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National Comedy Center To House Career Archive Of Joan Rivers

The National Comedy Center in Jamestown will become the home of Joan Rivers’ career archive. Rivers’ daughter, Melissa, made the announcement Thursday. Photo by the National Comedy Center

On the 90th birthday of the late comedy icon Joan Rivers, her daughter Melissa announced that the National Comedy Center will become the home of Joan Rivers’ career archive. Included will be a file cabinet containing more than 65,000 original jokes spanning from the start of her career in the 1950s to 2014 when she passed away.

The archive thoroughly chronicles Rivers’ artistic evolution and creative process, from her emergent years navigating 1950s Greenwich Village nightclub gigs and performing at Chicago’s Second City to her influential later years changing the face of celebrity interviews and fashion commentary and becoming a key architect of reality TV.

“I am so honored that my mother’s archives will have a home at the National Comedy Center,” Melissa Rivers said in a statement provided by the Comedy Center. “To be included with the legends of comedy who are represented at the National Comedy Center is amazing. My mother would have been thrilled to be seated at the best table.”

Highlights from the collection include Rivers’ earliest hand-written jokes, personally compiled scrapbooks, never-before-heard autobiographical audio recordings, hundreds of pre-show preparatory notes, intimate correspondence with peers in entertainment, the guest books from her storied run as host of “The Late Show with Joan Rivers,” and a selection of the iconic gowns, boas and jewelry that defined her inimitable style.

“Joan Rivers was a master of evolution who ascended — again and again — to the heights of success in an industry that was not structured in her favor, blazing a wide and clear trail for generations of artists who would follow,” said Journey Gunderson, National Comedy Center executive director. “She is not only a role model for women in comedy, but for all artists who desire to wield comedy’s expressive power to communicate something vital about the human condition.”

The National Comedy Center will debut an interactive exhibit in its galleries in Jamestown in 2025, allowing museumgoers to explore the joke file. With immersive audiovisual design from the museum’s award-winning creative team, the exhibit will offer a deep dive into the artistic process of a culture-shifting innovator whose singular body of work exemplifies extraordinary craftsmanship and professional resilience.

The joke file consists of several file drawers, once installed in Rivers’ home office, meticulously arranged by subject matter.

“Joan Rivers is among the most influential stand-up comedians in the history of the art form. Her legacy, characterized by bold truth-telling, personal vulnerability, and a raw determination to make great art, altered the trajectory of American cultural history — more than once,” said Laura LaPlaca, director of archives for the Comedy Center.

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