Laugh the Day Away at the National Comedy Center in Jamestown, NY
October 14, 2022
Have you ever visited a museum that made you laugh so hard you felt like you did an ab workout? I’m guessing you haven’t… but you can! Located in Jamestown, New York, the National Comedy Center is one of the most unique museums I have ever visited. And I’ve been to my fair share of museums around the world. But this one? This one is different. Filled with quotes, video clips, photos, memorabilia, and set replicas accompanied with modern technology, the National Comedy Center is a treasure. Plus, it is completely interactive and tailored to your comedic preferences.
Thank you to the National Comedy Center for inviting me to attend this year’s Lucille Ball Comedy Festival.
About the National Comedy Center
Located in Jamestown, New York, the National Comedy Center opened in August 2018. The $50 million museum is truly one-of-a-kind, celebrating comedy in all its forms. Recognizing its importance in our culture, and really our overall happiness, the museum is unlike any other in the world. And it’s guaranteed to make you smile.
Everything from classic vaudeville performances to the latest internet memes are celebrated for their comedic genius. Over 50 exhibits showcase the movies, tv shows, radio shows, podcasts, comic strips, cartoons, stand-up performances, viral videos… And so many more things that make us laugh.
Famous comedians and comedic actors have stepped foot inside the museum in just a few short years. Both for exhibit unveilings and festivals, many celebrities have come to celebrate comedy and its new home. And for those comedic masterminds who are no longer with us, family members have attended events in their honor.
Since its opening, the National Comedy Center has been named “The Best New Museum in the Country” by USA Today, and “One of the World’s Greatest Places” by TIME Magazine. Visit, and I promise you’ll agree.
Creating your Comedy Profile
When you enter the National Comedy Center, you’re given a wristband with a computer chip in it along with a pair of headphones. These two pieces are your keys to the most interactive and personalized museum experience.
Step up to one of the kiosks in the lobby of the museum and scan your wristband to start creating your comedy profile. Why? Because this sets the stage for your experience throughout the museum. Every person has their own definition of what they find funny. For some people, it’s about the witty, intelligent comebacks. For others, it’s the slapstick, physical comedy. Some people like to keep their jokes clean and family-friendly, while others prefer comedy on the naughtier side.
At the kiosk you will go through a series of comedians, actors, movies, tv shows, podcasts, cartoons, and other funny things to help establish your unique comedy preferences. Choose the people and things you find funniest.
As you make your way through the exhibits, you’ll have video clips, people, and other interactive experiences that are tailored to your comedic preferences. Specific video clips will be recommended based on your previous choices. Not only that, but you can continue to mark favorites that you discover throughout your visit. Your profile continues to build until you leave.
My favorite part was that my unique comedy profile was displayed for me as I finished touring the exhibits. Upon a collage of screens, I discovered (or really, confirmed) that my comedy style is observational, quirky, and satirical.
Unique & Interactive Exhibits at the National Comedy Center
At any museum you visit – no matter its focus – you expect to see photos and memorabilia from the person/place/area/event in question. And the National Comedy Center has plenty of that. Betty White, Bill Murray, Lucille Ball, Carl Reiner and hundreds of other comedians have pieces on display. But the museum also has so much more to experience and do. With over 50 exhibits, there is a lot to discover. So get ready to immersive yourself in comedy.
Enjoy Hands-On Experiences
Perhaps the most unique exhibit was all about comedic props. Frying pans, banana peels, tomatoes, and many more props are so commonly used throughout movies and tv shows. So the museum created an exhibit highlighting their use in physical comedy. First, you choose from a selection of plastic props on display. Bring that prop over to one of the tables, and it will pop up with the name and common uses of that prop. Then, you can watch a variety of famous movie and tv scenes that utilized that prop. It’s truly unique.
Another great exhibit was drawing your own cartoon following the tutorials at the cartoon kiosks. Keep going to create your own comic strip!
The further you get into the museum, the more immersive exhibits you’ll find. One of the final areas includes opportunities to recreate famous comedic scenes and games to make your friends laugh. There’s even a spot to try your hand at stand-up in the café.
Sit Back and Watch Your Favorites
Love late-night comedy? Then you’ll love the section with a camera replica and multiple screens showcasing the best late-night monologues.
If stand-up is more your style, walk over to the virtual stand-up show. Complete with bar-height tables and a faux brick wall, video screens play memorable moments from famous stand-up comedians. Wave your hand over the displays on the table to vote for which comedian you want to see next.
In areas like the movie theater and retro living room, you can “check-in” to the exhibit by tapping your wristband. Then, the exhibit will play a scene from a movie or tv show that matches the comedy style of one of the folks who has checked in. That might be you, or it might be a stranger! These pieces of the museum are what makes each visit truly individualized and different for each visit and visitor.
If you’re anything like me or my friends, you can spend hours scrolling the internet. There are so many viral videos that make us laugh, and there’s an exhibit celebrating the most iconic ones.
The Blue Room
As I mentioned, every person has their own unique sense of comedy – and for some people, that can get dark or inappropriate. Comedians often blur lines between what’s safe and what’s ‘politically incorrect’. So if you are into the naughtier side of comedy, head downstairs to the Blue Room.
It’s important to note that the exhibit is not kid-friendly – and there are plenty of warnings posted before you enter the exhibit.
Step inside the Blue Room and you’ll be slapped in the face with swear words and raunchy comedy. You were warned! George Carlin’s famous “7 words you can’t say on tv” greet you in big, bold letters. As you make your way through the exhibit, you’ll be confronted with the more risqué comedic acts and how opinions have evolved over the years. (Many things that were taboo years ago wouldn’t make us bat an eye today.)
The displays throughout the Blue Room examine foul language, sexuality, racism, religion, death, and other taboo topics and their place in comedy. Various quotes and photos are creatively hidden behind small doors and shades, emphasizing their possible inappropriateness. Use your own judgement as you peek behind the barriers.
National Comedy Center Tickets
Tickets for the National Comedy Center can be purchased online or in-person. Adult admission is $28.50, with discounts available for children, youth, seniors, military, and Chautauqua County residents.
My recommendation? Get dual admission for both the National Comedy Center and the Lucy Desi Museum just down the street. If you purchase them together, you’ll save almost 30%!
Plan for several hours at the National Comedy Center in order to get the best experience. I was there for about 3.5 hours, and I easily could have stayed much longer! Then walk over to the Lucy Desi Museum. Since it is a bit smaller, it can be done in less time.
The National Comedy Center is also home to the Lucille Ball Comedy Festival every August. During that week, famous comedians and special events make visiting Jamestown something you shouldn’t miss.