A guide to visiting the National Comedy Center and other things to do in Jamestown, NY.
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The National Comedy Center
I am legitimately super excited to tell you all about this place, because not only do I truly love it, it’s right in my hometown! It’s crazy to think that an attraction this cool is literally within walking distance of my house.
When I walk through the doors, I feel as if I’ve just stepped out of little Jamestown, NY, and into a major city. They did an amazing job with it, and I absolutely want everybody to experience it.
I am, of course, talking about the National Comedy Center (Did you get that? National? Like, this is the only one in the whole country! In my little hometown!).
About Jamestown, NY
The National Comedy Center is located in Jamestown, NY, a small town of about 30,000 people.
Where is Jamestown, NY?
Jamestown is located in western NY. It’s about an hour and a half south of Buffalo, NY. It is in Chautauqua County, near the beautiful Chautauqua Lake, and the famous Chautauqua Institution.
And before you ask, no, it is not close to NYC! It’s about an 8-hour drive to the other side of the state.
Why is the National Comedy Center in Jamestown?
Good question! The short answer: Lucy.
Lucille Ball, comedy’s leading lady, was born in Jamestown, NY and spent most of her growing up years in nearby Celeron, before she moved to NYC. She is also buried in Lake View Cemetery in Jamestown, NY.
Lucy hoped that her hometown would become a place where anyone could learn about, and be inspired by, comedy.
Another Local Artist
There is one more local artist you will see celebrated at the National Comedy Center. Brad Anderson was also born in Jamestown, NY and grew up in Portland, about a 40 min. drive from Jamestown, near Lake Erie.
He is famous as the creator of Marmaduke, the beloved cartoon dog. The National Comedy Center has a recreation of his studio, with his actual desk and light table on display.
You can see an adorable statue of Marmaduke and Brad in Portland, NY.
Where to Park for the National Comedy Center
This is my number one question when I go somewhere new: Where do I park???
And unfortunately for National Comedy Center visitors, it is not the easiest question to answer.
Because the museum was built right in downtown, in the old train station (which adds to its appeal), it does not have its own parking lot (which reduces its appeal…)
Please note, there are a few handicapped parking spots available right at the museum.
There is a small parking lot for Comedy Center visitors just down the street, on 2nd Street. Just follow the bright neon signs.
If this is full, you do have several other options for parking, which will vary based on how much you’re willing to spend. I like to find the “free” parking spots available on the street, and then walk over to the museum. Downtown Jamestown is fairly small, and very walkable.
There is a parking garage in downtown on Third St. (the Comedy Center is on Second St.).
There is also on-street parking, though there is usually a two-hour limit during the week.
After 5 on weekdays, and on Saturdays and Sundays, parking is free, even if there’s a meter.
The Comedy Center is on the corner of 2nd St. and Washington St. It has huge flashing screens that never turn off, day or night, so it’s pretty hard to miss.
More information on parking for the National Comedy Center.
National Comedy Center-Know Before You Go
How long should I spend at the National Comedy Center?
Plan to spend around 3 hours here. That is typically the rule with most large museums.
Can you visit the National Comedy Center more than once?
Because of the way the museum is set up, you can come multiple times and have different experiences every time.
I have been three times. I spent 3 hours here the first time, and well over an hour the other two times. It is always fun, and there are a lot of different things to try.
Is there a cafeteria at the museum?
No, the National Comedy Center does not have a cafeteria. They do have snacks and drinks for sale in the gift shop at the end of the museum, and there are tables for you to sit and eat in a corner of the gift shop, or outside in the courtyard.
They also have a “comedy karaoke” bar towards the end of the museum, which serves a limited selection of drinks.
Your best bet would be to hit the museum between meals, and then head to one of the many delicious restaurants downtown.
What do I do with my coat?
(Because it’s western NY and it’s probably cold)
There is an optional coat check when you first enter for $2. Or if you’re cheap, like me, you can just carry it.
(Or, if you’re lucky, it may just be nice enough out to not wear a coat!!)
Can you take pictures at the National Comedy Center?
Pictures are not allowed in the museum. However, there are several “photo spots” throughout.
There are several spots where you can take your own photos, like pretending you’re on the red carpet (I would show you, but our picture came out horribly!).
There are also pictures and activities you can take along the way and “save” to your wristband (more on that later), sort of like that picture they take of you screaming at the amusement park. You can save the cartoon drawing you made, or the picture of you trying to emulate a funny face, or the video of your attempt to reenact a classic comedy scene, and then purchase them in the gift shop.
This is definitely a place you want to come with friends, if you can. In fact (assuming there’s not a world wide pandemic), bring as many people as you can with you!
That way you don’t have to make a fool of yourself alone, trying to reenact that famous comedy scene. Or you have a (probably) friendly crowd to try out an act at the comedy karaoke bar. Or someone to have a laugh-battle with.
And at the end of the day, it’s just more fun laughing with other people. In fact, it’s infectious (in a good way…).
The Museum Experience
When you visit the Comedy Center you will receive a package with your wristband, earbuds and a stylus to avoid touching screens or shared headphones. There are also a few exhibits that require disposable gloves to avoid spreading germs.
Set up your comedy profile
When you first walk in to the National Comedy Center, you will get a wristband with a little computer chip in it. Then you will go to one of the kiosks, sign in with your wristband, and then set up a profile of the comedy styles you like.
Don’t freak out, it doesn’t take forever. It’s not like setting up a user name and password and security questions so you can order that one thing from that one website you will never go to again. You just pick out movies and shows and comedians you like, and your wristband will remember it.
Even if you think you’re not that into comedy and you won’t recognize any of the names—don’t worry. You will. There are so many options to choose from, I guarantee that everyone will find something they like (and know!).
Throughout the museum, you can “sign in” to different exhibits, and it will “read” the room. That way, you get to see styles that interest you. This is also one way that keeps everything different, so the more times you come back, the more you will see.
Learning the “Art” of Comedy
The museum works really well in that it teaches you about comedy, while at the same time entertaining you.
The exhibits will intersperse clips from comedy shows with fun facts and history, so that you learn lots of smart things without even realizing it! Which is the best way to learn.
You can learn how to draw a cartoon character, add sound effects to a famous clip, or attempt to act out an iconic scene, like Lucy and Ethel wrapping chocolates (we Jamestownians love our Lucy).
They even have a “comedy karaoke” bar, as I’ve mentioned a few times. If you’ve spent this whole article wondering how exactly that works, here it is:
It’s like karaoke, but with comedy bits. You can watch a one-minute clip of a famous comedian, then go up on stage and see how your own attempt goes over with the audience. So you don’t have to stand up there like an idiot, trying to come up with material. If you’re standing up there like an idiot… well… It’s also a bar!
And So Much More
There are so many different things to see and do here, I can’t even begin to explain them all. I may be a bit biased, because it’s my hometown attraction, but seriously, this is one of my FAVORITE museums I have ever been to. And definitely the least boring.
This is not your typical “stare at the important artifact that means nothing to you and read about why it is important” museum. This is a fun, interactive experience that will make you laugh along the way.
Other Funny Museums to Visit
The Lucy-Desi Museum
The Lucy-Desi Museum is actually 2 museums in one. Your museum ticket will include entrance into both sides of this museum.
Go into either entrance. After you finish on one side of the museum you can walk outside and over to the other entrance.
There are different gift shops in each side, so be sure to check them both out. Personally, I think the Desi-Lu Studios side has a better selection.
The Lucy-Desi Museum
The entrance to this museum is right next to Crown St. Roasting Co. (this building is not painted bright orange). This side of the museum focuses on Lucy and Desi’s lives, starting with Lucy’s childhood in the Jamestown area.
It houses incredible costumes that Lucy wore throughout her career, video clips from other shows, and a stunning Mercedes that Lucy used to drive.
This is the side of the building that is painted bright orange (right on the corner). This museum focuses specifically on the “I Love Lucy” show. You can see sets from the show, costumes, props, behind the scenes, and try your hand at acting out the famous “Vitameatavegamin” commercial (slightly less fun without any alcoholic content…).
Get a Combo Ticket
You can get a duel admission ticket along with the National Comedy Center and save money if you plan to do both (which you should!).
Other Things to Do in Jamestown, NY
There are so many other great things to do in Jamestown, NY and the surrounding areas! Check out my HUGE list of things to do in Jamestown for all the ideas and info (including where to eat & stay!), but here are some highlights:
When to Go
The best time to come is definitely either:
Fall: September & October
The weather is (usually) absolutely beautiful in the summer or fall. I love fall because there are so many pretty leaves and fall things to do.
But I would ultimately recommend the summer as best, because there are so many seasonal activities going on as well. Chautauqua Institution is in full-swing, you might see a giant Viking ship downtown during the Swedish festival, and most importantly, the Comedy Center hosts outdoor movie nights on the weekends.
Annual Lucy Fest
And then there’s the annual Lucy Fest (AKA the Comedy Fest, AKA the Lucille Ball Comedy Festival). Some of the biggest names in comedy come to our small town to put on shows! There are fun events all weekend long, like the grape-stomping competition.
Usually the first weekend in August, I think this is absolutely the best time to come visit Jamestown! Unless of course you don’t like crowds. Then probably don’t come…
Any more questions?
If you have any questions about visiting the National Comedy Center, or Jamestown, NY, don’t hesitate to send me an email.
Interested in visiting the National Comedy Center?
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