HOIDAY — If laughter truly is the best medicine, its latest clinic is getting ready to receive patients in Holiday.
The National Comedy Hall of Fame has been honoring the legends of humor for 30 years and is now preparing a permanent home in what was formerly the Holiday Tower that will both educate and entertain visitors who walk through its many exhibits.
Artifacts ranging from a scrapbook kept by one of the Little Rascals to a hat and dress worn by Grand Ole Opry comedienne Minnie Pearl are just a small sample of what visitors will see
“We have inducted 23 comedians, given five lifetime achievement awards, and given a Charlie Chaplin Award, which goes to a play,” said Hall of Fame Vice President David Spezza. “We are the first museum of comedy history and are certified by the Library of Congress.”
Spezza said the Hall of Fame had a prototype museum 10 years ago at John’s Pass Village, the outdoor shopping and dining complex in southern Pinellas County, and was smaller than the location here with no additional venues.
“We drew 234,000 people that year,” he said. “That was more than any other museum in the entire market.”
He noted the West Pasco location is easy to access and provides a covered drop-off area for buses.
“We are also transforming a large portion of this building into an entertainment venue,” Spezza said.
The outside of the building will be getting a whole new look as the Holiday Tower sign is replaced with a 14-foot wide, 500-pound electrically lit sign with arrows similar to the Hall of Fame logo.
“Eventually, you will see pictures of all our inductees all around the building,” Spezza added. “It is our mission to preserve comedy history.”
The museum is planning to hold its next major induction celebration in Holiday but Spezza would not release the details on the event or name the person who will join the likes of Lucille Ball, Robin Williams and Jack Benny.
Spezza said there is a younger generation of people who now are not even familiar with some of the classic comedians of the last 35 years.
“We are here to honor and remember the people who made us laugh on the worst days of our lives,” Spezza said.
He said the Hall of Fame wanted to do even more and is establishing programs to cultivate new, young comedians.
“We had added a comedy school and a comedy club so they can grow and perform,” Spezza said. “We are creating a place where you can come out for an hour or a day, enjoy yourself, and just have a good time.”
That good time will also be augmented by a bistro and gift shop.
Spezza said the hopes are visitors will be able to join the likes of Howdy Doody, Charlie McCarthy and Red Skelton sometime around the end of October.
He added the Hall’s website, www.NCHOF.com, will be updated as to the opening dates.