National Comedy Center Recaps Its Week Of Comedy

From July 31 to August 6, the National Comedy Center presented a week of comedy performances during its annual Lucille Ball Comedy Festival along with a series of conversations titled “Comedy and the Human Condition” in partnership with the nearby, world-renowned Chautauqua Institution.

Jim Gaffigan, Kevin James, Robert Klein, Lisa Lampanelli and more than twenty others performed in various sold-out venues in Lucille Ball’s hometown of Jamestown, NY while Lewis Black, David Steinberg, W. Kamau Bell, Kelly Carlin and more engaged in standing room only dialogues in Chautauqua Institution’s 4,000 seat amphitheater, which is among the oldest and most respected lecture platforms in the nation.

On the first day of the Lucille Ball Comedy Festival, New York State Governor Andrew M. Cuomo visited and gifted a $500,000 contribution to further promote the National Comedy Center in 2018, in addition to the $9 million already previously invested by New York State in establishing the National Comedy Center, as part of the I LOVE NEW YORK campaign to boost Western New York’s tourism industry.

Governor Cuomo stated, “The National Comedy Center is quickly becoming a world-renowned cultural institution, while putting a spotlight on some of today’s greatest performers – and with this week’s Lucille Ball Festival, we welcome thousands of visitors to Jamestown to experience the fun and laughter that’s in store.”

“By investing in comedy and the arts, New York has shown the nation that Jamestown is the place to visit with family and friends. I look forward to the completion of the National Comedy Center as it supports the creation of new jobs, fosters economic growth, and establishes Upstate New York as a top notch cultural hub for generations to come,” the Governor continued.

“When it’s all said and done, I feel it is comedy that brings us together… we like to and we want to laugh,” said Lewis Black during a 45-minute speech at Chautauqua Institution that received a lengthy standing ovation.

One of the highlights of the week long festivities was the sneak preview of The George Carlin Archives, which were recently donated by his daughter, Kelly Carlin, and will be showcased in the National Comedy Center, currently under construction. The collection contains over 25,000 artifacts meticulously saved by the comedian over the course of his 50-plus-year career, including 10,000 handwritten joke files, annotated set lists, personal scrapbooks, stage-worn costumes, and thousands of hours of rare audiovisual content. The Carlin Archives were also previewed at Chautauqua Institution where it was the highest attended exhibit on its grounds, according to staff.

“This last week has been such a dream come true,” said Carlin, author of ‘A Carlin Home Companion: Growing Up with George’. “To finally get to share a few items from my dad’s archives with comedy fans after so many years is one thing. But to also be an ambassador of comedy to the folks at Chautauqua was particularly magical.”

“Within me has always been a strange nexus of the funny with the profound,” Carlin continued. “I can’t think of a better way to step fully onto my father’s shoulders than to bring bold, humorous conversation about our culture into the world.”

Additional National Comedy Center programs included “A Conversation with Alan Zweibel,” original Saturday Night Live writer and best-selling author, and a comedy master class taught by Kliph Nesteroff, author of “The Comedians: Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels and the History of American Comedy.”

“I’ve seen this transformation of people understanding and appreciating [comedy],” said Jim Gaffigan, multi-platinum stand-up comedian. “… So having a National Comedy Center almost is a necessity.”

The week’s programming also included 50 events at a dozen venues throughout Jamestown including five stand-up showcases featuring Michelle Buteau, Matteo Lane, Rondell Sheridan, Emma Willmann and more, the critically-acclaimed kids comedy troupe, the Story Pirates, and a Desi Arnaz 100th birthday celebration.

“Jokes don’t generally stand the test of time, so it’s important for a place like this [the National Comedy Center] to sort of go ‘let me give you a context for these people so you can appreciate their work’,” said Kamau Bell, host of CNN’s ‘United Shades of America’.

“I think since there’s an accountants’ hall of fame, there certainly should be something recognizing comedy,” said stand-up legend, Robert Klein. “It’s not a hall of fame, but is a comprehensive appreciation of the art, and it’s about time.”

“It’s an experience, not just a hall of dead guys,” said Lisa Lampanelli, comedy’s lovable queen of mean.

The festival and National Comedy Center embody Lucille Ball’s vision for her hometown to become a destination for the celebration of the comedic arts. For the past 26 years, Jamestown has hosted the Lucille Ball Comedy Festival, which annually attracts 13,000 plus attendees from more than 40 states. Past performers include Jerry Seinfeld, Jay Leno, Trevor Noah, Brian Regan, Joan Rivers, Lewis Black, Ellen DeGeneres, Paula Poundstone, Nick Offerman, Ray Romano, Bob Newhart, The Smothers Brothers and more.

“It’s important to have a National Comedy Center because comedy, like any other form, needs help,” said David Steinberg, comedian and director of ‘Seinfeld’ and ‘Curb Your Enthusiasm’. “You have to have a place for people to work out what it is they’re doing on the way to their answer to ‘What is it to be a comedian, a writer in comedy, a director in comedy?’”

The National Comedy Center is scheduled to open in summer of 2018, and will be the first non-profit cultural institution and national-scale visitor experience dedicated to comedy, featuring more than 70 exhibits on comedy. The Center recently announced completion of its capital budget in what is a $50 million endeavor, funded by federal, state and private philanthropic support. The Center will celebrate comedy in all of its forms, educating and engendering in visitors an appreciation for the art form and its artists. Design of the immersive experience has been provided by some of the most prominent cultural and interactive design firms in the world, whose portfolios collectively include the 9/11 Memorial Museum, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, the College Football Hall of Fame, SNL: The Experience, Universal Studios, and more.

For more information on the National Comedy Center, including its support from I LOVE NY™, visit