WASHINGTON – Jamestown's National Comedy Center – which opens next Wednesday – is now on its way to being the real, official national comedy center.
The House late Monday voted unanimously to approve a bill giving the Comedy Center that official designation, recognizing the Jamestown facility as the only museum exclusively dedicated to the art of making people laugh.
“This is a monumental day for the center, for Jamestown, our local economy and, most of all, for comedy,” said Rep. Tom Reed, the Corning Republican who introduced the bill giving the center its national designation. “We care about shining a light on the art form of comedy on a national stage, and as Jamestown is the birthplace of Lucille Ball, it is only fair to officially designate the National Comedy Center here."
As an actual bill that must be passed by both houses of Congress, Reed's legislation carries legal weight. In contrast, Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer this year introduced a resolution that would give the comedy center the Senate's backing, but without any House action and without the legal heft of a bill.
Schumer took that approach because passing a resolution in one house of Congress is much more of a sure thing than getting a bill through both houses, but his spokesman said Monday that Schumer backs the idea of a full bill as well.
“Our office is in the process of introducing a bill in the Senate," said the Schumer spokesman, Jason Kaplan.
Reed introduced the bill in June, and it moved to the House floor in an unusually short period of time. That came as good news to Tom Benson, project chairman for the National Comedy Center, who said either Reed's bill or Schumer's legislation – or both – will give a huge lift to the facility.
"We just sort of self-designated this as the National Comedy Center, and for Congress to now say: 'Hey, this really is that,' it's a very big thing," Benson said. "It's like when the guy in Cooperstown said this is where the Baseball Hall of Fame will be. Now you're legit."
The $50 million facility will open during this year's Lucille Ball Comedy Festival, which runs from Aug. 1-5. Schumer's cousin, comedian Amy Schumer, will headline this year's event.
The museum, located in downtown Jamestown, tells the story of comedy through interactive displays and artifacts such as the notes of comedian George Carlin.
“Having the National Comedy Center designated as an official attraction by Congress will help bring us truly national recognition for this world-class attraction,” said Chautauqua County Executive George Borrello.