Na­tional Com­edy Cen­ter prom­ises laughs, learn­ing


Did you hear the one about Bob Hope, Rod­ney Danger­field and Andy Kauffman per­form­ing on the same stage?

It might not be a joke once the Na­tional Com­edy Cen­ter opens its doors.

Plans for the mu­seum in an outof-the-way city in western New York in­clude a holo­gram com­edy club that will put visi­tors in the au­di­ence for clas­sic rou­tines of comedic le­gends. De­vel­op­ers aren’t ready to re­lease the “per­form­ers” yet but say dozens of the late greats are in the mix.

It’s all part of a plan to ask not just what’s so funny, but why.

The cen­ter planned in Lu­cille Ball’s home­town ful­fills the late come­di­enne’s wishes that hu­mor in gen­eral be hon­ored, not just her, daugh­ter Lu­cie Ar­naz said.

“She didn’t want any­thing like a statue or some­thing sort of dead or life­less,” Ar­naz said by phone from Cal­i­for­nia.

Although her par­ents would be flat­tered by the Lu­cille Ball-Desi Ar­naz Mu­seum that went up ded­i­cated to their show biz ca­reers, she said they would be even more thrilled by the new com­edy cen­ter break­ing ground this sum­mer and ex­pected to open as early as next year.

“It’s not just about Lucy, it’s about ev­ery­body, that’s what I love about the cen­ter,” said Ar­naz, who along with her brother Desi Ar­naz Jr., Jerry Se­in­feld, Carol Bur­nett, Paula Pound­stone and Dan Aykroyd, are among celebri­ties who have given the plans a thumbs-up.

The holo­gram com­edy club will open in a part­ner­ship with Holo­gram USA, the firm be­hind the late Tu­pac Shakur’s 2012 “live” per­for­mance at the Coachella Val­ley Mu­sic and Art Fes­ti­val. The com­pany is in dis­cus­sions with the es­tates of nu­mer­ous co­me­di­ans who could be fea­tured, a spokesman said.

Also on the draw­ing board are a com­edy “boot camp” of­fer­ing how-to in­struc­tion on joke de­liv­ery, a writer’s room ex­pe­ri­ence that peeks at the process be­hind ground­break­ing com­edy, and per­haps a heckle booth for the brave who, af­ter be­ing given jokes, think they could re­sist be­ing thrown off their stand-up game.

Lo­cal Projects, the media and ar­chi­tec­ture de­sign firm be­hind the 9/11 Mu­seum media de­sign, along with Jack Rouse As­so­ci­ates, are other cre­ative forces.

“Ev­ery­one should go to NCC and walk out know­ing more about how they’re funny, why they’re funny, what makes them funny,” said Lo­cal Projects founder Jake Bar­ton.

With nearly an acre (0.4-hectare) of ex­hi­bi­tion space, the new cen­ter will oc­cupy the re­stored art deco Jamestown Gate­way Train Sta­tion, a for­mer city-owned util­ity build­ing and a new con­nect­ing build­ing in be­tween, said Jour­ney Gun­der­son, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the non­profit Na­tional Com­edy Cen­ter Inc., which also over­sees the ex­ist­ing Lucy-Desi mu­seum.

Lu­cille Ball “wanted Jamestown to celebrate all forms of com­edy,” Gun­der­son said. “She felt like the comedic arts were so im­por­tant to her and so im­por­tant to ev­ery­one’s lives that that’s re­ally what Jamestown should do.”

A ground­break­ing is planned dur­ing this year’s an­nual Lu­cille Ball Com­edy Fes­ti­val, sched­uled from July 30-Aug. 2.

There are plans for an ar­ray of in­ter­ac­tive ex­pe­ri­ences that will help visi­tors see hu­mor in a way they never have be­fore, both that of the comedic greats and their own per­sonal brand of funny, Bar­ton said.

“You want it to be an in­cred­i­ble rev­e­la­tion about both what makes things funny and why you’re funny,” he said.

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