Around the World

A Must See for Comedy Fans: Jamestown’s Museum of Comedy

Aug 2022 | By Pat Brennan

“Who’s on first?


Tell me the name of the guy playing first base.


The first baseman.


The first baseman. What’s his name?

No, What’s on second.”

And on and on it goes.


Comedy Come to Life

You don’t want to visit the National Comedy Center in Jamestown N.Y. by yourself. It’s more fun trying to duplicate Abbot & Costello’s famous baseball sketch with a friend. In 1999, Time magazine called it the best comedy routine of the 20th Century and in 2019, it included the just-opened National Comedy Center on its list of the world’s 100 best places to visit. Your effort to repeat the Abbott & Costello sketch is video taped so you can watch your performance. You can even erase and try again until you get it right, which you won’t.

Who’s On First is one of more than 50 immersive displays of comedy that are geared to your particular comedic tastes.  You can’t enter this high-tech museum without first filling out a computerized profile of your own sense of humour. You’re first asked to pick a dozen or so of your favourite comedians from a list of hundreds, maybe thousands.

The computer then spits out a plastic wristband that’ll dictate what comedians you’ll encounter in the museum. As you approach a large video screen, flashing your wristband will select which one of your choices will perform. There’s even a Blue Room in the basement where famous blue comedians like George Carlin, Lenny Bruce and Andrew Dice Clay tell their blue off-colour jokes. Thankfully, kids’ wristbands don’t work down there.

Rick Moranis and the late John Candy star in Little Shop of Horrors, one of 10 comedy movies the museum shows on an outside wall during summer. The free movies start on May 22, and you are encouraged to bring your own lawn chair or blanket. The museum sells beer and popcorn on its front lawn.

But be careful where you sit to rest during your hours in the museum! Some chairs emit a fart sound when you stand up.

When you get home from your trip to Jamestown, you’ll receive an email detailing your trip through the museum. This includes the videos you made of yourself trying to mimic one of your favourite comedians for you to show off to your friends and family.

The U.S. Congress has designated the museum as the nation’s official cultural institute and museum, dedicating it to preserving the vital history of comedy.


No Ones Loves Lucy as Much as Jamestown

Jamestown, N.Y. is only a three-hour drive from Toronto. It is situated on Lake Chautauqua, near the Pennsylvania state line. Jamestown is the hometown of Lucille Ball. She often came home on visits and is buried there.

On one of her visits, the town council proposed that they create a museum saluting their Queen of Comedy. Queen Lucy suggested the town create a museum that salutes all American comedians, although some funny Canadians with an influence on American comedy are also included.

The town fathers finally got their wish and created the Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz Museum of Comedy, just a few blocks from the National Museum of Comedy. It opened in 1996, seven years after Lucy passed away from an abdominal aorta rupture in L.A. at age 77.

  Lucy’s museum has a variety of her crazy and glamorous costumes, plus many props from the I Love Lucy Show. It tells the story of the marriage and business operations of Lucy and Desi Arnaz. They married in 1940 and divorced in 1960, but remained close friends until his death in 1986.

The Desilu Production Company, jointly owned by the husband and wife, was one of the largest TV studios in Hollywood. They created TV shows such as Star Trek, The Untouchables, Mission Impossible and I Love Lucy. When studio executives had turned down script writer Gene Roddenberry’s idea for a space exploration story called Star Trek, Lucille Ball overruled her executives and said “Let’s try it.”


A Town with Hart

Her childhood home still stands at 60 Stewart St. – sometimes designated as 60 Lucy Lane – in Jamestown. A statue of Lucy stands in a playground park on Lake Chautauqua in Celon, adjacent to Jamestown.

Buffalo’s David Hart is a big fan of the National Comedy Center and knew it would be a hit, so he built one of his family’s new luxury hotels in Jamestown to take advantage of the new visitor traffic to the town.

Hart Hotels recently opened three new resort hotels on popular harbors in Upper New York State, including 1000 Islands Harbor Hotel in Clayton N.Y., just across the St. Lawrence River.

At the eastern end of the famous Chautauqua Lake, Hart opened the Chautauqua Harbor Hotel in the summer of 2018. The hotel occupies 1,100 feet of the lake’s shoreline and is very popular for summer time weddings.


Lasting Laughs

Guests can take advantage of the hotel’s in-house promotion of the comedy center. Comedy fans get two tickets to both the comedy center and the Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz museum with their room. They also get two pairs of Groucho Marx glasses. If they have the nerve to wear the glasses into the hotel’s dining lounge, they get a free dessert with their dinner.

Across the street from the hotel, two bronze statues of Lucy stand in a recreation park.

The world famous Chautauqua Institute has been sitting on 750 acres, 27 kilometres west of the new hotel on the south shore of Lake Chautauqua since 1878. About 7,500 people live at the beach resort during 9 weeks in the summer to attend scheduled public events and enrol in summer programs that teach art, music, dance, theatre, writing skills and a wide variety of special interests.

Famous comedians are booked to perform live shows at the National Comedy Center each summer. The 2022 schedule is available at www.comedycenter.org.