ALBANY — Have you heard the one about what’s happening in Jamestown?
The National Comedy Center in western New York opened Wednesday, making it the country’s first museum and interactive institution dedicated to comedy.
The project has been decades in the making and took years to raise enough open to the 37,000 square-foot exhibit space in the hometown of comedy legend Lucille Ball.
Located in Chautauqua County near the Pennsylvania border, the $50 million museum uses hands-on exhibits and customized tours based on your favorite comedians to relate the country’s history of comedy, organizers said.
“The National Comedy Center is the first non-profit, national-scale cultural institution and visitor attraction dedicated to telling the vital story of comedy in America,” the museum’s executive director Journey Gunderson said.
Here’s what you will find inside:
The museum features more than 50 immersive and interactive exhibits.
It kicks off with the annual Lucille Ball Comedy Festival, which runs through Sunday.
The event will include appearances by comedians Amy Schumer, Lewis Black, Lily Tomlin, Fran Drescher and original Saturday Night Live cast members Dan Aykroyd and Laraine Newman.
Visitors can experience a personalized trip because focusing on one’s “personal comedic sensibilities” via use of an computer chip worn on a wristband throughout the stay, the museum said.
There’s a “hologram theater” that presents performances of some of comedy’s most notable figures, for example.
The museum was able to secure George Carlin’s personal archives.
There are also plenty of “artifact displays of props, costumes and screen-used items from television and film,” the museum said.
Tell a joke
There’s a room where you can create your own meme.
The museum will also feature an adults-only “Blue Room,” which tells the story of comedy’s “more mature subject matter and the history of taboo and censorship in our culture.”
Types of exhibits
The museum has more than 50 exhibits that “focus on everything from late night comedy to slap stick, and humor as a powerful means for social activism.”
Some of the archives on display come from such comedians as: Lenny Bruce, Rodney Dangerfield, the Marx Brothers, Charlie Chaplin, Jerry Lewis, Joan Rivers, Phyllis Diller, and Jerry Seinfeld.
The state provided significant assistance to the facility, aimed at boosting jobs and tourism in an area about a 1 1/2 hours south of Buffalo.
The National Comedy Center received more than $14 million in state help, including $4.4 million through the region’s regional council; $5 million through the Buffalo Billion initiative; and $5 million in tax credits.
The museum has received the backing of some of the top names in comedy.
It is expected to attract 114,000 visitors each year and support 200 jobs.
Construction started in August 2015 and includes a new 6,000 square-foot building.
The National Comedy Center, an interactive and immersivemuseum experience with over 50 exhibits celebrating comedy, will open its doors in Jamestown in August 2018.
Outside the museum, the center also include the rehabilitation of Jamestown’s original 1930 art-deco Gateway Train Station and creating a waterfront community green space.
“The new National Comedy Center will serve as a tourist attraction and an economic game changer for Chautauqua County and the Western NY region,” Gov. Andrew Cuomo said in a statement.
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