Using Comedy to Drive Economic Development with the National Comedy Center
Before her death, Lucille Ball, a Jamestown, New York native, shared her vision that her hometown would someday create a place that celebrates all comedy, rather than a museum celebrating her life. With the support of the Oishei Foundation of more than $2.7 million, The National Comedy Museum opened in 2018 to rave reviews as the first state-of-the-art museum dedicated to telling the vital story of comedy in America.
The nonprofit cultural institution celebrates comedy’s great minds and unique voices, from Charlie Chaplin to Dave Chappelle. It includes a behind-the-scenes look at the creative process of comedy through exhibits, interactive displays and through the voices and artifacts of the world’s most famous comedians.
The Foundation was a critical partner in the development of a master plan for the new attraction that includes a new pedestrian-friendly Riverwalk and park and reuse of an iconic and historic train station as part of an overall redevelopment plan for the area. The Comedy Center adds to existing cultural destinations including the Reg Lenna Center for the Arts and the Lucy Ball Desi-Arnaz Museum, and serves as an entertainment and cultural anchor in downtown Jamestown. Already rated as a top tourist destination by national media outlets, the museum has begun spurring additional economic development and has brought in significant tourist dollars to the Chautauqua County town and the surrounding area.