“What are they going to do? Kick me out before I get the prize?” he quipped to the audience, according to USA Today, after he was feted by a long list of fellow comedians and performers, including Jon Stewart, Tiffany Haddish, Kenan Thompson, Aziz Ansari, Sarah Silverman, Morgan Freeman. John Legend, Lorne Michaels and Bradley Cooper. Also at the event was House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.).
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The comment that has generated some buzz on conservative sites was one he made about the first and second amendments, as he was defending the right of comedians to say what is on their minds, even among those who “are very racist.”
“It’s not that serious,” he said. “The First Amendment is first for a reason. The Second is just in case the First doesn’t work out.”
Chappelle’s most recent Netflix special, Sticks & Stones, included a riff on political correctness. Still, he was criticized for making jokes that some saw as transphobic. Chappelle, however, said in an extra to the special that he became friends with a transgender woman, and ran jokes by her. The woman, Daphne Dorman, died by suicide earlier this month.
Before the ceremony, Chappelle told reporters that “personally, I am not afraid of other people’s freedom of expression. I don’t use it as a weapon. It just makes me feel better.” Then he said, irreverently, “And I am sorry if I hurt anybody, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera, yada yada yada. Everything I am supposed to say.”
He added, “I worked very hard in my life. The fact that anybody would recognize that outside of me and my family, is amazing to me. And I am very grateful, especially given my past experience.”
The special will air on PBS on Jan. 7. The first recipient of the Mark Twain Prize was Richard Pryor in 1998.