National Comedy Center

Jamestown, New York was my destination last month because of all the Lucille Ball stuff but there is a lot to see and do around the region. It’s a haven for winter sports and for folks who enjoy summer lake activities. There are breweries and vineyards, museums, an escape room and more.

For the last few years it has also been the home of the National Comedy Center. Back in the eighties, when the city approached Lucille Ball and asked how she wanted to be remembered, she suggested that the town become a destination for lovers of all comedy and not just her own.

The first order of business was to develop a museum, festival and other smaller attractions to get people coming here to celebrate her life’s work. In 2018 they finally opened the doors on her proposed celebration of all comedy in the form of the National Comedy Center.

It’s 37,000 square feet packed with countless interactive exhibits, some costume and artifact displays, and LOTS to see and do.

You start with a kiosk where you create a digital identity with your comedy likes and dislikes. You have a little digital thingamajig that you can clip to your jacket or belt loop that contains all your info. The idea is that when you arrive at certain places throughout the museum you scan that thing and the display will load content the computer thinks you’ll like based on your tastes. You can rate what you see too.

Since we are still in the midst of a pandemic, they give you a stylus for touching things. They also have plenty of hand sanitizer throughout the museum and employees are sanitizing the seats and other surfaces. They take your temperature at the door too.

Everything from early radio comedy sketches to late night television to sitcoms, stand up comics, internet memes and everything in between are represented here. They even have a room devoted to animation and comic strips. Do you still read the funny papers? I do!

There’s an area where you can generate memes and another where you can sit and watch Bob Hope give a USO show. There’s a film that addresses how truth has been stranger than fiction in American politics these last many years. It talks about how late night comedy shows became the gatekeepers for truth while the actual media often just reports what someone says even when it’s all lies or when they’re missing even the most flamboyant red flags imaginable.

My personal favorite area is set up with a retro theme of couches and many screens where you can watch longer clips from tv shows. This is one of those areas where they load shows based on audience taste. I sat on a couch to see clips from Roseanne, the Simpsons and a few others.

Another room is devoted to the archives and motivation behind George Carlin’s work. You can digitally rummage through his joke collection by topic and see notes written in his own hand.

I enjoyed the concept of this plaice but not necessarily the execution. To be honest, it felt like sensory overload. From any given place, you might hear a radio show from an overhead speaker, a tv show from another room and Fozzie Bear telling jokes. It’s hard to know where to focus your attention.

The things I enjoyed most were the areas that immerse the visitor in a topic. I loved sitting in a small theater and watching music videos of famous funny songs. Another corner with classic SNL clips was fantastic. Remember Chris Farley’s bit about living in a van down by the river?

They do display some original items like costumes, awards, props and the like. However, the focus is on the technology. Personally, I don’t want to stare at a screen with a scanned copy of a famous person’s note cards in a museum. This, I can do from home for free. If I pay good money to be in a museum, I want to see the actual notecard.

Perhaps I’m just turning into an old crank.

No offense to the hard working folks who put this all together. It’s a nice museum that someone spent a bucket of money and time to create. It has many good qualities and I’m glad I went. It just wasn’t for me. They do have a large, rotating collection so you may see different things if you go. I read recently that they will be home to the Carl Reiner archives. That’s a huge win for them.

With that said, if you are a connoisseur of comedy and if you are impressed with these artificial intelligence aspects, you really should visit. Also, if you’re in town for the Lucille Ball stuff, you can get a dual admission ticket for this museum and the Lucy Desi Museum just down the street. They’re close enough together you can walk there.

One more thing. It’s a safe place to take your kids. The comedy on the main exhibit floor is pretty clean. They keep the uncensored stuff in the basement.

Want to learn more? Visit their website!

The Best Traveled Coaster

Meet my coaster. It’s a little rough around the edges these days mainly because it’s far better traveled than it was ever meant to be.

I picked it up on a trip out west a few years ago because it’s cute and has a good message. And then Scout came along and decided that it’s not that cute but is a great test of gravity.

I have told you before about his propensity for knocking things over. What I haven’t told you is that he often knocks things down and into my purse which typically sits on the floor next to his favorite side table.

The number of times I have opened my bag in the store or at work to find something random inside are too great to count but this coaster is almost always in there. Sometimes I remember to check before I leave home and to dig out the tv remote and whatever else he has put in there. Sometimes I don’t and find myself holding a coaster in the middle of the grocery store.

He’s a funny guy, that Scout, and he certainly keeps things interesting!

The Bernie Meme

Can we talk about how Bernie Sanders has become internet gold this week?

In case you missed it, a photographer captured this basic image of Bernie at the inauguration. It was cold and Bernie had come prepared to stay warm in a heavy coat and handmade mittens that were a gift from a New Jersey school teacher.

He looks crabby here but the photographer says he really just looked cold. He also stood out, appearing surprisingly casual and comfortable in a sea of more formally dressed attendees.

Nonetheless, the internet got ahold of the image and generated something completely unexpected. He has been photoshopped into every imaginable scenario from sea to shining sea. He’s been spotted at Niagara Falls, at the the Grand Canton and at the Rutherford B. Hayes historic site here in Ohio. The pop culture references have been fabulous as he’s popped up in everything from Mayberry to a Bob Ross painting with his “happy little mittens.”

Even local businesses like antique stores and book shops have their own version of the Bernie.

Joann Fabrics had a fabulous take on it too as they hock their supplies to those wishing to make their own mittens.

But none are as perfect as this Big Bang Theory reference.

It’s funny. Right?

But it’s more than just funny pictures on the internet.

Hear me out.

My Facebook feed is packed with a bizarre combination of people who believe a vast array fact and fiction. From the left to the far right, I can point to people who don’t agree on even the most basic concepts like who won the election and whether the insurrectionists are heroes or criminals.

But they’re all sharing the Bernie memes!

The Bernie meme has become some kind of weird unifier.

And why not? We all have that cranky grandpa or uncle who wears his thirty year old jacket and looks cranky everywhere he goes.

We all know a Bernie!!!

(I hope you read that in a Bernie yell!)

And we can all get behind the silliness because we just need something to make us laugh.

Scout even got in on the action.

Who knew that we just needed a practical New Englander to don some homemade mittens and slump on a metal folding chair to curb the feuds as we all giggle over the ridiculous?

And it is ridiculous but that’s what makes it fun.

In case you’re interested, Bernie is selling a commemorative sweatshirt and all the proceeds will benefit Vermont Meals On Wheels, an excellent cause. Click here to see that or to order.