Schumer Helps Deliver Motorcycle To NCC

Mike LaTone pictured with Dan Aykroyd and his motorcycle, which will be exhibited at the National Comedy Center. Submitted photo

The National Comedy Center has a new piece to exhibit when it opens in two weeks — a historic Harley-Davidson motorcycle ridden by Dan Aykroyd from Brooklyn to the Saturday Night Live studios in Manhattan.

U.S. Sen. Charles Schumer, D-New York and Senate minority leader, helped the motorcycle arrive in time after there were questions whether the artifact would clear customs quickly. In a tweet Monday, Schumer announced the motorcycle has arrived safe and sound.

“Last week I was asked to help on a mission from God to make sure @dan–aykroyd’s historic @harleydavidson from the early days of @nbcsnl could clear customs and arrive at its new home, the @NtlComedyCenter in Jamestown! It arrived safely in time for their opening in two weeks!” Schumer tweeted.

Schumer has been a longtime supporter of the center. In April, he visited Jamestown to call for federal recognition of the National Comedy Center as a civic landmark and cultural institution as the official National Comedy Center of the United States of America.

“Senator Schumer has been a very big supporter of this project for years,” said Tom Benson, chairman of the National Comedy Center. “They’ve been working behind the scenes, working out front, helping us raise money, helping us with credibility. Bringing a vehicle, especially an old vehicle like this, across the border can be fraught with issues if you don’t have all your ducks in a row. We had an old registration from (Aykroyd), a deed of gift that he was giving us the motorcycle and another letter telling about it, but the worst thing in the world is to get it to the border, it gets confiscated and then it becomes a real issue.

Chuck Schumer pictured earlier at the National Comedy Center.

“We called Schumer’s office and said, ‘Here’s what we’re doing. Would you be willing to reach out on our behalf and help us get this thing across the border if necessary.’ They said, ‘Absolutely, yes, we’d be delighted to.”

Aykroyd will see the motorcycle in two weeks when he’s in Jamestown to headline the National Comedy Center’s grand opening celebration. On Aug. 2, Aykroyd and fellow original Saturday Night Live cast members Laraine Newman and Garrett Morris, along with original writer Alan Zweibel, will come together at the Reg Lenna Center for the Arts to share stories and laughs in a conversation about the show’s early years. Aykroyd’s gift is just the latest example of the famous comic and actor lending a hand to the comedy center project.

“He’s been kind enough to look at our early concept drawings, gave us feedback and is excited about the project,” Benson said. “He’s been helping us out on things like that for a number of years. I spoke with him last week before we went to pick up the motorcycle. He’s thrilled to be here and to participate in the grand opening.”

Those who have been on a tour of the National Comedy Center know the importance of the center’s immersive electronics-driven experience. The 37,000 square foot space will use technology to tailor the more than 50 interactive exhibits to each individual patron through use of an RFID chip and questions asked when entering the center. While the center is not based on artifacts as much as other similar museums like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland, Benson said it is important to have tangible items like Aykroyd’s motorcycle as part of the center. Aykroyd rode the Harley-Davidson from 1975-79 back and forth from Canada to New York City as well as from his apartment to Rockefeller Center for his job at Saturday Night Live. It’s also a motorcycle that he rode during storied road trips with friends.

“It’s a cool piece,” Benson said. “It’s one of many, many, many interesting artifacts that we have been able to accumulate over the last six to nine months. The experience is not an artifact-based experience, but we’ve been able to obtain some really cool stuff that links the electronic experience with learning about comedy artifacts. We’ve gotten things like a piece of the original Laugh-In wall, Archie Bunker’s jacket, (Aykroyd’s motorcycle). These artifacts we’ve found are a way to make the experience whole. It adds a lot to the package.”