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Stars turn out as Chappelle receives Mark Twain Prize

Tracey Salazar

Stars came equipped with their best one-liners — and opened up about comedy in the Trump era — as they celebrated Dave Chappelle, the recipient of this year’s prestigious Mark Twain Prize.

“Political correctness has its place,” Chapelle said on the red carpet at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., late Sunday after ITK asked if being P.C. has gone too far.

“We all want to live in a polite society, we just kind of have to work on the levels of coming to an agreement of what that actually looks like,” the stand-up comedian and former “Chappelle Show” star continued. “I, personally, am not afraid of other people’s freedom of expression. I don’t use it as a weapon. It just makes me feel better. And I’m sorry if I hurt anybody,” Chappelle said, before adding, “Yada, yada, ‘everything I’m supposed to say,'” and sticking out his tongue.

“I think it’s gone way too far,” comedian Marlon Wayans said. “I mean, if there’s gonna be political correctness, the person that needs to be corrected the most is the president,” the “Scary Movie” star said.

As a comic, Wayans said, he talks “about the crazy stuff that goes on.”

“I don’t care what the topic is, my job is a hard one. I got to find what’s funny about these dark topics that people are afraid to talk about,” Wayans said.

Rep. Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio) said the eclectic mix of comedians, musicians and TV personalities lauding Chappelle, which included John Legend, Jon Stewart, Morgan Freeman, Sarah Silverman, Bradley Cooper and Lorne Michaels, among others, proved that there was “still hope.”

“There’s still the benefit of people coming together. The diversity that you will see here tonight will be reflective of the great democracy that we live in. Maybe it’ll send a message to the president,” Beatty said.

Despite the celebratory nature of the ceremony, which included a marching band and Freeman as the evening’s official announcer, politics was never too far from the event.

At one point during the televised festivities, Freeman bellowed over the sound system: “Just a reminder that my voice is available for weddings, bar mitzvahs and impeachment hearings.”

After appearing onstage to applause, former “Daily Show” host Stewart cracked jokes to the audience.

“I’m in Washington tonight and I see the love, and the joy, and the laughter in this room — and I can’t help but wonder, is this what shit was like down here when Obama was president?” he asked.

“There was laughter and joy,” Stewart said. “Now you all just walk around like, ‘Go f— yourself.'”

Chappelle, as he accepted the Mark Twain Prize, said only in the United States could one find comics representing nearly every viewpoint: “Stand-up comedy is an incredibly American genre. I don’t think any other country could produce this many comedians.”

“Each and every one of you has a champion in the room,” Chappelle, 46, told the crowd.

“We watch you guys fight, but when we’re together, we talk it out,” the boundary-pushing Emmy Award-winner said of his colleagues.

“The First Amendment is first for a reason. The Second Amendment is just in case the first one doesn’t work out,” Chappelle quipped.

“We got to let some air out of the ball, man,” Chappelle said. “The country’s getting a little tight. It doesn’t feel like it’s ever felt in my lifetime. So tonight I am honored that my colleagues are here in comedy and in music.”

“I love this job,” Chappelle said. “It saved my life.”

The 22nd annual Mark Twain Prize ceremony airs on PBS stations on Jan. 7.

Tags comedians Dave Chappelle Joyce Beatty Mark Twain Prize for American Humor Stand-up comedy
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