National Comedy Center Reaches 50 States Milestone

The National Comedy Center staff have celebrated recent achievements. In December, the Comedy Center reached the milestone of having visitors from all 50 states. P-J photo by Eric Zavinski

Two thirds of the way through its first year in business, the National Comedy Center continues to put feathers in its top hat as staff recently shared the news of visitors from all 50 states having made their way through the monument to humor.

This milestone follows a successful congressional measure to acknowledge the Comedy Center as the official cultural institution dedicated to comedy in the United States. President Donald Trump signed legislation March 12, adding some extra weight behind the word “national” in the Comedy Center’s brand.

Back in January, The Post-Journal covered the Comedy Center’s campaign to get the recognition of as many people as possible to win the USA Today popular vote that named the best new attractions of 2018. The Comedy Center came in second place behind the Gathering Place in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and at the time winners were announced, Comedy Center staff knew of 49 states that had been represented by visitors.

Little did they know then that the crucial visitors from North Dakota had actually showed up over the Christmas holidays, meaning that in the first five months of operation, the Comedy Center had attracted guests from every corner of the country.

“We’re thrilled that visitors already traveled to the National Comedy Center from all 50 states in our first few months,” said Journey Gunderson, Comedy Center executive director.

“It’s only fitting since we are now the United States’ official cultural institution dedicated to comedy as designated by the U.S. Congress.”

Not natives to the state they now call home, the visiting North Dakota family hadn’t been residents of the midwestern state their whole lives. The wife, Nadia, is originally from Brantford, Ontario.

The husband, 26-year-old Mark Geise, is the son of Deputy Chautauqua County Executive for Economic Development Mark Geise. Younger Mark Geise’s parents had encouraged him to visit the Comedy Center, and since it was the time of year to visit family as well, a stop by the newly opened cultural institution felt right.

Mark and Nadia Geise sneaked in at just the right time. In the rush of the holiday season, the log-in system hadn’t acknowledged staff of them being the visitors from the 50th state or simply no one had noticed for months. Whatever the case, Gunderson had said in January that staff wanted to throw confetti for the first visitors from North Dakota.

No cheers or punchlines about visitors from Hawaii and Alaska making it to the Comedy Center before they did awaited the young Geise family, but what did was something the married couple described as “exceeding expectations.”

Mark and Nadia Geise said they were most impressed with the levels of interactivity, modernity and personalization that the high-tech displays, algorithms and exhibits offered. With what Mark Geise described as an impressive volume of content to boot, he said they easily spent more than three hours at the Comedy Center and want to go back.

“I’ve never really been to a museum that’s done (this) before,” Mark Geise said.

After Mark Geise noted some of his favorite comedians were Dave Chappelle and Bill Burr and Nadia Geise recorded that “Friends” and “Seinfeld” were some of her favorite shows, content that was similar to those performances would show up throughout the Comedy Center.

Visitors are able to personalize their experience by listing what their favorite comedy movies, TV shows, internet programs and personalities are. At various multimedia exhibits, recommended videos are shown to guests, who are also free to watch content out of their usual tastes as well.

“I thought that (the continuum wall) was really cool,” said Nadia Geise, who referenced the hour or so she spent tracking comedians over the decades and how celebrities were and are related to each other through inspirations and collaborations.

More traditional museum artifacts are also on display, from stand-up notes to movie costumes and cartoon panels.

“I really like where you could sit down and see the scripts from TV shows,” said Nadia Geise because she enjoyed recognizing what moments from shows she likes were scripted and what were improvised.

Nadia Geise’s parents are already planning on visiting their daughter and her husband, and another visit to the Comedy Center with them in tow is in the works. Activities like stand-up karaoke, in which Mark Geise performed Chris Rock’s bullet control routine, and scene recreations, like when the couple acted out a scene from “Anchorman,” kept the Geises busy and encouraged them to return with friends and family.

“I think that’s what stood out the most: if you really wanted to see everything, you’d have a tough time to get through everything,” Mark Geise said.

Mark and Nadia Geise gave some recommendations for the future of the Comedy Center. Since many exhibits show off famous movie, TV and stand-up content, new videos, audio clips and more can get cycled through the exhibits as the months and years go by. Mark Geise said he’d like to see more comedians get featured, including Doug Stanhope, a favorite of his.

“They should be able to keep everything fresh,” Mark Geise said.

At the end of their visit when their senses of humor were evaluated, Mark Geise said he was primarily interested in observational humor whereas Nadia Geise enjoyed exaggerated performances the most.

They’re looking forward to coming back and maybe getting their confetti rain check.

“My only request would have been to douse (my sister) as much as possible,” Mark Geise joked.

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