...Before Tina Fey.
I like Tina Fey. She is very talented, and very funny. At 40, she'll be the youngest recipient of the Mark Twain Award ever. This award is for the best comedians in the country, the Immortals. George Carlin, Bill Cosby, Richard Pryor, Carl Reiner, Bob Newhart.
Someday Fey should be inducted. But not now. Not while there are people who haven't been honored with stunning legacies. Like all awards, the Twain awards are time-sensitive: they are not posthumously awarded. Here, then, are ten people who should get the award sooner than Tina Fey. With luck they'll be the next ten winners.
1. Mel Brooks, 84
Mel Brooks was one of the foremost comedic directors and writers of the 20th century. After Hollywood he had immense success on Broadway. See: Blazing Saddles, The Producers, The 2,000 Year Old Man.
2. Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore, 84 + 73
Really, they were part of the fantastic inner circle, and wandered show to show. Two of the best of the era. See: The Dick Van Dyke Show, Mary Tyler Moore Show.
3. Mort Sahl, 83
Can there be a more fitting winner from the Kennedy Center? Sahl was close to John, and wrote jokes for him, besides helping invent modern stand-up comedy. See: modern stand-up comedy.
4. Carol Burnett, 77
Six Emmys and five Golden Globes testify to the Brilliance of The Carol Burnett Show and its host's comedic talents. The intro Q+A was more influential than anyone initially realized. See: The Carol Burnett Show.
5. Woody Allen, 74
Allen is indisputably a great comedian. As an author and director he helped invent the romantic comedy, as well as being a gifted actor. See: Annie Hall, Manhattan, The Purple Rose of Cairo.
6. The Smothers Brothers, 73 + 70
Tommy and Dicky were wonderfully sly subversives, as well as silly. Besides their Comedy Hour the never-quite folk singing duo recorded numerous classic records. See: Mom Always Liked You Best, My Old Man, I Talk to the Trees.
7. Garrison Keillor, 68
The mind behind the Prairie Home Companion and the folks of Lake Woebegone. So quintessentially American I'm stunned he's not yet been honored. See: The Prairie Home Companion.
8. Christopher Guest, 62
As an actor he has plenty of great roles, but he's also been the writing (and directing) force behind many classic comedies. His style and humor have helped defined three decades. See: This is Spinal Tap, The Princess Bride, Best in Show.
9. Robin Williams, 59
Williams started as Mork from Ork, and played his manic lunacy into a very successful stand-up career, winning oodles of awards. "There's no one faster." See: Mrs. Doubtfire, Aladdin, Good Morning, Vietnam
10. Jon Stewart, 47
If you are going to award someone in their forties, why not Stewart? The Daily Show is probably going to have a longer legacy than Thirty Rock anyway. See: The Daily Show, Colbert and Carrell's careers.