Politics on display as Letterman receives Mark Twain Prize

Comedian David Letterman and his band leader Paul Shaffer speak to the media as Letterman arrives for a gala where he is receiving the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor at Kennedy Center in Washington Monday. (Reuters)
Updated 23 October 2017
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Politics on display as Letterman receives Mark Twain Prize

WASHINGTON: David 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. Meanwhile, the center announced 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 videos that 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 than 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.
“The Johnny Carson show said, ‘Take a break from your weird life and watch these famous people have fun in show business,’” Mulaney said. “Dave’s show said, ‘Your weird life is just as funny as show business.’“
The 70-year-old Letterman spent 33 years on late-night TV, hosting long-running shows on NBC and then on CBS. His final broadcast on May 20, 2015, was episode No. 6028 that Letterman hosted. It shattered the record of his mentor, Carson.
Former First Lady Michelle Obama sent in a video tribute and Pearl Jam lead singer Eddie Vedder thanked Letterman for being a longtime “friend to music” and performed the song “Keep me in your heart” by the late Warren Zevon, a Letterman favorite.
Letterman’s run on NBC in particular was hugely influential, introducing a sardonic, smartly silly comedic style that influenced a generation.
His time slot immediately following Carson’s “The Tonight Show” allowed Letterman to draw a huge following of young, largely college-age viewers seeking an alternative to the somewhat staid Carson model.
Letterman introduced the country to fringe musical acts that might never have received an opportunity on “The Tonight Show.”
His humor was undeniably intelligent, but also at times surrealistic and goofy. He pioneered segments called Stupid Pet Tricks and Stupid Human Tricks. He tossed watermelons and other objects off a five-story building; at one point, he wore a suit made of Velcro and jumped onto a Velcro-covered wall, sticking in place. He turned bizarre characters like Larry “Bud” Melman and Biff Henderson into cult celebrities.
Letterman started his career as a radio talk show host and TV weatherman in Indiana. In the mid-1970s he moved to Los Angeles, performing stand-up comedy and writing jokes for (at the time more famous) stand-up comic Walker of “Good Times” fame. Eventually he caught the eye of “The Tonight Show” and Carson, performing several times on the show and becoming a regular guest host starting in 1978.
NBC gave Letterman his own show following Carson; “Late Night with David Letterman” debuted on Feb. 1, 1982. Letterman’s first guest that night? Bill Murray, the Twain award recipient in 2016.
On Sunday, Murray predictably stole the show with a surreal performance dressed as an Elizabethan monarch.
Murray said the perks of the Twain award elevate you above normal humans.
“You’re not exactly a god but you’re way up there,” he said. “You will be able to walk up to any man or woman on the street, take a lit cigar out of their mouth and finish it. You’ll be able to board any riverboat in this country.”
Murray then announced he was hungry and had a burger brought to him on stage. He then ordered platters of burgers delivered to Letterman’s balcony and cajoled Letterman’s son Harry to toss a pickle to the masses below.


Celebrities born in the Arab world

Updated 43 sec ago
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Celebrities born in the Arab world

Arabs love to boast of any famous person who was born and/or raised in our homeland (or have even visited it). To help you out at your next dinner party, here’s a list of A-listers that were born in the MENA region.
Lebanon: Keanu Reeves
The “Matrix” trilogy star was born in Lebanon’s capital of Beirut on September 2, 1964 to an English mother and Asian-American father. He barely lived in Beirut before moving around with his family until his parents’ divorce when he was just three years old, but hey, Neo was one of us for a while.
Oman: Isla Fisher
The “Confessions of a Shopaholic” star was born in Muscat, where her father worked as a banker for the United Nations, in 1976. The family moved to Scotland before heading to Australia, where Fisher spent the majority of her childhood before finding fame on Aussie soap “Home and Away.”
Morocco: Jean Reno
The “Leon: The Professional” actor was born to Spanish parents in Casablanca in 1948 and lived there until the age of 17, when he left to study acting in France. The glum-faced thesp went on to star in several blockbusters, including “Mission Impossible,” “Godzilla,” and “The Pink Panther.”
Yemen: Eddie Izzard
The British comedian, actor and writer was born to English parents in Yemen’s southern port city of Aden. Izzard rose to fame in the 1990s with his surreal, good-natured stand-up, and has gone on to appear in a number of box-office Hollywood hits, including “Ocean’s 11” and “The Lego Batman Movie.”
Kuwait: Sanjeeda Sheikh
The Indian actress (pictured here with her husband Aamir Ali) was born in Kuwait in 1984. She moved to Mumbai to help a friend open a dance academy before landing the role of Nimmo in TV show “Kyaa Hoga Nimmo Kaa” in 2005. Sheikh recently starred in the romantic drama series “Love Ka Hai Intezaar.”
Saudi Arabia: Melora Walters
The US actress, perhaps best known for her role as Wanda Henrickson in the Emmy-winning, Mormon-baiting TV show “Big Love,” was born in Dhahran in 1960. The well-respected actress is a favorite of acclaimed director Paul Thomas Anderson, appearing in several of his movies.