'm here to tell you I love you, man.
You all talk about his impact in America, but you don't understand the impact that he has outside of America.
Even in my region, people learned about American politics from you, which I find it really pathetic.
But it's-- Like, you don't understand the impact that you have on so many people all around the world.
You are the source of everything.
You are the origin story of every one of us.
I am forever grateful for CNN because they introduced me to you.
Thank you, man.
[cheers and applause] - Hello, there, Kennedy Center.
I'm so sorry I couldn't be there tonight, but thank you so much for having me on for this very sad evening-- or at least I presume it's sad, because when I heard that Jon Stewart was getting the Mark Twain Award, I knew immediately something was very wrong.
There is just no way that the Jon Stewart I knew would voluntarily put himself in a situation where he was publicly celebrated and had to sit in a room with people as they offered him sincere compliments.
There is just no way that he would let that happen.
Therefore, the only conclusion that I come to is that Jon Stewart died.
He's no longer with us.
And you're giving him this award posthumously.
That is just literally the only scenario that makes sense.
And, honestly, actually makes me feel a lot more comfortable saying what I'm about to say.
So, if you could just layer in Sarah McLachlan's "In the Arms of an Angel" under this, that'd be great.
I know it might be a rights and clearances issue for you.
So, really, any sad song, but ideally... the sad dog one.
And try and remember, even if it is expensive, it is what Jon would have wanted.
And he is, after all, dead.
So play it now.
[music starts] Perfect.
[clears throat] Jon Stewart's death is a blow to all of us.
He was one of the most important comedic minds of his generation, and he will be sadly missed.
I know it seems like he hasn't died, doesn't it?
That he's still here with us.
And I think that speaks to just what a huge figure he was and how long his influence will be felt.
And I know that you might be thinking, "No, no, no.
"Jon is here.
He's in this room with us right now."
And I understand that feeling.
I really do.
He's in this room, too, isn't he?
He's in all of our rooms in spirit.
But he's, of course, definitely dead.
He just has to be, otherwise this evening makes no sense to me.
He just would not put himself in the position where he's spending two hours-- conservatively, two hours-- squirming in his seat as he hears how much he means to people.
He would rather be dead than let that happen, which is why I'm so glad that he is.
He must be.
There are so many things that I wish I could have said to him when he was still alive.
I wish I could have told him just how much he changed my life, how much so many people owe to him, and how important a figure he's been to so many of us.
Also, if I got that chance, I'd probably tell him that some of those field pieces that he sent us on as "Daily Show" correspondents were an absolute nightmare.
I don't think he ever fully understood how bad that was.
But I can't tell him any of that, can I, frustratingly?
Because, of course, he's so definitely dead.
So, from the bottom of my heart, thank you for everything, Jon, wherever you are.
And thank you to Sarah McLachlan as well.
I presume you got that.
[music ends, applause] announcer: And now, everyone, it's time for the seventh-inning stretch.
[upbeat organ music playing] - ♪ Take me out to the ball game ♪ ♪ Take me out to the crowd ♪ Buy me some peanuts and Cracker Jack ♪ ♪ I don't care if I ever get back ♪ ♪ 'Cause it's root, root, root for Jon Stewart ♪ ♪ If he doesn't win, it will be awkward ♪ ♪ 'Cause it's one, two, three strikes you're out ♪ ♪ At the old Mark Twain [2 Unlimited's "Get Ready" playing] - Oh!
What is happening?
- ♪ Y'all ready for this?
♪ [music ends, cheers and applause] - Wow.
True story--that was actually Mark Twain's T-shirt cannon.
It's on loan from the Smithsonian.
Of course, Jon's love of the game is legendary, but did you know he's also an amazing player?
It's true-- Jon was actually invited to throw out the first pitch at a Mets game.
- Oh, no.
- And it kind of blew people away.
I actually have the clip here.
- No, no, don't do it, Ed.
- Can we take a look?
I love you, Ed!
[indistinct chatter over PA system] [scattered cheers and shouting] [crowd groans, booing] - Ladies and gentlemen, Jon Stewart.
- If you put a comedian on a pitcher's mound, you expect it to go badly.
But Jon, being who he is, he exceeded those expectations, right?
Anyone can throw a baseball well or accurately or most of the way to where it's supposed to go.
But Jon plays sports on his own terms, unencumbered by the burdens of athleticism and coordination.
As I stand here dressed like Ned Flanders at a Trump rally, I just...
I feel so lucky to be here, because I finally have a chance to tell you what you have meant to me over all these years.
I owe you so much, Jon.
I really do.
Honestly, if it wasn't for Jon Stewart, I don't even think I would be here tonight honoring Jon Stewart.
In all seriousness, and I do say that knowing that I'm dressed like Orville Redenbacher at a Pride Parade, I just--I want to say... of course, you are outrageously and ridiculously funny.
Everyone knows that.
And that makes you very special.
But your passion, generosity, and integrity are what make you great.
- [mouths words] [applause] [Gary Clark Jr.'s "Low Down Rolling Stone" plays] ♪ I haven't been talked about enough tonight, so we're just gonna-- - Well, I want you to know two things.
I mean, first of all, I love you dearly, and I think you are-- I mean, I have a lot of respect-- I don't know if you've read the work of Mark Twain.
- Not that funny, to be honest with you.
- Well, that's why I think you guys are very much alike.
No, but, Jon, besides you being the funniest, you are the best guy, and a toast to you.
- Thank you.
- And I'm sorry to put you on the spot again.
- Thank you.
[cheers and applause] ♪ - Oh, look at this!
- President Kennedy once remarked that there are only three things in life that are truly real-- God, human folly, and laughter.
"The first two," the president said, "Are beyond our comprehension, so we must do what we can with the third."
- Jon Stewart!
[cheers and applause] - And few Americans in the history of the republic have done quite as much with laughter as Jon Stewart.
He likes to say that he's not an activist, not a player in the arena, but only an observer.
Well, Jon, we love you, but you're really wrong about that.
Lincoln was right when he said, "In this age, in this country, public sentiment is everything."
And Jon is an architect of that public sentiment.
- What am I at my highest aspiration?
Who am I?
Am I Edward R. Murrow?
Or am I Mark Twain?
- Of those two?
- So has that existed?
- Mark Twain had a lot of political impact.
- The country's 24-hour politico pundit perpetual panic conflictinator did not cause our problems, but its existence makes solving them that much harder.
- It has taken an entertainer to show us that news and politics must be more than entertainment, more than show business starring the bow-tied and the bombastic.
- When you talk about, you're holding politicians' feet to the fire, I think that's disingenuous.
No, this is theater.
I mean, how old are you?
- And you wear a bow tie.
- Yeah, I do.
- News organizations are being criticized-- - Who would criticize the news?
Who would do such a thing?
- Night after night, Jon, you gave a divided America a chance to get its moral bearings.
Then and now, you've loved America enough to tell it the truth.
[applause] - We know, instinctively as a people, that if we are to get through the darkness and back into the light, we have to work together.
And the truth is, there will always be darkness.
And sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel isn't the promised land.
Sometimes it's just New Jersey.
[laughter, cheers, and applause] [cheers and applause grow louder] - Good evening!
From the days of his stewardship of "The Daily Show" to now, Jon's been one of the few voices that have kept me and many other Americans sane.
His humor always carried with it the undercurrent of the deep respect and the love of country and the democratic values for which we stand.
Jon, you're an American treasure.
I play this tonight for you as a proud American but, more importantly, as a proud New Jerseyan.
Tramps like us, pal... [strumming chords] [Bruce Springsteen's "Born to Run" plays] ♪ ♪ In the day, we sweat it out on the streets ♪ ♪ Of a runaway American dream ♪ At night, we ride through mansions of glory ♪ ♪ In suicide machines ♪ Yeah, sprung from cages on Highway 9 ♪ ♪ Chrome-wheeled, fuel-injected ♪ ♪ And stepping out over the line ♪ ♪ Baby, this town rips the bones from your back ♪ ♪ It's a death trap, suicide rap ♪ ♪ We got to get out while we're young ♪ ♪ ♪ 'Cause tramps like us ♪ Baby, we were born to run ♪ ♪ Wendy, let me in ♪ I want to be your friend ♪ I want to guard your dreams and visions ♪ ♪ Yeah, just wrap your legs round these velvet rims ♪ ♪ And strap your hands across my engines ♪ ♪ And together we could break this trap ♪ ♪ We'll run till we drop ♪ And never go back ♪ Walk with me out on the wire ♪ ♪ I'm just a scared and lonely rider ♪ ♪ I want to find out how it feels ♪ ♪ ♪ I want to know if love is wild ♪ ♪ I want to know if love is real ♪ ♪ ♪ Oh, beyond the palace ♪ Hemi-powered drones ♪ Scream down the boulevard ♪ The girls comb their hair ♪ In rearview mirrors ♪ And the boys try to look so hard ♪ ♪ ♪ The amusement park rises bold and stark ♪ ♪ Kids are huddled on the beach in the mist ♪ ♪ I want to die with you, Wendy ♪ ♪ On the streets tonight ♪ In an everlasting kiss ♪ ♪ Well, the highway's jammed ♪ With broken heroes ♪ On a last-chance power drive ♪ ♪ Everybody's out on the run tonight ♪ ♪ But there's no place left to hide ♪ ♪ Well, together, Wendy ♪ We'll live with the sadness ♪ I'll love you with all the madness ♪ ♪ In my soul ♪ Someday, I don't know when ♪ We're gonna get to that place ♪ ♪ We really want to go ♪ And we'll walk in the sun ♪ ♪ Till then, tramps like us ♪ Baby, we were born to run ♪ ♪ Tramps like us ♪ Baby, we were born to run [vocalizing] ♪ [music ends, cheers and applause] - Thanks, man.
Thank you so much.
I'm just so delighted that we are in the lowest-ceilinged wine bar in all of D.C.... during a pandemic, obviously.
Cheers to whatever variant comes out of this get-together.
- And thank you all very much for coming out.
This has been-- The best part about this is to catch up with people that I haven't seen in so many years and who I love dearly.
So this has been lovely.
And by the way, my mother is incredibly proud of me.
- She is!
- Said you're gonna get the award, and then like a month later, my wife said to me, "We should tell your mom."
[cheers and applause] [Gary Clark Jr.'s "When My Train Pulls in" plays] - Good evening.
I'm Stephen Colbert, coming to you love from my secret mountain lair.
I really wish I could be there tonight, but, unfortunately, Anthony Fauci is standing just outside my door with a Taser.
I am honored to celebrate my friend Jon Stewart receiving the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor, sponsored by America's funniest corporate financial service institution-- Capital One.
What's in your wallet?
Tonight... it's laughter.
First, entirely fitting that Jon is receiving the Twain Prize.
In fact, I think Mark Twain would be lucky to get the Jon Stewart Prize.
- They have a lot in common.
They're both brilliant satirical writers.
Both called out the hypocrisies of their times.
And like Mark Twain, Jon also appears to have been born in 1835.
Jon's not only a comedian.
He's also a prophet.
Years before anyone had heard of COVID-19, Jon wore nothing but stained sweatpants and avoided all human contact.
He tried to warn us, but we didn't listen.
Now, it has been said that "a genius" is one who's work changes their art form forever.
And Jon certainly changed late night.
All of us who do topical humor on a daily basis are standing on his shoulders, which reminds me, I do hope you're taking the Boniva, Jon.
It looks like you drank out of the wrong chalice in an Indiana Jones movie.
Fun fact--I was already working at "The Daily Show" when Jon took over.
I had been there with the first host, Craig Kilborn-- God rest his soul.
Before Jon changed the focus of "The Daily," it was my job as a correspondent to interview unmedicated conspiracy theorists who believe in Bigfoot and aliens who put babies in your butt.
But today those people are in Congress.
[cheers and applause] Now, in addition to being a legend of late night, Jon is one of my dearest friends.
One of my dearest work friends.
So few people understand the work that we late-night hosts do.
So how blessed am I that I can have a friend who can just check in with me, or I can check in with him?
Do you have any idea how rare a friendship like that is in show business?
Rarer still, we didn't turn it into a podcast.
Of course, all of us here know that Jon is a brilliant comedian.
But his close friends know that Jon's true passion is recreational anxiety.
It's... - [chuckles] It's his superpower.
Instead of a radioactive spider, Jon was bitten by a clinically depressed squirrel.
But that, that is why he's the perfect person to publicly worry about the future of our democracy, why so many people think he should run for president.
And I get it.
[cheers and applause] Yeah.
He's got a lot in common with Bill Clinton-- a keen intelligence, the veganism, the rapid aging.
And... those early days of "The Daily Show" were a special time that really had nothing to do with the success of the show.
No one was really watching.
It was all about the fun we had with each other and about how much we cared about getting the jokes right every day.
And that spirit of adventure, that feeling that we were a band of happy pirates, that all started from the top, with our fearless and ridiculous leader.
And the show really came into its own in the 2000 election.
I remember the night that Al Gore conceded, after 32 days of indecision and legal wrangling.
We finally got to perform all these pieces we had been sitting on for a month.
And it was a really great night.
And I remember, I was sitting at the desk with Jon, and as we went into the last commercial break, I turned to him, and I don't know if you remember this, Jon, but this is true.
Under the applause, I said to you what was in my heart, what I knew to be true.
I said, "This is the best job on television."
And as well as the show had gone that night--and it did-- I know now that what I was really saying to you was the best job on television was working for you.
I meant that when I said it in 2000.
And 22 years later, I no longer mean that.
I have a way better job now.
I make a lot more money.
I have a much bigger audience.
People chant my name.
CBS has a plane I can sometimes use.
It's really nice.
You can get up and get your own Diet Coke or peanuts or whatever.
I couldn't do my job, I wouldn't have my career if it wasn't for those years with Jon, if I hadn't seen his example of working with intention, of staying silly while giving a damn, of always doing his best to lead with clarity and treat people with respect along the way.
He is the kindest, most thoughtful friend, the fastest mind, the stupidest doofus, and most passionate patriot for whom his love of country is no joke.
So, ladies and gentlemen, join me in congratulating the most fitting recipient of the Mark Twain Prize I could imagine, my brother Jon Stewart.
[cheers and applause] - Stephen!
[rock music plays] The sum of your work isn't necessarily a critic's reflection on it or an audience's response to it, but the people that touched you and you touched and the grace that they've shown you and the just incredible moments of creation.
It's those moments in the room where somebody lights a match of inspiration, and that leads to a bit that really satisfies the itch that you wanted to express.
Look at all the things and pictures and people and places you got to put in your book just 'cause you wanted to tell some jokes in a [bleep]-hole basement in Greenwich Village.
announcer: And now please welcome the chairman of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, David Rubenstein.
[music ends, cheers and applause] - There are many ways that individuals can give back to their country-- military service, other types of government service, volunteering, philanthropy, to name just a few.
And serving your country and helping to make it better is surely one of the most ennobling and fulfilling things that anyone can do.
That is what patriotism is really all about.
So it is altogether fitting, as we think about Mark Twain and his legacy, that we honor someone who is also more than a humorist, someone who is also a social commentator and someone who takes actions designed to see that his social concerns are actually addressed by governments in a timely and humane way.
Tonight we thought it'd be more appropriate for two men who have benefitted from Jon Stewart's persistence and passion and commitment to right what he has seen as wrong to actually present the Mark Twain Prize to Jon Stewart.
Those individuals have directly had their lives made better by the patriotic acts of Jon Stewart and represent all their brothers and sisters... - Who is this?
- Across the nation.
Coming to the stage on behalf of America's 9/11 first responders, John Feal... - Oh, my God.
- And American hero, veteran, and wounded warrior Israel "DT" Del Toro.
[applause] - Are you kidding me?
[applause continues] - It is our greatest honor to present the 23rd Mark Twain Prize for American Humor to Jon Stewart.
[cheers and applause] [bluesy rock music playing] ♪ - Unbelievable.
♪ Thank you so much.
You know, that's a wonderful surprise.
You know, this night... Is that it?
I just--you know, I've been in this 35 years.
I just--you know, was that, like, 8 people?
I don't know.
I just-- I guess I expected more.
This is incredible.
You know, you're [bleep] amazing.
Gary Clark, Jr. and the whole band just is amazing.
What an amazing night.
When I first got the call from the Kennedy Center, I would receive the Twain Prize, I said to my wife, "Don't give them any of our credit card information."
"'The Kennedys' want to give you "the Twain.'"
[stammers] "And it can be yours.
Just--there's some shipping costs."
But I Googled it... And it's real.
It's a real award.
And to see you all here, masked, is so [bleep] weird.
I can't even tell you.
It does feel like a dystopian movie or like a weird O. Henry story, where, at the end, they say to the comedian, "You know, you can perform, but no mouths.
There can be"... You know, and backstage, I'm sure the comedians are like, "Yo, did you see those eye crinkles?
"I was [bleep] killing it.
Oh, my God, they were squinting."
"It was amazing."
This is a Faustian bargain.
But I'm so glad for us to finally be getting back to normal and finally getting back to honoring the nonessential worker.
That's really... You're welcome.
I think the pandemic taught us one thing.
It's that, really, you don't need any of us, do you?
You just--you need the grocery-store guy to-- This is a wonderful award.
To see all my friends here and all the people I've worked with through the years, it remind me of... of just how many people I carried... for so long.
There were a lot of jokes about how I look.
I am a Jew.
This is what happens.
[chuckles] Black don't crack, but Jews-- we age like avocados.
I have so many people to thank, really, for all this.
First and foremost, my mother is here, who is right there.
She is gonna be 90.
[cheers and applause] There you go!
Come on, woman!
This year she is gonna be 90, or as that's known in the U.S. Senate, a freshman.
You know, everybody talked about work ethic.
That's where I learned it.
When-- 1971 or 1972, my father left the family, and we had tough times.
It was tough.
And she could have rolled over, but she didn't.
She got up, and she showed me that you're not your circumstances.
You're not what happens to you.
You're what you make of it.
And she got up, and she got her [bleep] in gear, and she gave us a good life.
And I can never repay her for that.
And the punchline-- my father died ten years ago.
Winner, winner, chicken dinner.
That's what I'm saying.
Who's laughing now?
Yeah, I still have issues.
I want to thank my brother, who is here.
My brother, who was so academically gifted that I knew I would have to go in a different direction.
I thank him for that.
My family is here.
That is my boy.
I can't tell you-- And this is advice for anybody.
If you like to do dumb [bleep], which is something I like very much to do, I cannot recommend more creating a small child... Who also likes to do dumb [bleep]... Because then... you can do the dumb [bleep] and say, "That's what he want--What?"
Little Maggie is also here.
Nothing's better than when little Maggie says to me, "You want to go for a drive?"
And we get in the car, and we go for a drive.
And if any of you want to have a transcendent experience, get in the car with your daughter and drive down the Jersey Shore, and listen to J. Cole "She's Mine, Parts 1 and 2" as the sun is setting, and it's beautiful.
And I can't be prouder of the both of you, and I love you both so much.
And my wife, who...
I met my wife on a blind date in 1995.
And our first date-- I had it all picked out.
We went to a little hole-in-the-wall place called Lupe's East L.A.
Kitchen on Sixth Avenue and Watts in New York.
And we went there because I am a [bleep] baller.
But it was a really interesting date because she didn't say anything... the whole time.
So, afterwards, I thought, "Well, I'll take one last shot."
I was walking her back.
She lived on Mulberry Street.
I said, "You want to just duck into a bar real quick and just have a quick drink?"
Well... one Scotch and soda... and it was on.
[imitating high-pitched chattering] And I was hooked.
And I have to say, again, a lesson for all of you, if you're gonna go on a date, make sure the place has a liquor license... Because if it doesn't, you could miss out on your favorite person in the world.
[crowd aws, applause] Love you.
Still the best laugh I ever earned.
And to all the people that came here tonight to see this, I can't thank you enough.
It's ironic-- I carry around always a quote by Twain.
It just so happens... that I'm never without it.
And it's about ideas, and the quote is... "The radical invents the views.
"But when he has worn them out, the conservative adopts them."
And I keep that with me as a reminder that even for Twain, they're not all [bleep] gems.
Even the most celebrated artist amongst us [bleep] the bed.
But the point is this-- what we do is an iterative business.
It's a grind.
The best amongst us just keep at it.
I began in 1987, and my journey began-- It's the weirdest thing.
I walked into a basement in Greenwich Village called the Comedy Cellar.
And when you're a comic, you look in a room, and 200 seats are facing one way.
And there's one stool, and it has a light shining on it.
And you walk into that room and go, "That's gonna be my chair.
I'm gonna sit in that one."
And you spend the rest of your career trying to earn that stool.
And some nights, man, you don't even belong in the club.
You don't even belong on the street.
But you get back at it because... there isn't any fixed point in comedy where you make it or you don't make it.
It's the journey with the greatest friends I could ever possibly have made.
And the terrible nights and the great nights and the fun we have sitting at the table, that's what this weekend's been about for me-- is catching up with great friends and sitting at the table and laughing our [bleep] off and us all going, like, "Oh, God, what time do we have to be there tonight?"
Not that you're not great.
And there's a lot of talk right now about what's gonna happen to comedy.
You know, there was The Slap.
And what does The Slap say about comedy?
And is comedy gonna survive in this new moment?
I've got news for you.
Comedy survives every moment.
And having Bassem here is a really great example of the true threat to comedy.
[applause] It's not the woke police that are gonna be an existential threat to comedy.
It's not the Fresh Prince, it's the Crown Prince.
It's not the fragility of audiences, it's the fragility of leaders.
You don't owe us anything as an audience.
If we say [bleep] you don't like, say [bleep] back.
Do whatever you got to do.
Don't get up and hit us.
But that's just the game we're in.
We talk [bleep] for a living, you talk [bleep] back, and we've just got to be better than you, and we've got to find a way to entertain you.
But the threat to comedy-- Comedy doesn't change the world, but it's a bellwether.
We're the banana peel in the coal mine.
When a society is under threat, comedians are the ones who get sent away first.
It's just a reminder to people that... democracy is under threat.
Authoritarians are the threat to comedy, to art, to music, to thought, to poetry, to progress, to all those things.
It's never been-- All that [bleep] is a red herring.
It ain't the pronoun police, it's the secret police.
It always has been, and it always will be.
And this man's decapitated visage... Is a reminder to all of us that what we have is fragile and precious.
And the way to guard against it isn't to change how audiences think.
It's to change how leaders lead.
And so I thank you so much for your support tonight and for this award.
[applause] Thank you.
[Gary Clark Jr.'s "Bright Lights" playing] ♪ Thank you.
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- ♪ Going to my head ♪ Bright lights, big city ♪ Going to my head ♪ Bright lights, big city ♪ Going to my head ♪ I don't care now ♪ 'Cause you don't care ♪ [cheers and applause]