Laugh It Off: The National Comedy Center
From new exhibits and exciting events, including the Lucille Ball Comedy Festival, this beloved destination in Jamestown, New York, delivers an immersive and interactive experience.
From vaudeville to viral memes, slapstick humor to standup, the National Comedy Center is the country’s official cultural institution and museum dedicated to telling the story of comedy and preserving its history.
“What makes the National Comedy Center a really unique destination is how immersive the experience is,” says Gary Hahn, vice president of marketing and communications. “We help you curate your own comedy experience based on the kind of comedy you like best.”
Inside the 37,000-square-foot facility, you’ll find more than 50 innovative exhibits — an interactive journey through comedy history. The discovery begins when you set up a “humor profile” based on your interests. Information is digitally stored in a laugh band with an RFID chip you’ll scan at exhibits so they’re tailored to suit the audience in the room.
Much like a comedian “reads the room,” the exhibits do the same. “Then, it will deliver a stand-up performance or show TV and movie clips based on finding the commonalities of the people currently at the exhibit,” Hahn explains, adding that interactive technology make the museum one of the most advanced in the country. “What we’re trying to do is pull back the curtain and show that comedy is a true art form — it’s a craft that these artists hone for years and years.”
If only Lucille Ball could experience it. The vision was hers — a hope that her hometown of Jamestown would become a destination for comedy. When the town leaders approached her in 1989 to have a museum devoted to her and I Love Lucy, she was appreciative, but said, “I’d rather you create an institution that celebrates the art form of comedy, not just my work.”
Overall, Hahn says, “As you walk through, it’s a good feeling — especially now, coming out of COVID-19, everyone just wants a place where they can laugh.”
Check out a variety of exciting exhibits and summer events at the National Comedy Center.
Act the Part
Select classic television and movie comedy scenes, such as Saturday Night Live, I Love Lucy, Anchorman and Dumb and Dumber, and place yourself in the center of the action using green screen technology.
Choose among the greatest all-time stand-up routines, and like singing karaoke, you take the stage and deliver the routine.
Face-off with friends, where jokes are served up on the screen. Your job? Make the other person laugh or crack a smile. “We use facial recognition technology to see if you laughed or smiled, and if you did, you lose a point,” Hahn explains.
Make a Meme
Discover if you have what it takes to make people laugh by creating your own memes and comic strips. Touch-screen monitors provide inspiration and help along the way.
Lucille Ball Comedy Festival
From Aug. 4 to 7, discover more than 50 live events, including appearances by Jeff Foxworthy on Aug. 5 and David Spade, Rob Schneider and Kevin Nealon on Aug. 6. Tickets are on sale now. Visit comedycenter.org to
Carl Reiner: Keep Laughing
This new exhibit, debuting July 1, will showcase hundreds of never-before-seen archival materials, including interactive stations featuring audiovisual clips, creative papers, photographs and dimensional artifacts that chronicle the late comedy legend’s remarkable seven decades as a writer, director, author and performer.