Since launching in 2018, the National Comedy Center in Jamestown, New York has become home to the archives of several legendary comedy figures that include George Carlin, Lenny Bruce, Rose Marie, Shelley Berman, and the late Carl Reiner’s archives for The Dick Van Dyke Show. The museum also houses artifacts from Andy Kaufman, Groucho Marx, Joan Rivers, Lucille Ball, Richard Pryor, Jerry Lewis, Charlie Chaplin, Harold Ramis, and beyond. Well now, there’s a new name that can be added to the list.
It’s been announced that the National Comedy Center has partnered with the Elkhorn Valley Museum and will be leading the preservation of the Johnny Carson archives. These archives include screen-used artifacts, wardrobe, creative documents, awards, and more that tell the life of the “King of Late Night“.
Starting in 2021, the Elkhorn Valley Museum will be unveiling an expanded Johnny Carson Gallery with new artifacts and interactive components. The exhibit will then reportedly trace the same path that Carson took from Norfolk, Nebraska to New York to California and back over the course of the year. It will be timed with the anniversary of the Emmy Award winning special Johnny Goes Home, that saw him going home to Norfolk for a Primetime special.
Following this, in 2022, the National Comedy Center will celebrate the 60th Anniversary year of Carson taking over The Tonight Show by displaying a new multimedia exhibit: 30 Years of Late Night Television, 30 Years Later. Here you’ll be able to see artifacts from The Tonight Show, documents, wardrobe, props, and even a virtual time capsule that captures some of Carson’s most memorable monologues, characters, and moments.
“Johnny Carson is one of the most beloved and influential late night hosts of all time. For 30 years, Johnny kept the country laughing through good times and bad, while also introducing us to many of the greatest stand-up comedians ever to take the stage,” stated National Comedy Center Executive Director Journey Gunderson. “The story of comedy in America simply cannot be told properly without presenting Johnny Carson’s enormous and invaluable contribution to the art form. We are excited to be partnering with the Elkhorn Valley Museum and Carson Entertainment Group to preserve Johnny’s legacy for generations to come.”
“We’re tremendously excited about the upcoming expansion of our Johnny Carson Gallery at the Elkhorn Valley Museum in Johnny’s hometown of Norfolk,” stated Austen Hagood of the Elkhorn Valley Museum board of directors. “And we’re so pleased to be joining forces with the National Comedy Center so that together we can continue to present Johnny’s story, his Norfolk roots and his remarkable career to comedy fans around the world.”
“Johnny Carson personally directed that the television memorabilia in his office be placed in the Elkhorn Valley Museum in Norfolk, Nebraska, his boyhood home. The fact that the National Comedy Center is located in the hometown of Lucille Ball, and that these two cultural institutions are working together to preserve comedy history is very exciting. Time goes by so quickly and people forget how good these two performers really were. The preservation of their careers and legacies is so very important,” stated Jeff Sotzing, president of Carson Entertainment Group. “I am honored to be a part of this new partnership and look forward to seeing it keep comedy alive.”
And while we may never be able to see what zingers he would’ve delivered about the pandemic and, most importantly, Donald Trump, we can at least take comfort in knowing that his legacy will live on in other ways.