Jimmy Fallon to salute Jay Leno with top humor prize

Comedian Jimmy Fallon appears on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" at the NBC Studios on Sept. 22, 2004, in Burbank, Calif. Kevin Winter/Getty Images

Jimmy Fallon will lead top comedians in saluting his "Tonight Show" predecessor Jay Leno with the nation's top humor prize in October at the Kennedy Center in Washington.

The performing arts center announced Wednesday that Fallon will join Chelsea Handler, Jerry Seinfeld, Wanda Sykes, Betty White, Kevin Eubanks and others in honoring Leno with the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor.

Leno will receive the prize during a performance by his fellow comedians on Oct. 19 in Washington. The show will be broadcast nationally Nov. 23 on PBS stations.

The prize recognizes people who have had an impact on American society through their humor and social commentary in the tradition of Samuel Clemens, the writer and satirist better known as Twain. Past recipients include Carol Burnett, Ellen DeGeneres and Bill Cosby.

Earlier this year, Leno talked to CBS News about his departure from "The Tonight Show": "It's not my decision. And I think I probably would have stayed if we didn't have -- an extremely qualified, young guy ready to jump in. If they said, 'Look, you're fired. We don't know who we're gonna get. We don't know what we're gonna put in there. But anybody but you, we just want you out of--' I would be l-- hurt and offended. But this makes perfect sense to me. I understand this."

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