Neil Simon given Mark Twain Prize
So many famous people owe some portion of their careers, if not their entire careers, to Neil Simon’s genius with words that the thank-yous were entirely personal when the 79-year-old legend was presented with the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor at the Kennedy Center on Sunday night.
Jonathan Silverman, who played Simon as a young man in “Brighton Beach Memoirs” and “Broadway Bound,” said his association with the writer’s work “changed my life. He plucked me from obscurity.”
Echoing a line Simon wrote for Matthew Broderick’s post-pubescent character in “Brighton Beach Memoirs,” Broderick said, “Thank you for making it possible to purchase a small golden palace in the Himalayas.”
Simon was typically modest, and visibly nervous, in accepting the award. (The annual ceremony will be broadcast on PBS stations on Nov. 20.)
“It took me six years to write my first play,” he said, recalling that he found the title for “Come Blow Your Horn” from one of his daughter’s nursery rhyme books.
The film clips gave some sense of the breadth of Simon’s career: “The Sunshine Boys,” “The Odd Couple,” “Barefoot in the Park,” “The Goodbye Girl” (original and made-for-TV remake), “The Phil Silvers Show,” “Biloxi Blues,” “California Suite.” He said he’s currently working on a play called “Rewrite.”