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Late-Night Hosts Roast David Letterman As He Wins Mark Twain Comedy Award

Late-Night Hosts Roast David Letterman As He Wins Mark Twain Comedy Award
From TIME - October 23, 2017

WASHINGTONDavid Letterman was never known as a particularly political comedian, preferring a detached irony-drenched tone that favored the surreal and silly over topical humor. But there was an unmistakable political tint to much of Sunday night's ceremony to present Letterman with the Mark Twain award for American humor.

Several of the comedians honoring Letterman took shots at President Donald Trump and the general state of the country. More than one comedian quipped that the Kennedy Center's funding was about to be cut off mid-show, notwithstanding the announcement that Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos was a Kennedy Center benefactor.

Kimmel jokingly blamed Letterman for helping to bring Trump to power.

"It's like you went out for cigarettes one day and left us in the hands of our abusive, orange stepfather," Kimmel quipped.

He praised Letterman profusely, recalling a monologue he delivered on his show shortly after the 9/11 attack.

"You let us know it was OK to move on and OK to laugh again," Kimmel said. "Dave, you led the way for all of us."

But Kimmel also noted that in that same monologue, Letterman offered glowing praise to then-New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, who went on to become a vocal public Trump supporter.

"Well Dave, we all make mistakes sometimes," Kimmel said.

Comedian-turned-Senator Al Franken thanked Letterman for a post-retirement series of video he and Letterman recorded together designed to raise awareness on climate change. Comedians Martin Short and Steve Martin, a previous Mark Twain honoree, needled Letterman about his bushy white retirement beard with a line touching on the country's current divisive political atmosphere.

"Dave has always had excellent instincts. What better time that now to choose to look like a Confederate war general," Steve Martin said.

Speakers Sunday night included comedians John Mulaney, Amy Schumer and Jimmie Walker of the 1970s television series "Good Times." Walker gave Letterman one of his first jobs as a joke writer in Hollywood.

Schumer poked fun at Letterman's famed reputation for grumpiness, saying she performed on his show three times.

"By the end of my third appearance, Dave was no longer totally indifferent to me," she said.

Mulaney credited Letterman's appeal with his determination to mine humor from ordinary people, and occasionally their pets.

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