A number of comedians and musicians came out Sunday night to pay tribute to Dave Chappelle, as he accepted the Mark Twain Prize for his lifetime achievement in comedy, which he says saved his life. The event was held at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., which is not too far from Silver Spring, Maryland, where the comedian grew up.
As Chappelle went up to make his acceptance speech, he had a lit cigarette in hand and said to the crowd, “I want everyone in America right now to look at me. Look at me, smoking indoors… I didn’t ask anybody… What are they gonna do? Kick me out before I get the prize?”
He added, “It’s called leverage.”
It was a star-studded event as several celebrities were in attendance to honor Chappelle, like Tiffany Haddish, John Legend, Morgan Freeman, Neal Brennan, Kenan Thompson, Bradley Cooper, and many more.
Rapper Common recognized Chappelle for his bravery and praised him for being uniquely gifted. ”He’s always been a leader in thought and culture. He says provocative things, and I respect that. He brings uncomfortable things up, and now we have to discuss it,” the rapper said.
The 46-year-old comedian also touched on the impact of his career and how it’s changed him, saying, ”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.” ”I love this genre, it saved my life,” the comedian added.
Chappelle’s family was also in attendance as he acknowledged his mother for her support in helping him get where he is today, “Early in my career, if you remember, Mom, you used to sit in the club with me,” he said. “She’d do a full day of work. You’d be back there falling asleep, just waiting for me to go on. She would watch my show every night. Do you know how long that car ride is home?”
After the applause, he added, “How many of you have ever heard your mother say: ‘P***y jokes were a little too much tonight, son’?”
A television special of the ceremony is set to air January 7 on PBS stations.