Laughter will soon have a permanent home.
The National Comedy Center — the first nonprofit, cultural institution dedicated to the art of comedy — is scheduled to open in Jamestown, N.Y., with a days-long celebration Aug. 1-5, pegged to coincide with the Lucille Ball Comedy Festival, also hosted in Jamestown, which was the legendary comedian’s childhood hometown. In conjunction with the National Comedy Center, the Lucy Desi Museum will update its facility and unveil new exhibits in August.
The new 37,000-square-foot, $50 million facility is designed to tell the story of comedy from its origins through the present, with more than 50 interactive exhibits. “There has never been a national cultural institution that provides comedy the opportunity for appreciation often afforded to other art forms,” said National Comedy Center executive director Journey Gunderson. “Culture is preserved by meaningful storytelling. What these artists have done is important, and it should be both celebrated and contextualized, drawing connections that make the past relevant to the present.”
In a press briefing at the site on March 30, Sen. Chuck Schumer announced his push for a congressional designation that would recognize the National Comedy Center as the only institution of its kind with a mission of preserving, protecting and showcasing the art of comedy.
Each visitor will wear a wristband fitted with an RFID chip and experience a personalized trip through the center as exhibits respond to the user’s comedic sensibilities. Highlights include George Carlin’s personal archives and a hologram theater that presents performances of notable comedic artists.
“We are thrilled to announce the opening of this amazing project, which was conceptualized and launched more than seven years ago,” said Tom Benson, project chairman. “It is the repository that has never existed that will respectfully celebrate comedy in a fun and unique way for generations to come.”
Funding for the National Comedy Center was provided by state, federal and private philanthropic support. The center is expected to have a $23 million annual stabilized economic impact on the region, attracting more than 100,000 visitors each year.