23 October 2011, Kennedy Center, Washington DC, USA
Oh, boy, okay. Um, wow, thank you, thank you, so much for that warm ovation. As I stare at this magnificent bust of Mark Twain, I’m reminded of how humbled I am to receive such an honor and how I vow to take very special care of it. I will never let it out of my sight. I will find a place of honor in my house for this magnificent bust. If my children try to touch it or even look at it, I will beat them. It means that much to me. In fact, I told my wife that maybe I should buy it its own seat for the plane right home, and no, no I’m not done, I’m not done, I’m not, I’m not, no. No, I just started the speech, why would you think I’m done?
I want to sincerely thank the Kennedy Center for this prize and this – and the fine folks at PBS for airing this special. I am the 14th recipient of the Mark Twain prize. And you’re probably asking yourself, why did it take so long? Well, for 13 consecutive years, I have been begged by the Kennedy Center to accept this award and for 13 consecutive years, I have emphatically said, no. For years, I had many questions about this Mark Twain, the first being, who is he? It’s been donned on me that, since I was a small boy I have thoroughly enjoyed his delicious fried chicken.
Then my wife informed me that I was thinking of Colonel Sanders not Mark Twain. It turns out that he is considered America’s finest author and humorist, but that his real name is not Mark Twain, it was Jerry Goldman. Before that, it was Judy Blume, and before that of course, we all know the name, Samuel Langhorne Clemens. Despite my failings to grasp the importance of Mark Twain and what exactly he did, I decided to accept this award because of the prize money, $1 billion dollars, paid out over the next 10,000 years. To say that I’m thrilled to be here is a complete understatement, and to make this evening even more thrilling, I have just been informed that, I’m only the 11th Caucasian to receive this prestigious award.
Pretty cool, I can’t tell you enough how special it is to stand here on this stage at the Kennedy Center, in front of this amazing audience, while being watched on PBS by hundreds of people. It’s very surreal, you have to understand as a kid growing up in Irvine, California, where I would sit in my room and listen to records of Steve Martin and the original Saturday Night Live Cast or stay up late and watch Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show to see what comedians he would have on. I had one dream, one singular focus even at the earliest stage, I can remember wanting to do one thing and one thing only, sell insurance.
So to be standing here, feels somewhat odd, whether it was auto, home or life, fire, flood or earthquake, I just wanted to make people feel safe. Do you have enough inland marine insurance or business overhead expense disability insurance, these are the things I thought when I was a kid. But the insurance game didn’t happen for me. So I fell back on comedy, and here I am now. There is so many people I need to thank for helping me make tonight possible.
First off, I would like to thank all the wonderful people who spoke or performed tonight on my behalf, an amazing line-up, all of you taking time out of your busy personal and professional schedules to be here means the world to me and if any of you ever needs me to speak on your behalf, for any reason, just know that I sincerely mean this, I’m probably unavailable. But thank you and I’m sorry ahead of time.
One of the people you saw tonight to whom I owe a huge debt of gratitude is Mr. Adam McKay. Together Adam and I have created Anchorman, Talladega Nights, Stepbrothers and The Other Guys, a Broadway show and a comedy website. I would also not be standing here, if it weren’t for Saturday Night Live Executive Producer, Lorne Michaels.
Thank you, Lorne for taking a chance on me and giving me the opportunity to be on Saturday Night Live, the show I always dream to being on. And finally what makes tonight truly special is that I can share it with my family. I am so grateful to all of you guys for your continued support and love for the things that I do. But mostly I would like to thank my lovely wife, Viveca.
Before I do that, however, I should really thank my first and second wives Donna and Julie. Donna, what can I say, we were just too young, when we got married. I mean literally too young, we were 13. Ah, heck, you were 13, I was nine. You know. I was in the third grade and it wasn’t right or legal, but I hope you’re well and I thank you for your support. As for Julie, you left me for Gary Busey and I will never blame you for that ever.
Finally, Viveca, all I can say is thank you, and thank god I found you. You’ve given us three beautiful boys and we have a wonderful life together. But I do have to say sometimes you get a little lippy, okay. You got a big mouth and you like to run it. Now I’ll tell you one thing, and one thing only, okay tonight is my night, all right. I love you, but I’m really sick of that big mouth of yours okay? And I won’t stand it, okay? Do you hear me? You look at me when I talk to you.
I mean tonight, if I after the show, if I want to go on a bender with Gwen Ifill and buy a couple of spearguns and try to scale the Washington Monument, I’m going to do it, okay? And there is nothing, you can say to stop me. I love you.
So once again, I thank you for this magnificent night and this amazing honor and I want to thank the Kennedy Center for being one of the few places that upholds comedy, as what it truly is an art form. Thank you and good night. Now, you can play it, now you can play the music.