Falconer Grad Finds Success With National Comedy Center

Brandon Caruso, a Falconer graduate, is the Guest Experience Researcher and Developer at the National Comedy Center. Photo Courtesy of the National Comedy Center

Editor’s Note: The Chautauqua Region Community Foundation is commemorating its 40th anniversary this year. This week’s story was inspired by gifts to the Falconer Region Community Fund.

Brandon Caruso heads into work every day to take care of other people’s funny business.

For the 23-year-old Falconer native, his path to become Guest Experience Researcher and Developer with the National Comedy Center started with a lecture by former Carnegie Mellon University Human-Computer Interaction professor, Randy Pausch.

“In eighth grade, I watched (Pausch’s) last lecture, ‘Achieving Your Childhood Dreams,” Caruso said. “I was hooked, I wanted to learn more about him and HCI. Through my research, I found a community looking into how we create and use technology and how those everyday things we design impact our interactions with the world and with each other.”

After graduating from Falconer High School, with many college credits already under his belt, Caruso earned his Associate’s Degree from Jamestown Community College in one year. He continued his education at SUNY Oswego, earning his Bachelor of Science degree in Software Engineering and went on to earn a Master’s degree in Human-Computer Interaction and Design from the University of Washington.

While completing his education, Caruso interned with the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California, Walt Disney World, and Seattle Children’s Hospital. Experiences he says prepared him to take the next step with his career.

“I returned (to Falconer) after completing my studies at the University of Washington,” Caruso explained. “I was looking for a place where I could continue my exploration of the tangible interfaces and the physical-digital experiences I was designing with the patients at Seattle Children’s. Finding a place (like that) in Chautauqua County, I thought, was going to be unlikely.”

Until the National Comedy Center came along.

“I had been sharing my story with others in the community,” Caruso said. “Those conversations led to an opportunity where I was able to sit down and share my experiences with the individuals working on creating the National Comedy Center.”

Since February, Caruso has been working diligently with a small team to create the ultimate guest experience.

“My role is to understand the guest experience from before you arrive at the museum, until you are home reflecting on your experience,” Caruso said. “I’m looking at the interactive components in our exhibits that guests use to see if they are engaging and easy to use.”

In the months and weeks leading up to the grand opening of the Center, Aug. 1, Caruso organized and facilitated test sessions, which allowed members of the community to walk through the Center, test the exhibits and provide feedback before the opening.

With more than 50 immersive exhibits that take guests on an interactive journey through comedy past, present and future, Caruso’s work is far from finished.

“After the grand opening, I will continue guest-centric research so the museum can continue to grow and expand,” he said. “I will also focus on how we can make sure we can share laughter with all of our guests by creating an inclusive and accessible experience for guests with varying abilities.”

All of this Caruso said, would not have been possible without the support of his community and family that allowed him to explore what he became fascinated with in eighth grade.

“It is only fitting that I return the favor and bring my experience and knowledge back to my community to change and shape it in a new and unique way,” Caruso said.

ı ı ı

For 40 years, the Chautauqua Region Community Foundation has worked together with its inspiring donors, selfless volunteers and grateful community organizations to share their stories for enriching the quality of life for all who live here.

A gift to the Foundation adds another chapter in our community’s unending story. Learn more at crcfonline.org.