Eddie Murphy Received the Nation’s Highest Prize for Comedy & Proves Why He Deserves It (Video)
The Mark Twain Prize for American Humor is given annually to those who have contributed a body of work that has greatly influenced comedy, and is considered the U.S.’ highest honor of its kind. Given out every year since 1998, past recipients include Richard Pryor (who was awarded the very first one), Whoopi Goldberg, Lorne Michaels, Will Ferrell, and now Eddie Murphy. The award, presented by the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, is given out at a ceremony which is taped, and while the 2015 edition took place back in October, the full video of Murphy’s acceptance speech was only made available this week, when PBS aired the full event. Murphy opted to use his six-minute speech as a platform to deliver a stand-up set, his first in nearly 30 years. And, while most of the buzz surrounding his performance involved a Bill Cosby impersonation, Murphy’s outstanding talents go far beyond just one joke, and his genius flows freely throughout the speech.
After expressing his gratitude, Murphy dives right into the comedy, lamenting over the fact that the Mark Twain Prize doesn’t come with any money, as many prizes do. “Maybe you can call it the Mark Twain Surprise,” he says. He then goes into his prolific Cosby impersonation, introducing it by referencing Cosby’s winning the award several years earlier. In fact, Cosby twice rejected the award because of his discomfort with the level of profanity during the inaugural ceremony featuring Pryor. The crowd is clearly thrilled to see Murphy on stage again, and while fans are certainly eager for more, this brief set of his stand-up is a salient reminder of why he remains one of history’s funniest comics. Check out the full 90-minute ceremony below, which includes an all-star lineup of comedians and musicians including Dave Chappelle, Arsenio Hall, Tracy Morgan, Sam Moore, and Chris Rock.