National Comedy Center acquires archives of the late Shelley Berman

First Ball. Then Carlin. Now Berman.

The National Comedy Center has acquired the archives of legendary comedian Shelley Berman, who died last September at 92.

Sarah Berman, who had been married to Shelley for more than 70 years, announced the donation at a tribute to him hosted on Tuesday night at The Comedy & Magic Club in Hermosa Beach, Calif., where his Curb Your Enthusiasm co-stars, Larry David and Cheryl Hines, were in also in attendance.

“No longer the step child to the arts, comedy and those who make us laugh are about to have their own place in the world. When I found myself surrounded by all of Shelley’s writings, I wondered what to do with all of it. Do I give it to some museum where they let it gather dust before they throw it away? Along came the National Comedy Center, driven by people who have the vision to know that this material and the material of other comedians has a value. They are dedicated to preserving all for their archives and for future generations who may want to know about those who gave us the gift of laughter. I feel confident that all of Shelley’s fine work will be in good hands,” Sarah Berman said.

The National Comedy Center previously acquired a 25,000-piece collection from the archives of the late, great George Carlin, and is being constructed in Jamestown, N.Y., in the hometown of Lucille Ball as the first non-profit cultural institution dedicated to comedy. The center’s official ribbon-cutting ceremony will happen this August during its annual Lucille Ball Comedy Festival.

Executive Director of the National Comedy Center, Journey Gunderson, said: “Shelley Berman was there at the very beginning of what we call modern day stand-up comedy. We are so honored that Sarah has chosen the National Comedy Center as the institution to house Shelley’s archive, and has trusted us to preserve and celebrate his legacy.”

The Berman archive comes from the comedian’s personal collection, spanning from the 1940s to the present, including his two gold records for 1959 stand-up albums, Inside Shelley Berman and Outside Shelley Berman. The former was the first comedy album to win a Grammy.

Kelly Carlin, who donated her father’s archives to the center last year, said: “My father looked up to Shelley Berman. He appreciated Shelley’s use of words and his gift for story-telling. And I can tell you, my dad would be thrilled to know that Shelley’s papers will be sitting next to his in Jamestown.”

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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