Mark Twain Prize 2013: Carol Burnett Wins Award, But Why Her?


The Kennedy Center just awarded its Mark Twain Prize for excellence in American comedy to Carol Burnett. With previous recipients like Will Ferrell, Tina Fey, and George Carlin in mind, this year’s distinction just begs the question: “Wait….who is Carol Burnett again?”

The 81-year-old comedienne is best known for the Carol Burnett Show, which rocked the air waves … 30 years ago. Her appearance, the red hair and green eyes, caused her to be called the next Lucille Ball… 40 years ago. Her last television appearance that was not in the soap opera Days of Our Lives was on Glee … in 2010 …

I apologize for being a stereotypical, history-neglecting member of my generation, and I apologize to Burnett, who has been making people laugh for decades, but this 2013 iteration of the prestigious comedy award seems like a life time recognition after the fact. Remember that year when Steely Dan suddenly swept the Grammys? Me neither! But apparently that happened, and it seems the Kennedy Center is also inclined to hand out random, latent honors during a slow year.

To make matters worse, comedy awards are a conflict of interest. Comedians are not supposed to take themselves seriously, at least on the outside of their personae. The people who drop this façade to accept the honor come off as pious, and the people who joke about seem like hacks. Burnett, in her written response, took both roads, saying “I could never be as funny as the people in Washington!” Cue the tumbleweed sound.

My vote would have the obvious choice of Louis C.K., which would be boring for Kennedy Center, he needs another honoring the least of any comedian. Who do you think it should have been?