Stop Me If You've Heard This One Already

The National Comedy Center in Jamestown, N.Y., offers laughs for all generations

By Kara Murphy, publisher of Macaroni KID Erie February 15, 2023

I've had several people ask me if the National Comedy Center is fun for kids. The answer: YES!

We first took my kids to the Jamestown, NY. museum when they were 7 and 9, and they've talked about how much they love the museum ever since.

The author and her family were hosted for the purposes of this review. All thoughts are her own.

We returned a few weeks ago, this time with my mom and brother — in town for the weekend from Denver — in tow.

My kids are 11 and 13 now and the museum offered a whole new experience to them now that they're a few years older. But it was certainly no less enjoyable!

Hamming it up at the National Comedy Center

In fact, we spent more than four hours there, and our entire group left reluctantly only because it was closing time.

This $50 million museum opened in Lucille Ball's hometown in 2018. It offers a personalized comedic experience that makes a visit unique to each person that comes through the building.

Nearly all exhibits are hands-on!

How does it work? When you come into the National Comedy Center, you're given a wristband and then you spend some time at a kiosk selecting things like your favorite comedians, your favorite TV shows and even your favorite podcasts.

A computer chip in your wristband records your choices and, as you move through the museum, video clips, jokes, and other entertainment you're shown is based on those selections.

It's very cool.

Most of the exhibits entertain both kids and adults. Some of our favorites: 

  • Learning to create and draw cartoon characters.
  • Using common comedic movie props — think whoopie cushions, anvils and banana peels — to see clips and comics of those props in action through the years, from black and white silent movies to South Park.
  • Making funny faces to try to match our favorite comedian.

My brother. I'm so proud.

  • Taking part in a Laugh Battle, where the competitor who laughs last wins.
  • Adding sound effects to movie clips.
  • Creating our own memes.
  • Trying our best at a standup routine.

My daughter, telling jokes.

We were bowled over by the technology and personalized experience as soon as we entered the National Comedy Center. Our names and faces appeared on a digital screen welcoming us as we entered, and in the first exhibit, an amazing hologram of Jimmy Fallon introduced us to the exhibit Johnny Carson: The Immersive Experience

Coming face to face with Jimmy!

The artifacts here are also jaw-droppingly cool. There's the original, iconic Tonight Show rainbow curtain, the baby carrier worn by Zach Galifianakis in "The Hangover," and the famous "puffy shirt" from Seinfeld. There are also impressive displays dedicated to George Carlin, whose daughter donated 25,000 pieces of his estate to the museum; and Carl Reiner, with artifacts spanning Reiner’s seven-decade career in comedy.

The original rainbow curtain from the Tonight Show, Starring Johnny Carson.

The National Comedy Center is the United States’ official cultural institution and museum dedicated to presenting the vital story of comedy and preserving its heritage for future generations, as formally designated by the U.S. Congress in 2019. 

And it's basically in Erie's backyard! 

The museum is just an hour's drive from Erie. So if you haven't been? I encourage you to go — and take the kids!

Plan your visit! 
Find hours and more at the National Comedy Center website.

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New York