The National Comedy Center makes every visitor the star of the show in a personalized immersive experience
Jamestown, New York
So, why did the chicken cross the road? Living in Jamestown, it was probably heading for the National Comedy Center to find out why chickens are the butt of so many jokes. Okay, maybe chickens weren’t the target when the founders envisioned a center to celebrate comedy, but the challenge was to engage visitors with laughter. It had to be the right kind of laughter because comedy is very personal. That’s not just an age or generation difference — we’re talking taste in comedy.
Fortunately, Jamestown had a comedy heritage to build on. It’s the hometown of comedy legend Lucille Ball and naturally there’s a museum dedicated to her career. A new comedy museum had to go further, take in the new generation of comedians and give a wider perspective on comedy. The organizers wanted to create a world-class attraction that would showcase the history of this art form and show its impact on television, the movies and the theater. And, they wanted to feature the whole spectrum of comedy from slapstick to satire and adult humor. But, most of all they wanted to involve visitors. Let them find out more about their favorite comedians, maybe try their hands at writing comedy or even do a short stand-up routine for the family or other visitors.
This would be a museum with a difference. It would make the visitors the stars of the show and it would interest every age group. So far, results have proved the organizers right. Since it opened in August 2018, it has attracted record numbers of visitors from all over — and many of them are comedians themselves. It has won a coveted museum industry award for engaging audiences with innovative digital programs and gained the prestige of ‘national’ designation from Congress in 2019.
How do you attract visitors when everybody’s taste in comedy is different? And, how do you keep them coming back? Make it personal, make it immersive, make it fun! What else is comedy for? No problem making people laugh. The real challenge was to tailor the experience to the individual — make the kids laugh and hit the adults with edgy humor. Engage visitors on a personal level and they’re hooked — and they’ll return for more. Everybody’s got a joke to tell, so why not turn the visitor into a comedian for a day? Now that’s a different kind of experience and a big challenge for technology.
The organizers recognized that audiovisual would play a big part, recreating great shows from the past, and they wanted experiences that were immersive and personalized. Touchscreens and fun interactive exhibits would be essential to engage the digital generation. Most of all it had to be sustainable because the organizers want to keep visitors coming back. And, it had to be fresh and easily updated - a museum with its finger on the pulse of comedy.
It has used technology in an innovative way to communicate and share a very old art form.
"The National Comedy Center gives guests the opportunity to explore comedy in depth as an art form. Technology acts as the gateway to an immersive experience that takes into account each guest’s own sense of humor. We’ve found that guests are spending way longer than we anticipated here - they come and stay all day! And they represent all generations too." - Brandon Caruso, Guest Experience Researcher and Developer National Comedy Center
Welcome to the most plugged in interactive experience you may ever have. Visitors become part of the show in an immersive, personalized experience tailored to their tastes throughout. Based on individual humor profiles, an interactive ‘Laughband’ customizes content across 50 exhibit areas. Visitors can try stand-up, comedy writing or learn about their favorite comedians through technology. All content is digital and easily augmented to entice visitors back for more.
The National Comedy Center has quickly become a cultural institution attracting comedy professionals and the public all year round. It has used technology in an innovative way to communicate and share a very old art form. Designed from the ground up by firms specializing in immersive cultural experiences, it truly delivers the founders’ vision. And the final accolade – a prestigious MUSE Award.