U.S. comedian Leno tapped for Mark Twain Prize for American Humor

Wed Jun 18, 2014 1:54pm EDT

American TV personality Jay Leno hosts the Genesis Prize award-giving ceremony in Jerusalem May 22, 2014.  REUTERS/Jim Hollander

American TV personality Jay Leno hosts the Genesis Prize award-giving ceremony in Jerusalem May 22, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Jim Hollander

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(Reuters) - U.S. comedian Jay Leno will receive this year's Mark Twain Prize for American Humor from the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the center announced on Wednesday.

Leno, who ended a 22-year run as the host of NBC's "Tonight Show" in February, will receive the award during a gala performance at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., on Oct. 19.

The Kennedy Center created the award in 1998 to recognize comedians who have had "an impact on American society" similar to that of Mark Twain, the 19th-century satirist and author of novels including "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn".

"What an honor!" Leno, 64, said in a statement in which he jokingly pretended to confuse Twain with the British novelist Charles Dickens. "I'm a big fan of Mark Twain's. In fact, 'A Tale of Two Cities' is one of my favorite books!"

Previous winners of the award include entertainers Billy Crystal, Tina Fey, Whoopi Goldberg and Lily Tomlin.

Leno, who lives in Los Angeles, began his career touring clubs as a stand-up comedian, and continued to hit the road even after he helped make the "Tonight Show" the highest-rated late-night show on television for nearly two decades. The show is now hosted by Jimmy Fallon.

(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Susan Heavey)

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