...Before Will Ferrell.
I don’t like Will Ferrell. Still I recognize his popularity. At 44, he'll be the second 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 Ferrell should probably be inducted. But not now. Not while there are people who haven't been honored with stunning legacies. Like many awards, the Twain awards are time-sensitive: they are not posthumously awarded. Here, then, are thirteen people who should get the award sooner than Will Ferrell. With luck they'll be the next winners.
1. Sid Caesar, 88
Did you know Sid Caesar was still alive? The man who helped create improv and, you know, practically invented comedy television? Well he is and if I were him I’d want my dues by now. See: Your Show of Shows.
2. Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore, 85 + 74
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, 84
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. Tom Lehrer, 83
Considering how many great comedians got their start on albums (Newhart, Foxx) perhaps the award could go to a guy who championed musical satire. Hear: Songs of Tom Lehrer, More of Tom Lehrer
5. Joan Rivers, 78
Rivers has always been more of a profile making appearances on Late Night (which could handle her material), but she got her start by being brassy at a time when that was just starting to be acceptable. See: Any late night appearances you can find.
6. Woody Allen, 75
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.
7. The Smothers Brothers, 74 + 71
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.
8. Garrison Keillor, 69
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.
9. Christopher Guest, 63
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.
10. Robin Williams, 60
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
11. Harvey Fierstein, 59
He wrote La Cage Aux Follies and got a Tony for it. He’s received other Tonys, including his comedic role in Hairspray which earned him a Drama Desk Award. See: La Cage Aux Follies.
12. Jon Stewart, 48
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.
13. Chris Rock, 46
Heck, even if you’re going to give it to an SNL star from the 90s – I’d still nominate Rock over Ferrell. He’s had a great television and stand-up career, often ranked as one of the best out there, and he's still more likely to kick the bucket before Ferrell. See: Bring the Pain, Never Scared
Note: I took Mel Brooks and Carol Burnett off the list since they’ve both at least received Kennedy Center Honors, which is sort of more prestigious anyway. (Didn’t stop Steve Martin or others from getting both, though.)