Snickering car collector Jay Leno, America's foremost mediocrity merchant, was today named the recipient of the 17th annual Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. Perhaps there has been a mistake?

"The quality of humor," Mark Twain once said, "is not a personal or a national monopoly. It's as free as salvation, and, I am afraid, far more widely distributed. But it has its value, I think. The hard and sordid things of life are too hard and too sordid and too cruel for us to know and touch them year after year without some mitigating influence, some kindly veil to draw over them, from time to time, to blur the craggy outlines, and make the thorns less sharp and the cruelties less malignant."

Jay Leno once said, "I went into a McDonald's yesterday and said, 'I'd like some fries.' The girl at the counter said, 'Would you like some fries with that?'"

From The Kennedy Center's abominable press release today:

"Like Mark Twain, Jay Leno has offered us a lifetime's worth of humorous commentary on American daily life," stated Kennedy Center Chairman David M. Rubenstein. "For both men, no one was too high or too low to escape their wit, and we are all the better for it."

Upon learning he will receive the Mark Twain Prize, Jay Leno remarked, "What an honor! I'm a big fan of Mark Twain's. In fact, A Tale of Two Cities is one of my favorite books!"

"Concerning the difference between man and the jackass: some observers hold that there isn't any," Mark Twain wrote. "But this wrongs the jackass."

[Photo: Getty]