Lucille Ball -- born 107 years ago today -- was a good friend of Carole Lombard while both were at RKO in 1939 and 1940. (Ball honored her with this reference on an episode of "Here's Lucy.") I sense they would be thrilled that Lucy's hometown of Jamestown, N.Y., is paying tribute to what bolstered the careers of both...comedy.
It's the National Comedy Center, which opened Aug. 1 in the southwest New York State town. As the introduction describes it,
"The National Comedy Center in Jamestown, New York, is the first state-of-the-art museum dedicated to telling the vital story of comedy in America. As a nonprofit cultural institution, the museum celebrates comedy's great minds and unique voices, from Charlie Chaplin to Dave Chappelle. Exclusive collections and world-class exhibits give comedy fans an unprecedented behind-the-scenes look at the time-honed creative processes that have elevated entertainment to an art."
There are more than 50 interactive exhibits, on topics ranging from vaudeville to satire; one can even engage in faux pie fights a la Mack Sennett and Hal Roach! Many celebrities attended the grand opening weekend, among them Dan Ackroyd of the original "Saturday Night Live" cast, who donated his motorcycle to the exhibit last Friday:
Several years before Ball's passing in 1989, officials from Chautauqua County (where Jamestown is located) approached her about building a Lucille Ball Comedy Center in town. She suggested its scope be expanded to cover all facets of the comic art...which this site does. (And some years earlier, Jamestown celebrated Lucy and her longtime real-life/TV husband Desi Arnaz with the Lucy-Desi Museum.)
Such facets include aspects of comedy far removed from Lucy and Ricky Ricardo. Items from the careers of legends George Carlin, Shelley Berman and Rose Marie have donated to the center's archives. And last week, a panel on "Comedy and the First Amendment" featured Kitty Bruce, daughter of Lenny Bruce. Artifacts range from Harpo Marx's trenchcoat to Jerry Seinfeld's puffy shirt ("But I don't wanna be a pirate!").
Here's the Carlin exhibit (and yes, that sign in the upper left-hand corner includes one of his seven infamous words):
The center is at 203 W. 2nd St., and is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. seven days a week.
For tickets and additional information, phone 716-484-0800 or visit https://comedycenter.org/. Lucy and I both hope Carole's comic legacy is somewhere honored here.