Leno, who ended a 22-year run as the host of NBC's "Tonight
Show" in February, will receive the award during a gala
performance at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., on Oct.
The Kennedy Center created the award in 1998 to recognize
comedians who have had "an impact on American society" similar
to that of Mark Twain, the 19th-century satirist and author of
novels including "Adventures of Huckleberry Finn".
"What an honor!" Leno, 64, said in a statement in which he
jokingly pretended to confuse Twain with the British novelist
Charles Dickens. "I'm a big fan of Mark Twain's. In fact, 'A
Tale of Two Cities' is one of my favorite books!"
Previous winners of the award include entertainers Billy
Crystal, Tina Fey, Whoopi Goldberg and Lily Tomlin.
Leno, who lives in Los Angeles, began his career touring clubs
as a stand-up comedian, and continued to hit the road even after
he helped make the "Tonight Show" the highest-rated late-night
show on television for nearly two decades. The show is now
hosted by Jimmy Fallon.
(Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Susan Heavey)
[© 2014 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2014 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.