I recently had the pleasure of visiting the newly opened National Comedy Center in Jamestown, New York. The museum provides guests with an innovative and comprehensive American comedy experience. It starts with the creation of your comedy profile so that exhibits and videos can be tailored to your taste. If you include your email address in your profile, you’ll receive photos of yourself at the museum as a souvenir.
Stand up, comedy in films, sitcoms, improv, sketch comedy, cartoons, and comedy on the internet are all covered at the museum.
On display are a host of comedy artifacts including the puffy shirt from Seinfeld, Lucille Ball’s polka dot dress, Harpo Marx’s blonde wig and trench coat, and Charlie Chaplin’s cane. My companions and I were also thrilled to see the original set for the Larry Sanders Show. And there are a collection of memorable comedy scripts including the one Gavin McLeod (Murray) used for the “Chuckles the Clown” episode of the Mary Tyler Moore Show.
In addition to exhibits, the museum is packed with shows including comedy karaoke and a comedy club starring a holographic Jim Gaffigan. And there are lots of interactive areas. We especially enjoyed drawing our own cartoons.
My favorite area of the museum was The Blue Room — an adults only exhibit with tributes to first amendment pioneers Lenny Bruce, Richard Pryor, and George Carlin. This room is not for the prudish, but I thought the videos and displays were particularly timely and important. It’s also a lot of fun!
The National Comedy Center is housed in a beautifully renovated train station with railroad touches preserved including historic marble walls and wooden benches.
A few caveats – the air conditioning is pretty powerful so bring a sweater along and parking is at a premium although parking on side streets is free on the weekends. There is a snack bar, but it’s not particularly exciting. Your ticket allows you to leave the museum and re-enter. For lunch, I’d recommend going out to one of the nearby pubs or pizza places.
Plan on at least 5 hours at the National Comedy Center. There is a lot to do! If you want to visit the nearby Lucille Ball Museum on the same day, I’d suggest arriving at the National Comedy Center first thing in the morning. It’s an easy 90 minute drive from Buffalo. This museum is appropriate for adults and children over age 10.
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