Joan Rivers Had 65,000 Jokes in Her Card Catalog

Joan Rivers Had 65,000 Jokes in Her Card Catalog

Today marks the 90th birthday of the late, great Joan Rivers. This morning, in recognition of the date, Rivers’ daughter Melissa announced that the National Comedy Center in Jamestown, New York will be the new home of Rivers’ legendary “joke file,” a cabinet full of written cards containing every original joke Rivers ever wrote — all 65,0000 of them.

Throughout her 60-year career, Rivers was one of comedy’s most diligent archivists, chronicling every crack she ever made, ranging from her bits on the stages of Second City in the 1950s to her brief inaugural run on her own late-night talk show in the late 1980s. Now, those carefully crafted cards will find a permanent home alongside numerous relics from another pioneer, Lucille Ball, in the museum established in Ball’s hometown.

“I am so honored that my mother’s archives will have a home at the National Comedy Center,” Melissa Rivers stated. “To be included with the legends of comedy who are represented at the National Comedy Center is amazing. My mother would have been thrilled to be seated at the best table.” More than that, I think she would have been thrilled to see what everyone else at the table was wearing.

In a statement, National Comedy Center Executive Director Journey Gunderson said, “Joan Rivers was a master of evolution who ascended — again and again — to the heights of success in an industry that was not structured in her favor, blazing a wide and clear trail for generations of artists who would follow. She is not only a role model for women in comedy, but for all artists who desire to wield comedy's expressive power to communicate something vital about the human condition.”

The NCC intends to craft an interactive audio-visual exhibit to allow museumgoers to explore Rivers’ formidable filing cabinet through clips and soundbites that bring the cards to life. Visitors will be treated to excerpts from filing categories such as “PARENTS HATED ME (see: NOT WANTED),” which holds 564 jokes, “STEWARDESSES” with an impressive 300 entries, and the time capsule that is “28 AND SINGLE (see: WEDDINGS),” under which one card reads, “I was left standing at the altar so long my bouquet took root!”

Other comedy legends have voiced their approval for the acquisition, with Carol Burnett saying of the NCC’s plans, “Joan was one of the funniest people I ever met, and a friend for decades. It’s wonderful to know that her archives will join the National Comedy Center, a one-of-a-kind museum dreamed up by none other than Lucille Ball: a woman whom Joan and I both loved and admired very much.”

As exciting as it will be to visit the Rivers exhibit once it opens, it’s going to be an awkward transition walking through the Johnny Carson Experience to get there.

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