13 Sep Betty White Collection Donated to National Comedy Center Archives
Jamestown, New York – September 14, 2022 – As the 37th anniversary of The Golden Girls television debut is marked today, the National Comedy Center, the United States’ official cultural institution dedicated to the art form of comedy, announced that it has received rare artifacts, wardrobe and awards from the estate of comedy legend and actress Betty White, which will become part of the Center’s permanent archives. Much of the collection, which includes pieces from White’s award-winning work in acclaimed TV comedies The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Golden Girls and Hot in Cleveland, is now on display at the National Comedy Center’s state-of-the-art museum in Jamestown, New York.
The collection donated to the National Comedy Center features scripts hand-annotated by Betty White, plus several articles of Betty White’s screen-used wardrobe now on display – including a Rose Nylund sweater, an Elka Ostrovsky tracksuit from Hot in Cleveland, and a gown worn by White at the 1986 Emmy® Awards ceremony, plus five Emmy statuettes for wins spanning nearly 60 years, including Life with Elizabeth in 1952, The Mary Tyler Moore Show in 1975 and 1976, The Golden Girls in 1986 and as guest host of Saturday Night Live in 2010. The collection also features career memorabilia, including the sweater White wore in her iconic Super Bowl XLV commercial and a Guinness World Record certificate for “Longest TV Career by a Female Entertainer.”
“Betty White has had a remarkable impact on the world of comedy. She brought laughter to millions and made it look effortless, when in fact, she was a true master of the art form,” stated National Comedy Center executive director Journey Gunderson. “Betty’s story and her body of work have united, entertained, and inspired generations of fans, and her performances are infused with a genuine love for the comedic craft. Her story is a remarkable one, not least because of the unerring grace and resilience she modeled as an artist navigating an evolving entertainment industry across seven decades – never losing relevancy and never failing to reinvent herself and her work to meet the moment. We are truly honored to celebrate Betty White in our galleries and to preserve her materials for generations to come.”
“We are delighted to donate these important pieces from Betty White’s career to the National Comedy Center, the nation’s official home for the celebration and preservation of comedy,” stated Glenn Kaplan, who represents the Betty White Estate. “Betty was so wonderfully gifted as an actress and comedienne. She loved to make us all laugh for nearly one hundred years, and she believed wholeheartedly in the power of comedy to entertain, to open our minds, and to change the world. Now her work is on exhibit side-by-side with her dear friends and fellow artists, including Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett, Mary Tyler Moore and so many others. We know that she would have been thrilled to be included in the National Comedy Center, and we hope her fans will visit to remember our beloved Betty and pay tribute her extraordinary legacy.”
Betty’s close friend and colleagues also commented on today’s announcement:
“Betty would have been thrilled to be celebrated at the National Comedy Center — not only because it’s the official museum for comedy but because it’s located in her dear friend Lucille Ball’s hometown and based on Lucy’s vision. It was one of the honors of my life to have both Betty and Lucy as close friends and cherished mentors, and to have worked so closely with them through the years. Now their legacies are preserved, side by side, for generations to come, which makes me very happy. We all miss them both dearly but their comedy is timeless.” – Carol Burnett
“It was pure joy to work with Betty for five years on ‘Hot in Cleveland.’ I’m so very pleased that everyone who loved Betty can now visit the National Comedy Center and remember her incredible talent, her wonderful sense of humor and her extraordinary kindness.” – Valerie Bertinelli
“Betty White was truly a national treasure. I want to congratulate the National Comedy Center for honoring my friend with this wonderful tribute. I know that it would have meant so much to her. I hope she is somewhere celebrating this honor too — hopefully with her husband Allen, having a hot dog, a slice of pizza, a few gummy bears and some vodka.” – Jennifer Love Hewitt
Betty White’s remarkable career on television spanned over seven decades. She was beloved for her portrayal of Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Rose Nylund on The Golden Girls and Elka Ostrosky in Hot in Cleveland, in addition to her work in radio and film and as an author. Known as the “First Lady of Television,” White was a pioneer of early television as the star and producer of the comedy Life with Elizabeth, with full creative control, and the host of a live, daily television variety show as early 1949.
White received eight Emmy awards, three American Comedy Awards, three Screen Actors Guild Awards and a Grammy Award over the course of her career. She is the first and only actress to receive Emmy awards in all comedy performing categories: Lead Actress, Supporting Actress and Guest Actress.
When White died on December 31, 2021, just 17 days before her one-hundredth birthday, the world mourned the passing of an extraordinary artist, gifted comedienne and cultural icon, with heartfelt tributes coming from hundreds of entertainers, journalists and heads of state, along with primetime television specials and a tribute theatrical film honoring her life and career.
About the National Comedy Center
The National Comedy Center is the United States’ official cultural institution and museum dedicated to presenting the vital story of comedy and preserving its heritage for future generations, as formally designated by the U.S. Congress. Opened in 2018 in Jamestown, New York, the museum complex offers an unprecedented, immersive visitor experience using state-of-the-art technology, interactivity and personalization.
USA Today named the National Comedy Center the “Best New Museum in the Country, TIME magazine named it one of its “World’s Greatest Places” and U.S. News & World Report selected it as one of the “25 Top Family Weekend Getaways in the U.S.,” while Condé Nast Traveler called the National Comedy Center “one of the best museums in the country,” and People magazine named it one of “100 Reasons to Love America.”
In 2021, the National Comedy Center was featured in The New York Times, on CBS Saturday Morning, CBS Sunday Morning and on NBC’s TODAY Show, which called it “the Smithsonian of Comedy.”
Visitors from all 50 states and eighteen countries have given the Center a rare 5/5 rating 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 non-profit National Comedy Center showcases comedy’s great minds and unique voices in ways that engage, inspire, educate and entertain. The Comedy Center’s mission is to provide education on the comedic arts in the form of commentary and contextualization of its bodies of work across all eras and genres of the art form.
The National Comedy Center has collaborated with dozens of artists and estates to preserve materials that represent comedy’s significant artistic, social, and political contributions to American culture including collections illustrating the careers of legendary artists like George Carlin, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Lenny Bruce, The Smothers Brothers, and the development of groundbreaking creative work such as sketch comedy series In Living Color, Saturday Night Live and more. Two new exhibits opened this past summer – Johnny Carson: The Immersive Experience Hosted by Jimmy Fallon, a multi-screen theater presentation celebrating Johnny Carson’s 30 years hosting The Tonight Show 30 years later, and Carl Reiner: Keep Laughing, a multi-media, interactive exhibit that honors and celebrates Carl Reiner during his centennial year.
Within the Comedy Center’s museum galleries, more than 50 interactive exhibits and immersive experiences employ cutting-edge technology to present the story of comedy from its origins to the present day – using archival documents, artifacts, and media as their core. Its educational programming on the art form has featured George Lopez, Margaret Cho, Norman Lear, Debra Messing, Rain Pryor (daughter of Richard Pryor), Jay Leno, Kenan Thompson, Gabriel Iglesias, Ben Stiller, John Cleese, Jimmy Fallon, Lin-Manuel Miranda, “Weird Al” Yankovic, and many more.
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, SNL: The Experience, and 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, as well as the pioneering role and remarkable influence that I Love Lucy and Desilu Studios had on the entertainment industry for generations to come.
The Lucille Ball Comedy Festival, produced and presented by the National Comedy Center in Jamestown, NY has showcased comedy’s greatest stars and rising young comedians, including Jerry Seinfeld, Trevor Noah, Lily Tomlin, John Mulaney, Jay Leno, Amy Schumer, Sebastian, Maniscalco W. Kamau Bell, Jim Gaffigan, Paula Poundstone, Joan Rivers, and more than one hundred other comedic artists. Last month, the 2022 festival featured Margaret Cho, Jeff Foxworthy, SNL alumni David Spade, Rob Schneider and Kevin Nealon, and over 50 live events.
The National Comedy Center is a 501(c)(3) non-profit cultural institution whose mission is funded by philanthropic support. Donations and grants support the museum and its work to present the vital story of comedy and preserve its heritage for future generations.