Crystal to be awarded Twain humor prize

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WASHINGTON -- Billy Crystal will be awarded the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.

He's the 10th recipient of the award, given annually by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. It'll be presented Oct. 11 at a tribute performance that will be televised by PBS.

"The work he has created for stage, film and television has made an indelible impression," Kennedy Center Chairman Stephen Schwarzman said Tuesday. "It is the work of not just a humorist but also a humanist."

Last year, Crystal reunited with Whoopi Goldberg and Robin Williams to host a special "Comic Relief" telethon for Hurricane Katrina victims. Past telethons hosted by the trio have focused on the nation's homeless.

An eight-time host of the Academy Awards ceremony, Crystal has starred in the movies "When Harry Met Sally ..." and "City Slickers." He won the Tony for his 2004 autobiographical one-man play "700 Sundays," which broke box-office records and became the highest grossing nonmusical in Broadway's history.

In the '70s, Crystal played one of the first gay characters on a network TV series as a regular on "Soap." He later won acclaim on "Saturday Night Live," particularly with his Fernando character and catchphrase "You look mahvelous."

Past recipients of the Mark Twain prize include Goldberg, Neil Simon, Steve Martin and Lily Tomlin. The first recipient was Richard Pryor in 1998.

"To be given the same award as Richard Pryor, Steve Martin and Neil Simon is a great honor," said the 59-year-old Crystal. "I told my granddaughter, who is 3, that I won the Mark Twain prize, and she said ... 'I have one too."'
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