National Comedy Center to lead preservation of historic Johnny Carson archives

Local News

On what would have been his 95th birthday, the National Comedy Center is remembering Johnny Carson.

The National Comedy Center has announced it will lead preservation of the historic Johnny Carson archives.

The archive includes screen-used artifacts, wardrobe, creative documents and awards that will be jointly exhibited by the National Comedy Center and the Elkhorn Valley Museum.

The National Comedy Center will oversee the digital preservation and conservation of the collection, which chronicles Carson’s early life, career and legendary 30-year reign as the king of late night television and one of the most beloved personalities in comedy history. 

The Elkhorn Valley Museum will debut a new and significantly-expanded Johnny Carson Gallery by early 2021 with new artifacts, memorabilia, awards and interactive experiences. The opening of the expanded gallery will kick off the milestone 30th anniversary year of Johnny’s return to his hometown to film his Emmy Award-winning NBC special “Johnny Goes Home.”

In 2022, the National Comedy Center will celebrate the 60th anniversary of Johnny Carson’s legendary run as the host of The Tonight Show with a new multi-media exhibit: 30 Years of Late Night Television, 30 Years Later.

The exhibit will feature never-before-seen documents and creative papers (including Tonight Show monologues personally annotated by Carson), rare artifacts and wardrobe, and archival video from Carson’s storied television career.

“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.”

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