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Laugh It Up at the Library

Knock, knock.

Who’s there?

National Humor Month.

National Humor Month who?

National Humor Month is NOW!

Yes, we know: That was a horrible, terrible, very unfunny joke, but we’re just so excited for National Humor Month, observed every April. Founded in 1976 by Larry Wilde, author and director of the Carmel Institute of Humor, National Humor Month was conceived to heighten public awareness of the therapeutic value of humor. To commemorate this unique celebration, our friends at American Libraries have published a fascinating roundup of stats about all-things-funny, with libraries at the forefront.

Here are a few favorites:

  • The American Comedy Archives, housed at Iwasaki Library at Emerson College in Boston, has 70 oral history interviews with comedians available online, everyone from Margaret Cho and Dick Van Dyke to Betty White, and “Weird Al” Yankovic.
  • The Bob Hope Collection at the Library of Congress (LC) clocks in at 628,300 items! Comedy legend Hope, who died in 2003, donated his personal archive to LC in 1999. The collection includes his Joke File, a repository of used and unused material created throughout his career for television, radio, and live shows.
  • Comedian and The Daily Show alum Lewis Black wrote 40 plays, which can be found in his archive at the University of North Carolina (UNC) at Chapel Hill Libraries, his alma mater. (Black donated his archive to the library in 2022.) The collection primarily holds material from Black’s multidecade work as a playwright; he studied playwriting at UNC and got his start in theater before finding mainstream success as a comic. The collection also includes some memorabilia from stand-up, film and television appearances.

More funny stuff at the library

Looking for more comedy collections? Libraries across the world have you covered.

LC has a fascinating array of comedy-related materials from the world of entertainment in its collection, from a rare recording of African American musician George W. Johnson’s 1896 work, “The Laughing Song,” in the library’s National Recording Registry to the personal collections of Groucho Marx, Danny Kaye, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Sid Caesar, Johnny Carson, Milton Berle, and Jerry Lewis. This article from Library of Congress Magazine is a great place to start if you want to explore LC’s offerings. And don’t forget their books!

The British Film Institute (BFI) holds one of the largest collections of written material about film, television, and the moving image in the world, so it’s no surprise that it has an extensive collection of materials devoted to comedy: movie scripts, publications, reviews, and more. We particularly love their selection of books about cinema’s funniest performers, from Peter Sellers and Bill Murray to Madeline Kahn.

And if you’re looking for some immediate laughs, you can’t go wrong with these clips!

Photo: Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca on set in 1952, from the Library of Congress. 

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