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There was consternation in the upper echelons of the comedy world last week after a CNN broadcast of Adam Sandler’s Mark Twain Prize for American Comedy ceremony was stripped of its political jokes.
The annual honors has aired on PBS since 2000, but it was picked up by the cable news network this year.
We hear there was chatter backstage on Mar. 19 at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C., where the special featuring comedy superstars including Chris Rock, David Spade and Dana Carvey was taped, that CNN planned to be “all over everyone’s” political gags.
So when several jokes, some of them about Donald Trump, were axed, we’re told insiders were disappointed, but not surprised.
We’re told Rock quipped that it was “romantic” that Donald Trump allegedly paid porn star Stormy Daniels hush money so that his wife, Melania Trump, wouldn’t find out about their alleged fling.
And he added that the feds arresting the former president, which was at that point expected to happen within days, would be foolish because it would only make Trump more popular.
We hear Rock wasn’t pleased with the omission.
We’re told Carvey impersonated the Donald, and made jokes about Nancy Pelosi — who was in the audience — but those jokes, too, disappeared.
Meanwhile, we’re told “Saturday Night Live” legend Spade cracked that, because of the “woke police” the one American humorist who definitely wouldn’t win a Mark Twain Prize for American Humor in 2023 would be Mark Twain himself.
But CNN told Page Six that the jokes were just cut for time, so that the live show could be slashed by an hour to fit into its broadcast slot.
Meanwhile, reps for the the Kennedy Center told us, “The Kennedy Center and our own producers from [production company] Done+Dusted are the sole decision-makers for what is included in both the live show and the final broadcast — not CNN.”
Still, it seems that the A-List comedy crowd wasn’t sold.
“These guys aren’t political comics,” said an insider of the performers. “They just say whatever they think is going to be funny.”
The source also said that many comics had enjoyed the chance to do something for non-profit PBS.
In something of an irony, given the slate of politically safe jokes, the Kennedy Center’s site says that the award was named after Twain because he was “a social commentator, satirist, and creator of characters… [who] was a fearless observer of society [and] startled many while delighting and informing many more with his uncompromising perspective on social injustice and personal folly.”
CNN is in the midst of a tricky overhaul by new president Chris Licht, who is reportedly trying to make the network less partisan and branching out beyond the news.