National Comedy Center becomes home to Joan Rivers’ career


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Oct 27, 2023

National Comedy Center becomes home to Joan Rivers’ career

JAMESTOWN, N.Y. — On the 90th birthday of the late comedy icon Joan Rivers, her

JAMESTOWN, N.Y. — On the 90th birthday of the late comedy icon Joan Rivers, her daughter Melissa Rivers announced Thursday that the National Comedy Center, the United States’ official cultural institution dedicated to the art form of comedy, will become the home of Joan Rivers’ career archive including a file cabinet containing over 65,000 original jokes spanning from the start of her career in the 1950s to 2014, when she passed away.

The archive thoroughly chronicles Rivers’ artistic evolution and creative process, from her emergent years navigating 1950s Greenwich Village nightclub gigs and performing at Chicago's Second City, through her historic rise in standup comedy and on late night television, to her influential later years changing the face of celebrity interviews and fashion commentary, and becoming a key architect of reality TV.

"I am so honored that my mother's archives will have a home at the National Comedy Center. To be included with the legends of comedy who are represented at the National Comedy Center is amazing," stated Melissa Rivers. "My mother would have been thrilled to be seated at the best table."

Highlights from the collection include Rivers’ earliest hand-written jokes, personally compiled scrapbooks, never-before-heard autobiographical audio recordings, hundreds of pre-show preparatory notes, intimate correspondence with peers in entertainment, the guest books from her storied run as host of "The Late Show with Joan Rivers," and a selection of the iconic gowns, boas and jewelry, that defined her inimitable style.

The National Comedy Center will debut an interactive exhibit in its galleries in Jamestown, in 2025, allowing museumgoers to explore the joke file. With immersive audiovisual design from the museum's award-winning creative team, the exhibit will offer a deep dive into the artistic process of a culture-shifting innovator whose singular body of work exemplifies extraordinary craftsmanship and professional resilience.

The joke file consists of several file drawers, once installed in Rivers’ home office, meticulously arranged by subject matter. 564 jokes are filed under PARENTS HATED ME (see: NOT WANTED) and over 300 within the STEWARDESSES category. In a category called 28 AND SINGLE (see: WEDDINGS), Rivers logged: "I was left standing at the altar so long my bouquet took root!"; under EDGAR (see: MARRIAGE, HONEYMOON) she wrote: "My honeymoon was a disaster. The next day, he screamed, ‘Don't tell me you can't cook either;’" and in COOKING she recorded a classic line, made famous on one of her 31 "Ed Sullivan Show" appearances: "If the Lord wanted me to cook, I’d have aluminum hands. These hands were meant to hold charge cards." The joke file was featured in the 2010 documentary "Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work."

"Joan Rivers moved the future forward when she walked into a man's world and made room for women," stated comedian Chelsea Handler.

Melissa Rivers also announced Wednesday the launch of a special edition four-disc CD box set collection titled "Joan Rivers – The Diva Rides Again" that will feature five hours of never-before-released recordings of Joan's comedy, including six decades worth of hilarious material and a special 16-page collector's book of liner notes with never-before-seen photos. The box set is currently available for preorder on Amazon, and and will be released on Aug. 18, on streaming platforms such as iTunes and Spotify. The set is produced and distributed by Comedy Dynamics in partnership with the Joan Rivers estate.

The National Comedy Center is the United States’ Congressionally-designated comedy archive and maintains a collection of over 150,000 individual objects, documents, and recordings chronicling the contributions of innovators like Lucille Ball & Desi Arnaz, George Carlin, The Smothers Brothers, and the creative minds behind Saturday Night Live, In Living Color, and Johnny Carson's Tonight Show. Artifacts from the careers of dozens of artists, from Charlie Chaplin, Phyllis Diller, and Richard Pryor to Eddie Murphy, Gabriel Iglesias, and Mindy Kaling are on view in the museum's galleries on a rotating basis.

Further information on the Joan Rivers archive and upcoming exhibit at the National Comedy Center is available at

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