Dallas VideoFest Will Present Ernie Kovacs Award to Al Franken

Al Franken
Courtesy Dallas VideoFest

VIP Meet & Greet With Al Franken

Dallas VideoFest will present the prestigious Ernie Kovacs Award to comedian (and former U.S. Senator) Al Franken Sept. 22. Best known for his work on “Saturday Night Live,” Franken will appear in person to accept the award at 7:30 p.m. at the Texas Theatre, 231 W. Jefferson in Oak Cliff.

Following the Kovacs Award presentation, DVF will show the 2006 documentary “Al Franken: God Spoke.” The evening also features a VIP meet and greet reception with Al Franken at Oak Cliff Cultural Center, 223 Jefferson Blvd. To purchase tickets, visit VideoFest.org.

Ernie Kovacs has been a key component of the Dallas VideoFest since the Festival began in 1987. Franken will receive the award from Dallas VideoFest’s Founder and Artistic Director Bart Weiss. Joshua Mills, son of Edie Adams and keeper of the Kovacs flame, will also attend.

Throughout the 15 years Franken was associated with “Saturday Night Live” starting with the very first show in 1975, he wrote, performed in and produced hundreds of sketches, including the well-known and often recited “Daily Affirmations with Stuart Smalley.” Franken won five Emmys for writing and producing during his 15 seasons with “SNL.”

“Ernie Kovacs’ influence on comedians of my generation is not often told these days. I was maybe ten years old when I first watched ‘The Ernie Kovacs Show.’ Like many young avid fans of comedy, I was immediately struck by his wholehearted and brilliant embrace of absurdity. The Nairobi Trio, for example, was nothing like anything anyone had ever seen. Many comedians today talk about the tremendous influence of David Letterman and Conan O’Brien – and deservedly so. Both have inspired today’s generation of comedians in the same way that Kovacs inspired me and so many others. I am humbled that the Dallas VideoFest is honoring me with The Ernie Kovacs Award. I’m not sure I deserve it,” Franken said.

Ernie Kovacs Award History

The Ernie Kovacs Award recognizes the career and talents of some of television’s greatest visionaries. Kovacs’ work in the 1950s and early 1960s summed up the spirit of innovation and the development of the language of television as art.

The Dallas VideoFest and the Video Association of Dallas announced the first Ernie Kovacs Award at the 1997 festival. Comedian Joel Hodgson of “Mystery Science 3000” was the first recipient and subsequent honorees have included Terry Gilliam and – our last recipient in 2019 – John Cleese, both of “Monty Python;” Robert Smigel, writer/performer of “Saturday Night Live” and “Late Night with Conan O’Brien;” Paul “Pee-wee Herman” Reubens; Martin Mull; Mike Judge; George Schlatter, creator of “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In;” Harry Shearer, “This is Spinal Tap” and “The Simpsons;” Michael Nesmith; Dave Foley and Kevin McDonald of “The Kids in the Hall, in 2017;” and Amy Sedaris, the first woman to receive the Ernie Kovacs Award in 2018.

”The very first program of our festival in 1987 was Edie Adams showing the work of Ernie Kovacs. Ernie’s innovative spirit has been with us these 35 years. The Kovacs Award became the perfect way to honor those whose comedy change the way we look at TV/Video much like Kovacs did,” said DVF founder and artistic director Weiss.

“One can draw a very clear line between Ernie Kovacs’ characters like Percy Dovetonsils and Al Franken’s Stuart Smalley. Both understood how to harness the power of TV comedy to help us see the world differently. Yes, Al, we obviously think you are good enough, smart enough and doggone it people like you,” Weiss added.

As far as anyone knows, Al Franken is the only U.S. Senator who was also one of the original writers for “Saturday Night Live.” He’s also the author of four #1 New York Times bestsellers, including “Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations,” “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them – A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right,” and “Al Franken, Giant of the Senate.”

Joshua Mills, Edie Adams’s son and keeper of Ernie Kovacs Estate, said, “Al Franken’s humor, his dry wit and his irreverent characters are part of a long comedy continuum that connects everyone and everything from Ernie Kovacs to Monty Python to David Letterman, Conan O’Brien and others who helped shaped modern comedy. From Stuart Smalley to Medieval Barber Theodoric of York, it’s about time we usher in the Al Franken Decade in 2022 with The Ernie Kovacs Award.”

“The Al Franken Podcast” is one of the nation’s top-ten politics and public affairs podcasts with guests like Malcolm Nance, Sarah Silverman, Paul Krugman, and Chris Rock. Al and his wife, Franni, have been married for 45 years. They have two kids and four grandchildren.

Actress Edie Adams, Kovacs’ widow, came to Dallas to host the awards program annually until her death in 2008. Edie’s son, Joshua Mills now runs Ediad Productions the video and audio archive of both Ernie Kovacs and Edie Adams. As the official archivist for the Ernie Kovacs/Edie Adams (Ediad) Collection, Ben Model curated the “Ernie Kovacs Collection” DVD box sets for Shout! Factory, as well as the box set of “Here’s Edie” shows for MVD.

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Jo Ann Holt
Jo Ann Holt is an award-winning journalist with 40+ years of experience as a writer and editor. She loves live performances, from country music concerts to Broadway musicals to community theatre productions. Holt also enjoys art and cultural festivals, and good food and wine. She’s toured Amsterdam, London, Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, and various cities in Mexico but looks forward to visiting even more countries. She has traveled by boat, plane, and train, but especially likes taking long road trips across the U.S. with her husband, retired history professor Durhl Caussey. They enjoy meeting friendly people, learning about different cultures, and visiting historic sites wherever they go.