13 Aug National Comedy Center’s 2019 Lucille Ball Comedy Festival Estimated to be Biggest Ever, Drawing Attendees from 41 States to Jamestown, NY
Headliners Sebastian Maniscalco and John Mulaney Among 50 Live Comedy Events; Comedy Legends Ernie Kovacs and Smothers Brothers Honored
Jamestown, NY – August 13, 2019 –The 2019 annual Lucille Ball Comedy Festival, presented by the National Comedy Center from August 7 through 11, was estimated to be the biggest festival in its 28-year history, with attendees from 41 states across the country, twice the number of headliner shows, and significantly more tickets sold to its 50+ events than for any prior festival.
The 2019 festival was highlighted by four headliner shows – two each for Sebastian Maniscalco and John Mulaney – two more shows in the Northwest Arena than any previous festival. With Maniscalco and Mulaney among comedy’s biggest stars, they packed the arena for each performance. The festival also increased the number of late night comedy shows it presented from four to six – many of which sold-out.
Throughout the festival, rising stand-up comedians from across the nation were showcased, including Mark Normand, Mathew Broussard, Zainab Johnson, Lachlan Patterson, and many more, along with comedy dialogues, kids comedy, block parties and Lucy legacy events held in eleven venues throughout Jamestown across the five-day festival. The Friday and Saturday evening block parties had record attendance as did the kids comedy show on Saturday morning.
Most festival attendees also experienced the 50 state-of-the-art, immersive exhibits within the National Comedy Center, taking an interactive journey through comedy history, from early vaudeville to the latest viral memes.
“We are so proud that our Lucille Ball Comedy Festival broke records this year – with what we estimate to be the most attendees and the most event tickets sold since our festival began 28 years ago,” stated Journey Gunderson, National Comedy Center Executive Director. “Clearly comedy fans from across the country love coming to Jamestown for great comedy performances and events — and to visit our state-of-the-art National Comedy Center. We’re pleased that festival attendees filled local hotels, restaurants and retail establishments, and look forward to the festival’s continued growth in the coming years.”
The festival had tremendous support from over 350 local volunteers and over 80 live production crew members.
“I didn’t know what to expect, I just didn’t expect the National Comedy Center to be this grand, this detailed, and in-depth and interactive,” stated Sebastian Maniscalco. “The National Comedy Center is definitely inspiring, even for a comedian. The first thing when I walked in, I thought of my kids. It would be cool to bring them here to give them a sense of what comedy is all about. It’s just fun and it’s a cool way to learn. And it’s definitely worth coming to.”
“I like that it takes comedy very seriously,” stated John Mulaney. “This is really about the actual craft of comedy, and that’s what is amazing about it.”
As a lead-up to this year’s festival, the National Comedy Center once again partnered with the world-renowned Chautauqua Institution in nearby Chautauqua, New York for a comedy-themed week, highlighted by comedy dialogues in its 4,000-seat amphitheater featuring the legendary Smothers Brothers reunited on stage, acclaimed director/producer Frank Oz, comedian Maria Bamford, and a discussion on Robin Williams with comedian Lewis Black and long-time Robin Williams manager David Steinberg.
During the festival, the National Comedy Center opened its new exhibit on legendary comedy innovator Ernie Kovac as his centennial year is celebrated, featuring never-before-exhibited creative papers, rare audiovisual content and original, screen-used artifacts from Kovacs’ influential 1950s and early 1960s television shows and specials. A panel discussion on Kovacs’ legacy and influence preceded the exhibit opening, featuring comedian Lewis Black, original SNL writer Alan Zweibel, NPR TV critic David Bianculli and SiriusXM host Ron Bennington.
A ribbon-cutting with the Smothers Brothers was also held, unveiling a new display featuring archival material they donated to the National Comedy Center, including their iconic red suit jackets, Tom’s guitar and Dick’s bass, scripts and creative papers, a letter from President Lyndon Johnson which was read by the Smothers Brothers on their TV show, as well as legal documents from their landmark 1970s litigation against CBS in defense of their First Amendment rights.
“This year’s festival truly offered something for everyone – from today’s biggest comedy stars, to up-and-coming stand-up talent, to the legends of comedy – all of whom we were pleased to feature within the National Comedy Center and throughout Jamestown” stated Malachi Livermore, National Comedy Center’s Director of Programming and Guest Experiences.
New displays featuring iconic artifacts and costumes from Eddie Murphy’s Nutty Professor, Bridesmaids, The 40-Year-Old Virgin and Happy Gilmore and The Office were also unveiled during the festival week.
The expansion of this year’s festival lineup was made possible, in part, by a grant from the Jamestown’s Downtown Revitalization Initiative for Programming. The National Comedy Center would like to thank the City of Jamestown, the Jamestown Local Development Corporation, New York State Homes and Community Renewal and Governor Andrew Cuomo for this supplemental funding which activates stages and venues, bringing increased economic impact to Western New York.
The Lucille Ball Comedy Festival is presented annually by the National Comedy Center and embodies Lucille Ball’s vision for her hometown of Jamestown, New York to be a destination for the celebration of the comedic arts and to showcase new comedic talent from around the country. The festival attracts attendees annually from nearly every state in the country, who come together to share laughter while honoring the craft and contributors on stage at dozens of venues throughout Jamestown, including the National Comedy Center and the Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum.
Now in its 28th year, the festival has featured rising stand-up comedians and comedy’s greatest stars, including Jerry Seinfeld, Ellen DeGeneres, Trevor Noah, Lily Tomlin, Jay Leno, Amy Schumer, Brian Regan, Lewis Black, W. Kamau Bell, Jim Gaffigan, Paula Poundstone, Dan Aykroyd, Joan Rivers, Bob Newhart, the Smothers Brothers and more than one hundred other comedic artists.
About the National Comedy Center
The National Comedy Center is the United States’ official cultural institution dedicated to presenting the vital story of comedy and preserving its heritage for future generations, as formally designated by the U.S. Congress in 2019. Opened in August 2018 in Jamestown, New York, the museum complex offers an unprecedented visitor experience using state-of-the-art technology, interactivity and personalization to create the first true 21st Century museum environment.
Condé Nast Traveler called the National Comedy Center “One of the best museums in the country,” while People magazine recently named it one of “100 Reasons to Love America.” Earlier this year, the National Comedy Center was voted a “Best New Attraction” in the county, ranking #2 out of 20 new attractions by USA Today readers, and chosen as the #1 museum and #1 ticketed attraction in this USA Today poll. Comedy industry authority The Interrobang named the design team second on its list of “Innovators Who Changed Comedy” in 2018. Visitors from all 50 states and nine countries have given the Center a rare 5/5 raring on TripAdvisor, ranking among the highest in the attraction and tourism industry
Based on the vision of Jamestown native Lucille Ball for her hometown to become a destination for comedy, the National Comedy Center showcases comedy’s great minds and unique voices in ways that engage, inspire, educate and entertain. As a non-profit institution, the National Comedy Center was funded by a mix of federal, state and private philanthropic support, including partnerships with I LOVE NEW YORK ™, Governor Andrew Cuomo and New York State’s Empire State Development.
Featuring exclusive collections, world-class exhibits and leading-edge technology, the National Comedy Center presents an unprecedented, behind-the-scenes look at the time-honed creative processes that have elevated comedy entertainment to an art form. Over 50 innovative exhibits with the 37,000-square-foot facility enable visitors to take an interactive journey through comedy history, from early vaudeville to the latest viral memes. Throughout their personalized experience, visitors gain a profound appreciation for comedy icons and innovators, as well as for the tremendous influence of humor on how we think, live and laugh.
Design for the National Comedy Center was led by the most prominent cultural and interactive design firms in the world, whose portfolios collectively include the award-winning 9/11 Memorial Museum, The National Underground Railroad Freedom Center, The College Football Hall of Fame, SNL: The Experience, and more.
The National Comedy Center has been embraced by the entertainment industry, with props, costumes and archival material provided by many of the most revered names in comedy. The Comedy Center recently announced a major initiative to preserve Carl Reiner’s personal “Dick Van Dyke Show” script archive. Exhibition partners include the Kelly Carlin and the George Carlin estate, George Shapiro and Jerry Seinfeld, Dan Aykroyd, Alan and Robin Zweibel, Joan Dangerfield, The Lenny Bruce Memorial Foundation, Lily Tomlin and Jane Wagner, The Harold Ramis Family, The Garry Shandling Estate, George Schlatter, Bill Marx and the Harpo Marx Family, the Ernie Kovacs and Edie Adams estate, Desilu Too, NBC Universal, Paramount Pictures, Warner Bros. Corporate Archive, and many more.
The National Comedy Center operates the Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum, which explores the lives, careers and legacy of the “First Couple of Comedy,” and the incredible impact they had on the world.