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The American Comedy Archives was established to acquire, preserve, and make available primary source material that documents the professional activities of the groundbreaking individuals who have written, produced, or performed comedy for radio, television, motion pictures, or live performance. The collections contain a wealth of primary source material related to American comedy. Descriptions and finding aids for many of the collections are listed below.
- Oral Histories
- The Bill Dana Collection
- The Rev. Warren Debenham Comedy Sound Recordings Collection
- The Rev. Warren Debenham Comedy Novelty Collection
- Phil Leslie Scripts Collection
- Larry Mintz Collection
- Let Me In, I Hear Laughter Collection
- Alan Lewis Comedy LP Collection
- Jan Murray Film Collection
- Howard Storm Scripts Collection
- Dom DeLuise Audiovisual Collection
- Harvey Orkin Collection
The Bill Dana Oral History Collection consists of audiovisual interviews conducted by comedian Bill Dana and archivist/historian Jenni Matz with comedians, directors, writers, producers, agents, and experts on comedy. The interviews were originally recorded on DVcam tapes from February 2005 through May 2007 and duplicated at Emerson College. Excerpts from various interviews are also included.
The Bill Dana Collection
Writer, comedian, and producer Bill Dana donated his papers to Emerson College in 2005. This collection consists chiefly of annotated working scripts for The Bill Dana Show, which Dana produced, wrote, and starred in, and working scripts and related production materials for The Steve Allen Show in which Dana appeared with Steve Allen, Louis Nye, Pat Harrington, Tom Poston, and Don Knotts, and for which Dana was head writer and performer. Also included are letters, photographs, newspaper clippings, and ephemera spanning his amateur and professional career (1940s–2000s). There are also scrapbooks, personal letters, and an LP collection of much of his recorded work.
The Rev. Warren Debenham Comedy Sound Recordings Collection
The collection documents American comedy from the early 1930s through 2006 and consists of long-playing albums and compact discs of live performances, spoken word recordings, musical theater, and film soundtracks. In addition to recordings of individual comics, the collection also contains compilations of various comedians as well as compilations of radio series that were broadcast during the early 1930s through the mid 1950s. Among the comics whose work is included in the collection are Abbott and Costello, Red Skelton, Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Steve Martin, Adam Sandler, Gilda Radner, Pauly Shore, and Richard Pryor. The comedy of Belle Barth, LaWanda Page, Spike Jones, Steve Allen, Sandra Bernhard, and Redd Foxx is also included. Subjects cover topics such as politics, relationships, religion, parenting, adolescence, current events, and celebrity and popular culture. Genres include adult entertainment, satire, political, comedy songs and humorous music, improvisational, stand-up, telephone pranks, party jokes, regional, ethnic, and dark humor.
The Rev. Warren Debenham Comedy Novelty Collection
The collection consists of television, radio, film, and stand-up comedy ephemera, such as T-shirts, video- and record-store displays, board games, toys, trading cards, novelties, and posters, all relating to comedy and comedians. There is also an extensive collection of comedy and humor-related magazines, newsletters, and fanzines.
Phil Leslie Scripts Collection
The Phil Leslie Scripts Collection consists of unbound scripts written by Phil Leslie, the bulk of which are from the radio show Fibber McGee and Molly that aired from 1935 to 1956 on WMAQ/Chicago and then on the NBC Monitor until 1959. There are also some bound scripts from the earlier show Smackout, which also featured Jim and Marian Jordan. It also consists of unbound scripts of the television show Dennis the Menace. This show ran on CBS from 1959 until 1963. There are unbound scripts from other shows that Phil Leslie wrote for, including 13 radio programs and 25 television series, as well as unbound scripts for unproduced episodes and/or unsold pilots. Included are ideas for sketches and jokes, proposed storylines, series and episode outlines as well as rough, revised, and final drafts of scripts.
Larry Mintz Collection
The Larry Mintz Collection is a collection of materials related to the history, development, and science of comedy. It includes newspaper and journal articles, books, audiocassettes, and videotapes. Most of these materials are in relation to the classes he taught at the University of Maryland.
Let Me In, I Hear Laughter Collection
The Let Me In, I Hear Laughter Collection is composed of interviews, out-takes, and research materials related to the documentary film Let Me In, I Hear Laughter - A Salute to the Friars, which was directed and produced by Dean Ward. The interviews and out-takes are on Betacam tapes. The collection also consists of print materials relating to the film and the New York and Los Angeles branches of the Friars Club; including newsletters, film reviews, and promotional brochures.
Alan Lewis Comedy LP Collection
The Alan Lewis Comedy LP Collection is composed of 19 LP comedy records from the 1950s to early 1970s. The collection highlights different forms of comedy from the period, from political and ethnic humor to adult comedy by Rusty Warren. Highlights include hit albums produced by Bob Booker and George Foster, including Al Tijuana and His Jewish Brass, The First Family, and When You’re in Love the Whole World Is Jewish.
Jan Murray Film Collection
The Jan Murray Film Collection is composed of an assortment of 1950s game show episodes hosted by Jan Murray, including Treasure Hunt and Dollar-A-Second. In addition, there is travelogue color film footage of Murray’s family vacations.
Howard Storm Scripts Collection
The Howard Storm Scripts Collection contains the unbound scripts of television episodes that Howard Storm directed. A large number of the scripts in this collection are from the television series Mork and Mindy that aired from 1978 to 1982. The Mork and Mindy scripts in this collection are from 1978 to 1981. The rest of the collection consists of scripts from 27 other series of episodes he directed. These range from one to five episodes per series. Also included are a few screenplays that were Oscar hopefuls in 2002.
Dom DeLuise Audiovisual Collection
The Dom DeLuise collection consists of materials related to Dom DeLuise’s life, acting career, career in comedy and cooking as well as materials related to him and his family. The collection includes newspaper and magazine articles, photographs, books, audiocassette recordings, videocassette recordings, ? inch Umatic cassette recordings, Umatic S cassette recordings, CDs, and DVDs. The majority of these materials are in relation to his film career.
Harvey Orkin Collection
The Harvey Orkin Collection contains manuscripts, magazine and newspaper articles,obituaries, correspondence, photographs, notes, and short stories created by, or about, Harvey Orkin, talent agent and humorist, between 1958 and 1975. The bulk of the collection is focused on the professional career of Orkin in the years leading up to his death in 1975.