History of The Pudd’nhead Festival

The Pudd’nhead Festival was founded in 2014 by NY Times Bestselling author, actor, and comedian Michael Ian Black in celebration of pre-eminent funny man Mark Twain, who said: “Humor is mankind’s greatest blessing.”

“As a comedian, author, and Redding resident myself, I thought we had a unique opportunity to create something special here in Mark Twain’s final hometown,” said Michael Ian Black. “No other literary festival focuses specifically on humor, and so why not remedies that unfortunate situation? Hence the Pudd’nhead Festival and the Pudd’nhead Prize.”

Drawing inspiration from one of Twain’s classic tales, The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson, the Pudd’nhead Festival was officially launched.

The centerpiece of the Festival is the Pudd’nhead Prize for Outstanding Humor. The Prize is awarded to someone who channels Mark Twain’s sense of humor, someone who lives by Twain’s words: “Against the assault of laughter, nothing can stand.”

The inaugural Prize was awarded in 2014 to celebrated New Yorker cartoonist /memoirist Roz Chast; in 2015 the library awarded Hollywood royalty, Ben Stiller; in 2016 comedic legend Jim Gaffigan became the third recipient of this illustrious prize.

The Pudd’nhead Festival grew in its second year to include an event for children –“The Pudd’nhead Parade.” Hosted by Michael Ian Black, the Parade is a free program held at the library featuring authors and illustrators of the kiddie set. The inaugural year spotlighted Scott Campbell, author/illustrator of Hug Machine. In 2016, the library welcomed Nick Bruel, author/illustrator of the popular Bad Kitty series. Equally important were all the fun “p” activities: pizza, popsicles, popcorn, and, of course, the parade.

In 2016 the Pudd’nhead Festival grew again to include a Friday night stand-up comedy event entitled The Hoot’nanny. Stand Up comics from New York City retreated to a barn in Redding for a night of revelry.