The National Comedy Center, named best new museum in the country by USA TODAY in 2020, is difficult to describe. It’s so different, so interesting, so FABULOUS, it simply must be experienced. And experienced again. It is a true comedy delight. With over 50 interactive, personalized exhibits, a single visit to this unique place only whets the appetite.
Housed in a beautiful old train station in Jamestown, the museum is about a 20-minute drive from the Maple Springs Lake Side Inn. Many large rooms, spread over 37,000 square feet, hold memorabilia, film footage, stations where visitors can explore internet humor, late-night shows or hilarious roasts. Props, like whoopie cushions, bananas, and pies trigger film clips showing how they inspired comedy. Screenplays and notes showcase the craft of brilliant writers and comedians.
What to Expect
When you enter the National Comedy Center, you spend a few minutes identifying your favorite comedians, comedy shows, and funny movies. This introductory process whets your appetite, but its purpose is to record your selections on a wristband you will wear as you explore the center. This gives you a personalized experience: what you will see and hear is tailored to your own sense of humor. Displays, memorabilia, interactive booths, theaters, and libraries allow you to enjoy the laughs, or to dig deeper and learn about the history of comedy, the trajectory of specific comedians, or to go behind the scenes.
There is a snack bar and lounge in the building, and visitors can enjoy food and drinks while in the facility. You can try your hand at performing your own stand-up routine – a comedy karaoke – or take a ride with Lucy and Desi, Fred and Ethel. The pictures will be emailed to you later! You can have a joke contest with your companions – first person to laugh loses. If you’re over 18, you can venture into the “Blue Room” to see the comedians and the acts that are a bit more provocative.
Like all good museums (and good comedy) you exit through the gift shop. You won’t leave empty handed.
Admission to the Comedy Center entitles you to admission at the Lucy Desi Museum, too. You’ll enjoy experiencing the nostalgia and brilliance of Lucille Ball, who served as the inspiration for the development of the National Comedy Center. She wanted her hometown of Jamestown to be a destination for comedy. Now it is THE destination for comedy.
Although the 30th Annual Lucille Ball Comedy Festival has been postponed until 2021, the Center is open for visitors. There is plenty of room for social distancing, and the management and staff have worked with the renowned University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) to implement state-of-the art safety and sanitation measures.
Now that travel restrictions are loosening, make sure your trip includes experiencing this comedy delight for some laughs while you enjoy relaxing on Chautauqua Lake. Check the website for hours and updates.