Iwasaki Library

American Comedy Archives

Bill Dana Introduction

Bill Dana, a 1950 Emerson College graduate and a well-respected member of comedic circles, is the inspiration behind the American Comedy Archives.

The American Comedy Archives was established at Emerson College in 2005 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 collection includes manuscripts, photographs, video and film materials, and an oral history collection. It is the first collection of its kind at an academic institution devoted to exploring the nature of comedy as an American art form and reflects the College's view that examining the history, sociology, and culture of comedy represents an important and underrepresented field of study.

The project is the brainchild of Bill Dana, a 1950 Emerson graduate with a distinguished career in comedy as a performer, writer, and producer. Dana and Project Manager Jenni Matz conducted interviews with a veritable “who’s who” of comedic history.

More than 60 interviews were conducted between 2005 and 2007 and include such luminaries as Phyllis Diller, Dick Gregory, Don Knotts, Norman Lear, Bob Newhart, Tom Poston, Paul Rodriguez, Dick Van Dyke, Betty White, and Jonathan Winters. You can read excerpts from the interviews, view the full list of interviewees, view the list of collections, or arrange a visit to the Archives.