U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and U.S. Representative Tom Reed today announced that their legislation designating Jamestown’s National Comedy Center as the official “National Comedy Center” of the United States has passed Congress and been signed into law as part of the 2019 Lands Package. The Comedy Center, located in downtown Jamestown and partially built to honor the vision of Jamestown native Lucille Ball, serves as a landmark that celebrates America’s rich comedic history. Schumer, Gillibrand and Reed said their bill will help solidify the facility as a civic landmark and cultural institution, and the home of comedy in the United States.
?”Comedy is an art form, and it’s a part America’s rich cultural history. I’m thrilled that Congress passed legislation designating Jamestown’s Comedy Center as the official National Comedy of the United States, and that, at long last, it has been signed into law. The Comedy Center is a tourism magnet and now, finally, it has the national designation it so clearly deserves,” said Senator Schumer. “As the birthplace of the iconic Lucille Ball, and the home to the Annual Comedy Festival, Jamestown is an epicenter of comedy in the nation, and is the perfect home for the National Comedy Center. I am incredibly proud to have played my part in enacting this legislation, to help this cultural institution continue attracting visitors from far and wide, creating jobs and injecting millions of tourism dollars into the region.
“I am very excited that the Jamestown Comedy Center has just been officially designated as the National Comedy Center. The Jamestown Comedy Center is a celebration of talent and has quickly become a must-see location in New York,” said Senator Gillibrand. “This museum is a destination for families, tourists, and comedy lovers from all over the country, and it has played an important role in growing the local economy in Jamestown. When I visited the museum, it was clear that the Comedy Center should become a landmark in New York. That’s why I fought to make sure that this year’s Land’s Package would designate the museum as the National Comedy Center, and I’m proud to see this legislation signed into law.”
“Jamestown is now to comedy what Cooperstown is to baseball and Cleveland is to rock and roll,” said Rep. Tom Reed. “As the nation’s first state-of-the-art museum and cultural institution dedicated to presenting, preserving and celebrating the art form of comedy, there is no other place more deserving of full backing of the U.S. government as the nation’s home to comedy than the birthplace of Lucille Ball and the National Comedy Center.”
The representatives’ legislation formally designates the National Comedy Center as the ‘national’ comedy center. Schumer, Gillibrand and Reed noted that this designation will allow the center to build on the success of other Upstate New York tourist attractions like the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, NY. The National Comedy Center employs 38 people and is responsible for countless spin-off jobs and a significant impact on the regional economy. Currently, the annual comedy festival attracts about 20,000 people for headlining shows and has played host to famous comedians like Jerry Seinfeld, Joan Rivers, Jay Leno, and Nick Offerman. The representatives said this designation is vital to the center’s continued growth and pointed out that the Jamestown National Comedy Center is the only museum of its kind with the mission of preserving, protecting, and showcasing the art of American comedy and its role in our culture.
The National Comedy Center, located at 203 West Second Street in Jamestown, New York, pays tribute to the art of American comedy through all eras, mediums, and genres. The 37,000 square foot, $50 million facility tells the story of comedy from its origins through the present, with more than 50 immersive, interactive exhibits.
Each visitor experiences a personalized trip through the Center as exhibits reflect one’s personal comedic sensibilities via the use of a bracelet fitted with an RFID chip worn throughout the stay. Highlights of the collection include George Carlin’s massive personal archives that provide a glimpse into one of comedy’s most prolific minds, a hologram theater that presents performances of some of comedy’s most notable figures, and experiences that allow visitors to step into the shoes of a stand-up comedian. Additionally, the National Comedy Center features rare artifacts from some of comedy’s greatest names, such as Charlie Chaplin’s cane.
Design of the museum and the repurposing of Jamestown’s original 1930 art-deco Gateway Train Station was provided by some of the most prominent cultural and interactive design firms in the world, whose portfolios collectively include the award-winning 9-11 Memorial Museum, the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, the College Football Hall of Fame, Saturday Night Live: The Experience, Universal Studios, and more. The Center celebrates comedy in all of its forms, educating and engendering in visitors an appreciation for the art form and its artists.
Schumer, Gillibrand and Reed said ground was first broken on the project in 2015. The Senators noted their successful push for $1.7 million from the Economic Development Administration and $5M in net benefit due to New Market Tax Credits. In addition to this federal funding, the National Comedy Center has also received $10M from NYS, and private donations from the Gebbie Foundation, the John R. Oishei Foundation, the Ralph C. Wilson Jr. Foundation, the Lenna Foundation, Chautauqua Region Community Foundation, the Ralph C. Sheldon Foundation, the Johnson Foundation, and the Jessie Smith Darrah Fund. The representatives said the National Comedy Center will shine a spotlight on Jamestown as a global comedy destination.
Schumer and Gillibrand have supported the construction of the Jamestown National Comedy Center for years. In 2017, the senators worked to help secure $5 million in New Markets Tax Credit financing to support the Comedy Center. Then, in March of last year and again this February, Schumer traveled to Jamestown, to push for the Comedy Center to be designated as the official “National Comedy Center” of the United States. While there, Schumer discussed how the designation would help comedy find its permanent home in Jamestown, New York. Gillibrand visited the Comedy Center ahead of the grand opening in last summer.