2021 Kennedy Center Award Honorees Include Lorne Michaels and Bette Midler


Other honorees include bass-baritone Justino Díaz, producer Berry Gordy, and singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell


The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts has just announced the recipients of its 2021 lifetime artistic achievement awards. Among the honorees are Saturday Night Live creator and executive producer Lorne Michaels and stage and screen legend Bette Midler.

Michaels, whose executive producing credits also include shows like The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon and 30 Rock, as well as films like Wayne’s World and Mean Girls holds the record for most Emmy nominations for an individual. The Kennedy Center previously awarded him the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor in 2004. Midler’s nearly six-decade career has earned her four Grammys, three Emmys, two Tonys, and three Golden Globes, along with two Oscar nominations. She last appeared at the Kennedy Center as part of the 2020 ceremony, honoring violinist Midori.


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This year’s honorees also include operatic bass-baritone Justino Díaz, Motown founder, songwriter, and producer Berry Gordy, and singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell. “This year’s Honorees represent the unifying power of the Arts and surely remind us of that which binds us together as human beings,” said Kennedy Center President Deborah F. Rutter. These artists are equal parts genius, inspiration, and entertainment.”

The announcement comes quickly on the heels of the 2020 ceremony, which was delayed to May of this year due to the COVID pandemic. Among the honorees in that ceremony was actor Dick Van Dyke. That ceremony was split across several venues to accommodate social distancing protocols, but the Kennedy Center plans to return to its traditional format for the 2020 ceremony. According to Rutter, it should be a night to remember:

“After the challenges and heartbreak of the last many months, and as we celebrate 50 years of the Kennedy Center, I dare add that we are prepared to throw ‘the party to end all parties’ in D.C. on December 5th, feting these extraordinary people and welcoming audiences back to our campus. We look forward to shaping an even more exciting Honors program and broadcast with CBS and the producers based on the success and newfound innovations of our 43rd Honors earlier this year.”

No hints on who might be tapped to perform for this year’s ceremony, but with careers as long and legendary as these honorees, it’s bound to be a stacked bench. The 44th Kennedy Center Honors will be held on December 5 and will air on CBS.

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