The Lucy Desi Museum & Center for Comedy A Legacy Of Laughter

by Marilyn Roca Enriquez in

The Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum & Center for Comedy is a museum in Jamestown, New York, dedicated to the lives and careers of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz. The museum officially opened in 1996 “to preserve and celebrate the legacy of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz and enrich the world through the healing powers of love and laughter.” Why Jamestown? The museum is a prime tourist destination, and Lucy fans from around the world come to celebrate the life and legacy of Jamestown’s favorite daughter. Lucille Ball was born there on August 6, 1911. Why a museum and comedy center? The museum and center was created to fulfill Lucille Ball’s dream to leave behind a legacy of laughter, a place where humor is honored and taught as an art, not just her comedy but all comedy. 

The Center for Comedy consists of the Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum, housing artifacts and memorabilia of Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, with a gift shop; consisting of the Desilu Studios, the Tropicana Room, a gift shop and offices; and a stand-alone gift shop. The Desilu Studios is the permanent home of the “I Love Lucy” 50th Anniversary Tour Sets that traveled the country in 2001-2002 to celebrate the most popular show ever on television. Exhibited at convention centers, state fairs, music festivals, casinos and more, it featured exact reproductions of the original sets. Following the tour, the exhibit was stored in Houston, Texas, until it was moved to Jamestown, N.Y.  

In the summer of 2005, five 53’ tractor trailers moved the exhibit to Lucille Ball’s hometown where it was installed and named Desilu “Playhouse” after the studio that was rented at 847 Lillian Way in Hollywood to film the first few seasons of “I Love Lucy.”  In 2012, the production-focused portion of the Jamestown attraction was renamed “Desilu Studios.”  

Desilu Studios is devoted to the “I Love Lucy” TV series.  It is home of original props, costumes, memorabilia and more.  Inside, there are complete recreations of Lucy and Ricky Ricardo’s New York City apartment and the Hollywood hotel suite where Lucy pantomimed with Harpo Marx and set her nose on fire with William Holden. There’s also an interactive Vitameatavegamin set, a screening area and showcases filled with vintage memorabilia as well as costumes that were worn on the show.

Formerly each May, the museum celebrated “Lucy-Desi Days,” which featured several events including panel discussions with those closest to Lucy and Desi. In August 2012, the Lucille Ball Comedy Festival became a regular part of the museum’s schedule and is now held every August. Most recently, ground was broken at the Jamestown comedy complex for the National Comedy Center (NCC). The comedy club and educational facility is scheduled to open in August 2016. Along with being a “boot camp” for aspiring performers offering how-to instruction on joke delivery and a writer’s room experience that peeks at the process behind groundbreaking comedy, the NCC will also feature the world’s first Hologram Comedy Club at its $18 million new campus. Working with Hologram USA, the NC will celebrate and forever preserve the classic routines of some of the world’s comedic legends by recreating their most iconic historical performances. The holograms will grace the stage throughout the day in a classic comedy club environment so that audiences can have a lifelike experience with these acts that no archival film clip can give. At the NCC’s Hologram Comedy Club, audiences will also have the opportunity to view living legends on stage — and even live performances beamed by Hologram USA’s “telepresence” capabilities from a distant city. 

“Of all the amazing things we’ve done with hologram technology, this is one of the most exciting ones,” said Alki David, CEO of Hologram USA. “As a permanent home for this advanced form of entertainment, the NCC couldn’t be better. And I can’t think of a better way to experience America’s comedy greats than in the live setting they thrived in at their peaks.”