Fallon, Seinfeld among comedians to salute Leno with Kennedy Center’s Twain Prize


Jay Leno, left, and Jimmy Fallon backstage at the 70th Annual Golden Globe Awards. (Jordan Strauss/Jordan Strauss/Invision/AP)

Jay Leno will be sociably sassed by fellow TV staples as he accepts the Kennedy Center’s 17th annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor on Oct. 19. On Wednesday, the Kennedy Center named a half-dozen celebrities who will skewer and salaam before the die-hard stand-up comedian and retired “Tonight Show” host.

The bill includes Leno’s “Tonight Show” successor Jimmy Fallon, who returned NBC’s nighttime franchise from Burbank to New York with the hosting handoff last winter. Also slated to appear: Kevin Eubanks, the amiable jazz guitarist who led the “Tonight Show” band from 1995 until 2010.

Jerry Seinfeld will be among the comics honoring Leno. As Leno’s decades-long “Tonight Show” stretch ended in February, Seinfeld played diplomat by crosscutting respectful (and apparently unsolicited) tributes between Leno and late-night rival David Letterman from his Web series “Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.”

Chelsea Handler and Wanda Sykes, comedians with their own credentials hosting late-night chat shows, are on board for the event. So is the evergreen Betty White, 92 — like Leno a Television Hall of Famer.

More guests are to be announced. The inaugural Twain Prize winner in 1998 was Richard Pryor; last year’s recipient was Carol Burnett. This year’s celebration will be broadcast on PBS on Nov. 23.

First Post byline, 1992; covering theater for the Post since 1999. His book "American Playwriting and the Anti-Political Prejudice" will be published by Palgrave Macmillan in 2014.
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