As you step inside of the National Comedy Center, you
are immediately overwhelmed. You look up, and there is comedy
in every form imaginable. The National Comedy Center, which
opened last week in Jamestown, NY is said by many to be the
“Cooperstown of comedy.” But honestly, this is bigger than
Cooperstown. If you wander this Earth, you are sure to find
someone who does not like baseball. But wander this earth and
find someone that has gone their entire life without at the
very least cracking a smile, if not laughing? It’s impossible.
The National Comedy Center is for everyone.
The first thing you do when you walk in is choose your profile.
This is integral to the interactive component of the museum.
You literally have hundreds of options to choose from. These
will come in handy later throughout the museum, as it will
allow your museum experience to be tailor made for you.
To your left as you walk in is the hologram theater. After a
brief video about the comedy clubs, we are joined by Jim
Gaffigan via hologram. Jim Gaffigan’s hologram is there to
welcome you to the museum as well as do something pretty
fascinating, and that’s show you the evolution of a comedian.
We see modern Jim Gaffigan morph into early Jim Gaffigan, then
into mid-Jim Gaffigan, before we finally are treated to current
– Jim Gaffigan. And nothing will ever make you appreciate the
years that it takes a comedian to find their voice more than
watching the process happen right in front of your very eyes.
Next up, you will find artifacts from a variety of comedians,
including a case designated to Joan Rivers, Rodney
Dangerfield’s signature suit and red tie, Jerry Seinfeld’s
puffy shirt, Andy Kaufman’s Elvis jacket and wrestling belt,
Harold Ramis’ Ghostbusters suit, and even Charlie
Kitty-corner to all of this is the granddaddy of the archives
here at the National Comedy Center. It is George Carlin’s
archives. Hundreds and hundreds of his jokes and handwritings
have found themselves digitized, sitting on top of trunks that
he kept them in. George Carlin was meticulous in his
organization, which is something that is being kept alive here.
You can swipe through a large amount of some of George Carlin’s
materials and see a smattering of his belongings. This is all
encompassed in a surrounding shrine to the man. It was, after
all, his archives being obtained that helped get the museum up
It is important to note that this is not just all about the
archives. There is much more to be had. You are a member of the
audience, but as you walk through the halls, you become an
integral piece to the puzzle. You will find yourself on a
journey into the world of late night, a wall that links
together all of your comedy interests and intersects them with
each other, a whoopee cushion bench you can sit on, and a table
that allows you to follow the process of your favorite works
from the page to the screen.
And yes, throughout the museum, there are plenty more archives
still to be had. You’ve got Garry Shandling’s Larry
Sanders talk show set, Lucille Ball’s Kennedy Center
Honors attire, Carl Reiner’s Alan Brady toupee and Emmy,
Jonathan Winter’s dress, Tracy Morgan’s EGOT bling, Allan
Sherman’s “Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah” lyrics, “Weird Al’s”
accordion, and Shelley Berman’s stool.
One of the coolest things about the center is downstairs. If
you are 18 or older, you can go visit the Blue Room. The Blue
Room is where things get really down and dirty, as you hear
comedians completely uncensored. And as you enter, the first
thing you see are George Carlin’s seven dirty words. It’s very
fitting that this is in the basement of the center, as it makes
you feel as if you’re in the 1950s underground nightclubs where
you’d go to hear language like this. And subsequently, you
would also see Lenny Bruce get arrested in a place like that.
This is where Lenny thrives. On display here are Lenny’s
infamous trench coat and typewriter. Additional comics who are
paid tribute down here are Carlin, Richard Pryor, Sam Kinison,
and hell, even Rusty Warren.
What makes the National Comedy Center so important is that it
preserves the things that are in danger of getting lost. More
and more you meet people who didn’t grow up watching I Love
Lucy or the Marx Brothers on T.V. The only reference most
people of this generation have of The Three Stooges is
the movie from 2012. Here, this is where you go. You bring
people so they can appreciate and learn about the big picture;
the history of comedy as an art form. There’s a big wall here
that covers all of comedy from the Greek period up until
present day. They are serious about all of this.
And this is only the beginning. Further talks are underway as
far as the evolution and expansion of the museum. There is so
much more to cover, and I can only imagine what else they have
up their sleeve. But for starters, the National Comedy Center
has done it right. Finally!