The First 100 Days

People From 49 States, 7 Countries Have Visited Comedy Center

Many of the officials who helped make the National Comedy Center possible are pictured outside the West Second Street location in Jamestown. Since holding its grand opening Aug. 1, the nonprofit comedy attraction has seen visitors come from 49 states and seven countries. Photo by the National Comedy Center

In its first 100 days of operation, the National Comedy Center has attracted visitors from 49 states and seven countries.

Since opening at its 203 W. Second St. location in Jamestown on Aug. 1, the country’s first institution devoted to comedy has seen the bulk of its visitors come from outside Chautauqua County. In fact, according to statistics provided to The Post-Journal on Friday, 79 percent of visitors to the comedy center reside outside the county. In addition to representing all but one state in the country, visitors have come from Canada, Mexico, the United Kingdom, Germany, Norway, Australia and Taiwan.

After eight years of planning, the National Comedy Center is starting to see the fruits of its labor. Officials tout its 5 out of 5 star rating from TripAdvisor; a 4.9 out of 5 rating on Facebook; and a 4.8 out of 5 rating on Google.

“While our team always believed that we were building something special and compelling, ultimately it’s the public who decides,” said Journey Gunderson, comedy center executive director. “The reviews, from locals to tourists, from travel writers to arts and culture critics, from comedy industry to attraction and museum professionals, have been unanimous in exceeding anyone’s most optimistic expectations. I’m thrilled, relieved and proud beyond belief to see the reactions posted every day to what this community came together to create.”

Part of August’s grand opening included on-stage performances by Lewis Black, Amy Schumer, Lucie Arnaz, Lily Tomlin, W. Kamau Bell and — maybe most notably — Dan Aykroyd, who rode in on his motorcycle that was donated to the comedy center.

Dan Aykroyd rides in on his motorcycle in August. The famed comedian donated the piece to the NCC. P-J photo by Jordan W. Patterson

With the NCC now open, Gunderson said the focus will shift from preparation and making good first impressions to “marketing this attraction for the long term.”

“The fact that visitors from 49 states and seven countries have already come to Jamestown and are returning home with rave reviews is the seed planting and ripple effect that we’ll feel for years to come,” she continued.

Comedy center officials have not released how many people have visited the attraction since its opening. Those who have traveled to Jamestown for the comedy center stay between two and a half to three hours, officials said.

“This is a marathon and not a sprint,” Chairman Tom Benson said. “We have built an amazing attraction and assembled a great team to operate it and I am more confident than ever that the National Comedy Center will achieve its long term goals. Already we’ve exceeded what the Lucy Desi Museum draws to Jamestown in a year — just in our first hundred days.”

The opening of the National Comedy Center has had an impact on surrounding businesses. Among those seeing an increase in customers is The Pub, located at 209 N. Main St., Jamestown.

Lewis Black speaks in August.

“Since the comedy center opened Aug. 1, we’ve been very busy,” said Sam Lisciandro, manager at The Pub. “For lunches, you can totally see an increase in people from out of town, and weekends have been great.”

Added Michael Bigney of Crown Street Roasting: “We’ve certainly seen an increase in numbers. It’s easy to see that because of the wristbands from the comedy center. A lot of people from all over the place, so it’s definitely broadening our customer base and we’re feeling an impact from it.”

Comedy center officials hope the recent opening of the Chautauqua Harbor Hotel in Celoron in addition to the planned openings of the DoubleTree by Hilton and Jamestown Brewing Company further bolsters area appeal to tourists.

The National Comedy Center has been embraced by the entertainment industry, with props, costumes and archival objects provided by many of the most prestigious names in comedy. Exhibition partners include Carl Reiner, George Shapiro, Jerry Seinfeld, 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, Desilu Too, NBC Universal, Paramount Pictures and Warner Bros. Corporate Archive.

Since holding its grand opening in August, the comedy center has obtained its liquor license. The attraction is currently serving craft beer from Southern Tier Brewing Company and local wines from Chautauqua County vineyards.

Also of note, the comedy center said 20 motor coach tour groups have visited since opening day. In recent weeks, local school groups have also visited including students from Jamestown High School, Seneca Nation School and Penn State.

The National Comedy Center has begun regular evening stand-up comedy events throughout the year. The next event, on Friday and Saturday, features nationally touring comedians Caitlin Peluffo and Steven Rogers, who make their television debut this month on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.” Tickets are available at tickets.comedycenter.org.

The nonprofit was created with a $50 million investment, funded by federal, state and private support, including partnering with the “I Love New York” campaign, Gov. Andrew Cuomo and the Empire State Development.

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