He’s moved millions of comedy albums, sold out concerts from coast to coast, kept millions of viewers tuned into TV shows from “I Spy” to “The Cosby Show,” and even ventured onto the big screen. So why did Bill Cosby keep refusing the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor? Richard Pryor.
It seems Cosby took offense at the way Pryor was honored at the first Mark Twain Prize ceremony in 1998, specifically the profanity and use of the N-word during the evening’s tributes.
“I told them flat out no because I will not be used, nor will Mark Twain be used, in that way,” the comedian explained recently.
However, a discussion with Michael Kaiser, president of the Kennedy Center, during Sen. Edward Kennedy’s birthday celebration changed his mind.
On Monday, Cosby was honored at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., by peers like Carl Reiner and Dick Gregory who recognize him as a master of the craft, as well as comedians like Jerry Seinfeld, Chris Rock and Sinbad who count him as a huge influence.
“I think only comedians know and understand that this guy has reached like a virtuoso point of command over this form that most people, even the big star comedians, don’t get anywhere near,” Seinfeld said.
Because he had a specific vision for the tribute, Cosby helped create it, with an eye toward placing an emphasis on education and telling stories that teach as well as entertain.
“What I wanted was to associate my work with why I do what I do,” the 72-year-old comedian explained.
“Bill Cosby: The Mark Twain Prize” will air Nov. 4 on PBS stations across the country. Check your local listings for broadcast times.
Wednesday, October 28
Jen Kirkman, Randy and Jason Sklar – “Chelsea Lately”
Sting – “Late Show with David Letterman”
Rodrigo Y Gabriela – “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson”
Uncle Kracker – “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien”
“Weird Al” Yankovic – “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon”
Flyleaf – “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”
Puddle Of Mudd – “Last Call with Carson Daly”
Thursday, October 29
Taylor Swift, Tim McGraw –“The Ellen DeGeneres Show”
Brad Wollack, Whitney Cummings and Chris Hardwick– “Chelsea Lately”
Weezer – “Late Show with David Letterman”
The Swell Season – “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien”
Mastodon – “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon”
Rod Stewart – “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”
Moby – “Last Call with Carson Daly”
Friday, October 30
Rick Springfield –“The Ellen DeGeneres Show”
Mike Epps, Brad Wollack, Natasha Leggero and Ryan Stout – “Chelsea Lately”
Weezer, Brian Regan – “Late Show with David Letterman”
Fruit Bats – “The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson”
Alice In Chains – “The Tonight Show with Conan O’Brien”
Andrew Bird – “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon”
Slipknot – “Jimmy Kimmel Live!”
The Duke Spirit – “Last Call with Carson Daly”
Saturday, October 31
M. Ward, Okkervil River – “Austin City Limits”
Lady Gaga – “Saturday Night Live” – rerun