Carrying on the legacy of 
Lucille Ball

One of our favorite issues was featuring the birth place and history of Lucille Ball. Just last month her hometown of Jamestown, NY opened a new 37,000 sq ft National Comedy Center. Executive Director, Journey Gunderson shares that more than 50 exhibits will allow guests to attempt cartooning, comedy writing, and live stand-up. There’s also a faux pie fight, and holograms of comedians.

This is a trip worth taking!

Celebrating a comedy legend

Photography courtesy of the Lucy-Desi Center for Comedy

Long before hand-held electronic devices and color television, one woman dared to break down barriers and entertain audiences with a powerful blend of physical comedy and quick comedic wit. Decades later, the legacy of I Love Lucy star Lucille Ball (1911-1989), still lives on today.

At the Lucy-Desi Center for comedy in Ball’s hometown of Jamestown, New York, visitors can travel back in time to explore television sets, memorabilia and much more. Women of Upstate New York Magazine recently asked Executive Director Journey Gunderson about the center and its annual comedy festival, whose special guest on August 1 will be Jerry Seinfeld (tickets are on sale beginning Feb. 9).

Q: For people who don’t know, how did the Lucy-Desi Center for Comedy come about and what makes it so special?

A: The Lucy Desi Center for Comedy came about after the Arts Council in Jamestown asked Lucille Ball in the late eighties about the celebration of her legacy. She said that while she understood Jamestown wanted to have a museum attraction, she preferred her legacy be celebrated in the form of living, breathing comedy – in the form of an annual comedy festival, a focus on the development of the comedic arts, and making Jamestown a destination for the celebration of comedy. The first Lucille Ball Comedy Festival began in 1991 and the museum opened in 1996. The early nineties saw Ellen Degeneres, Paula Poundstone, Ray Romano, Lewis Black and more perform in her honor.

In 2015, Jerry Seinfeld will headline the Lucille Ball Comedy Festival in Jamestown, and 2014 saw Jay Leno, Tom Cotter and a total of 25 comedic performers and artists. What makes Jamestown unique is the mix of celebrating comedy and the Lucy-Desi legacy through a nostalgic lens, while presenting the best of contemporary comedy as well.
All of this culminates with a larger initiative we’re developing to open as soon as 2016 to embody Ball’s vision for Jamestown: the first National Comedy Center and center for the celebration of the comedic arts.

Q: What are some of the interesting items people can see in the museum?

A: We have seven Emmy Awards including Ball’s for Best Actress in a Comedy Series, an opportunity for visitors to re-create the famous “Vitameatavegamin” scene, as well as sets, costumes and props from the most popular and iconic American comedy in television history, I Love Lucy. People are often surprised at the extent of our collection and how much of the experience goes on. Read the entire story online February 2015 issue at wouny.com