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National Comedy Center
As the 37th anniversary of The Golden Girls television debut is marked today, the National Comedy Center, the United States’ official cultural institution dedicated to the art form of comedy, announced that it has received rare artifacts, wardrobe and awards from the estate of comedy legend and actress Betty White, which will become part of the Center’s permanent archives. Much of the collection, which includes pieces from White’s award-winning work in acclaimed TV comedies The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Golden Girls and Hot in Cleveland, is now on display at the National Comedy Center’s state-of-the-art museum in Jamestown, New York.
The collection donated to the National Comedy Center features scripts hand-annotated by Betty White, plus several articles of Betty White’s screen-used wardrobe now on display – including a Rose Nylund sweater, an Elka Ostrovsky tracksuit from Hot in Cleveland, and a gown worn by White at the 1986 Emmy® Awards ceremony, plus five Emmy statuettes for wins spanning nearly 60 years, including Life with Elizabeth in 1952, The Mary Tyler Moore Show in 1975 and 1976, The Golden Girls in 1986 and as guest host of Saturday Night Live in 2010. The collection also features career memorabilia, including the sweater White wore in her iconic Superbowl XLV commercial and a Guinness World Record certificate for “Longest TV Career by a Female Entertainer.”
“Betty White has had a remarkable impact on the world of comedy. She brought laughter to millions and made it look effortless, when in fact, she was a true master of the art form,” stated National Comedy Center executive director Journey Gunderson. “Betty’s story and her body of work have united, entertained, and inspired generations of fans, and her performances are infused with a genuine love for the comedic craft. Her story is a remarkable one, not least because of the unerring grace and resilience she modeled as an artist navigating an evolving entertainment industry across seven decades – never losing relevancy and never failing to reinvent herself and her work to meet the moment. We are truly honored to celebrate Betty White in our galleries and to preserve her materials for generations to come.”
“We are delighted to donate these important pieces from Betty White’s career to the National Comedy Center, the nation’s official home for the celebration and preservation of comedy,” stated Glenn Kaplan, who represents the Betty White Estate. “Betty was so wonderfully gifted as an actress and comedienne. She loved to make us all laugh for nearly one hundred years, and she believed wholeheartedly in the power of comedy to entertain, to open our minds, and to change the world. Now her work is on exhibit side-by-side with her dear friends and fellow artists, including Lucille Ball, Carol Burnett, Mary Tyler Moore and so many others. We know that she would have been thrilled to be included in the National Comedy Center, and we hope her fans will visit to remember our beloved Betty and pay tribute her extraordinary legacy.”
Betty’s close friend and colleagues also commented on today’s announcement:
“Betty would have been thrilled to be celebrated at the National Comedy Center — not only because it’s the official museum for comedy but because it’s located in her dear friend Lucille Ball’s hometown and based on Lucy’s vision. It was one of the honors of my life to have both Betty and Lucy as close friends and cherished mentors, and to have worked so closely with them through the years. Now their legacies are preserved, side by side, for generations to come, which makes me very happy. We all miss them both dearly but their comedy is timeless.”
– Carol Burnett
“It was pure joy to work with Betty for five years on ‘Hot in Cleveland.’ I’m so very pleased that everyone who loved Betty can now visit the National Comedy Center and remember her incredible talent, her wonderful sense of humor and her extraordinary kindness.”
– Valerie Bertinelli
“Betty White was truly a national treasure. I want to congratulate the National Comedy Center for honoring my friend with this wonderful tribute. I know that it would have meant so much to her. I hope she is somewhere celebrating this honor too — hopefully with her husband Allen, having a hot dog, a slice of pizza, a few gummy bears and some vodka.”
– Jennifer Love Hewitt
Betty White’s remarkable career on television spanned over seven decades. She was beloved for her portrayal of Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Rose Nylund on The Golden Girls and Elka Ostrosky in Hot in Cleveland, in addition to her work in radio and film and as an author. Known as the “First Lady of Television,” White was a pioneer of early television as the star and producer of the comedy Life with Elizabeth, with fully creative control, and the host of a live, daily television variety show as early 1949.
White received eight Emmy awards, three American Comedy Awards, three Screen Actors Guild Awards and a Grammy Award over the course of her career. She is the first and only actress to receive Emmy awards in all comedy performing categories: Lead Actress, Supporting Actress and Guest Actress.
When White died on December 31, 2021, just 17 days before her one hundredth birthday, the world mourned the passing of an extraordinary artist, gifted comedienne and cultural icon, with heartfelt tributes coming from hundreds of entertainers, journalists and heads of state, along with primetime television specials and a tribute theatrical film honoring her life and career.