The award is considered the highest accolade in comedy and recognizes individuals who have had an impact on American society in the vein of 19th-century novelist and essayist Samuel Clemens, or pseudonym, Mark Twain.
“I love my art form because I understand every practitioner of it, whether I agree with them or not I know where they’re coming from. They want to be heard, they got something to say, there’s something they notice. They just want to be understood,” Chappelle said. “I love this genre, it saved my life.”
A lineup of entertainers, including Chappelle’s writing partner Neal Brennan, Common, Bradley Cooper, Tiffany Haddish, John Legend, Chrissy Teigen, Lorne Michaels, Trevor Noah, Jon Stewart and others paid tribute to the comedian.
Stewart continued saying Chappelle is “a man that seeks out people and experience and knowledge, and he wants to touch it and feel it and be with it on the ground so that he can then channel that through his art, and then re-direct that back to you as something completely different and new.”
Actor and comedian Eddie Murphy said in a video tribute Chappelle is the type of person who is “so much smarter than everyone.”
“Dave is one of the most, maybe the most, intellectual comedian ever,” Murphy said.
Previous recipients of the Mark Twain award include Richard Pryor, Jonathan Winters, Carl Reiner, Whoopi Goldberg, Lily Tomlin, Lorne Michaels, Steve Martin, George Carlin, Tina Fey, Will Ferrell, Ellen DeGeneres, Carol Burnett, Bill Murray, David Letterman, and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.