Cappy McGarr, one of the humor prize’s executive producers, said Leno has been on the list of comedians to honor for a long time. It wasn’t a question of waiting until Leno retired, he said.
“Leno and Twain both have turned humor into a national conversation and a national conversation into humor, and I’m also quite confident they drove the same car,” McGarr said. “You know, we receive bad news every day, and it’s important for us to keep our humor intact, as difficult as that might be. And thank goodness Jay has contributed to our American humor for a generation and made us keep things in perspective.”
Recent winners of the Mark Twain humor prize include Carol Burnett, Ellen DeGeneres, Will Ferrell, Tina Fey and Bill Cosby.