Rutgers University Press Acquires World Rights to New History of Comedy by Directors and Curators of Smithsonian National Museum of American History and the National Comedy Center

NEW BRUNSWICK, N.J. (January 27, 2023) — Rutgers University Press will publish an accessible and comprehensive history written and edited by historians from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History and the National Comedy Center with additional contributions from the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. Won through a competitive auction, the publishing deal was negotiated by Nicole Solano, Executive Editor, Rutgers University Press and includes World and translation rights.

“I could not be more excited to collaborate with curators and archivists from Smithsonian and the National Comedy Center,” Solano said. “The Smithsonian and the National Comedy Center hold unparalleled collections that illustrate the importance of comedy in American life, and for the first time, this collaboration will bring these incredible collections together to tell the story of how comedy shaped American history.”

The National Museum of American History’s Entertainment Collections consist of more than 7,000 objects, including props, costumes and scripts. The museum’s newest exhibition, “Entertainment Nation,” draws on these collections and includes a multi-media experience, “What’s So Funny?” that looks at how comedians of color have pushed back against stereotypes.

The National Comedy Center is the nation’s official cultural institution dedicated to the art form of comedy. Based on comedy legend Lucille Ball’s vision, it is home to exclusive collections, world-class exhibits, cutting-edge technology, and the only research and conservation archive in the world solely dedicated to preserving comedy’s heritage for generations to come. Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture is the only national museum devoted exclusively to the documentation of African American life, history, and culture.

The book will feature vibrant photographs from these incredible museums’ collections and illuminating essays co-edited by Ryan Lintelman and Dr. Laura LaPlaca, Director of Archives, National Comedy Center. The essays will be written by Kevin Strait, Curator, National Museum of African American History and Culture; Eric Jentsch, Curator, National Museum of American History; Ashley Oliva Mayor, Curatorial Assistant, National Museum of American History. More contributors will be announced at a later date.

Anthea Hartig, the Elizabeth MacMillan Director of the National Museum of American History and Journey Gunderson, National Comedy Center Executive Director, will provide director’s notes throughout.

Speaking about the book, Lintelman, curator of entertainment, National Museum of American History, and co-editor of the forthcoming book said, “Comedy in all of its forms—stand-up, film, television, theater, humor writing, and more—has always been a forum for Americans to engage with current events while laughing their heads off. Comedians from Mark Twain to Richard Pryor, George Carlin, and Ali Wong have used humor to challenge us to think about who we are and how we understand the world around us. This book will tell their stories to illuminate the power of comedy throughout American history.”

“Comedy is an art form with a rich heritage—its great minds and unique voices have inspired, entertained, and enlightened us for generations.” said Dr. LaPlaca. “This book will tell the vital, vibrant story of comedy by way of its material history, showcasing one-of-a-kind artifacts that reveal the creative processes and cultural impacts behind the laughs.” 

Rutgers University Press is headquartered in New Brunswick, at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey. RUP is dedicated to the advancement and dissemination of knowledge to scholars, students, and the general reading public. The Press reflects and extends the University’s core mission of research, instruction, and service. We enhance the work of our authors through exceptional publications that shape critical issues, spark debate, and enrich teaching throughout the world for a wide range of readers.

Rutgers University Press Contact: Sarah Fitts, Publicity Manager,