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Neil Simon Named 9th Annual Winner of Mark Twain Prize

Neil Simon will receive the Kennedy Center's humor prize for more than four decades of Broadway hits, movies and TV shows blending the serious and the silly: "The Odd Couple," "Lost in Yonkers," "Barefoot in the Park" and dozens more.

Announcing the ninth annual winner of the Mark Twain Prize, Kennedy Center officials called Simon America's foremost playwright. He is also one of the most commercially successful.

Simon, 78, once had four plays running on Broadway at the same time. A revival of "The Odd Couple" -- which spawned a movie and TV series -- ended on Broadway only last week.

He has written more than 40 Broadway plays; more than a dozen became movies. Four brought him Academy Award nominations: "California Suite," "The Goodbye Girl," "The Sunshine Boys" and "The Odd Couple."

Simon also wrote the words for a series of stage musicals such as "They're Playing Our Sing." Some of his more nostalgic comedies -- such as "Biloxi Blues" -- have an autobiographical note, as did the sorrow-laden "Chapter Two."

He has won a Pulitzer prize -- for the 1991's "Lost in Yonkers" -- and three Tony Awards, the Kennedy Center Honors, and a Golden Globe.

"I'm awed, thrilled and delighted to receive The Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize," Simon joked in the written announcement. "It makes up for my losing the Samuel Clemens Prize."

"Mark Twain" was the pseudonym adopted by humorist Samuel Clemens.

"Neil Simon, like Mark Twain, has a unique way of exposing the American spirit by drawing on experiences in his own life and creating insightful and touching portraits of the world around him," said Stephen A. Schwarzman, chairman of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.

The prize will be presented Oct. 15, with stars of TV, films and stage attending and performing. The Public Broadcasting System will air a taped broadcast later.

Simon will receive a copy of a bronze bust of Mark Twain sculpted by Karl Gerhardt in 1884.

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