Collection ACC-MSS 003 - Warren Debenham Comedy Novelty Collection

Identity elements

Reference code


Name and location of repository

Level of description



Warren Debenham Comedy Novelty Collection


  • 1950 - 2006 (Creation)


31 linear feet (approximation)

Name of creator

(1933 -)

Biographical history

Warren Debenham was born January 20, 1933 in San Francisco. He studied college at Stanford University and seminary at General Theological Seminary in New York City, and at The Church Divinity School of the Pacific in Berkeley, CA. One of the foremost collectors in the U.S. with more than 40,000 comedy LPs, 45s, 78s and CDs, Warren Debenham has been collecting comedy albums and humor ephemera for more than 60 years. His LP record collection of comedy and spoken word albums is expansive, and to supplement it he has also collected novelty items, newspaper clippings, toys, and other ephemera. He is considered an authority on comedy recordings, and is often consulted to contribute to catalogs and the indexing of other collections in this field such as the Dr. Demento online playlists, and the Stan Freberg discography. He has worked with Marshall Berle in releasing albums for including Bill Dana’s "Greatest Bits of Jose Jimenez" in 2000. A member of the clergy, collecting has been a pastime and fervent hobby of the Reverend. He was the first rector of the Thomas Episcopal Church of Sunnyvale, CA serving from 1960 as Vicar, and from 1965 - 1973 as Rector. He was Rector of St. Alban’s Episcopal Church in Albany, CA, did a neighborhood ministry in West Oakland, CA and is now retired and assists part time at St. Augustine’s Episcopal Church in downtown Oakland. He lives in Berkeley, CA with his wife, Sally. The San Francisco Public Library has received half of his extensive comedy LP, 45 RPM, 78 RPM, and CD records with the other half to be received after his death. Rev. Debenham, who was seeking a home for his collection, sent the materials to Boston in December 2007.

Content and structure elements

Scope and content

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. Collection Highlights: - Steve Martin arrow-through-the-head kit. - Don Adams-endorsed Skittle Poker and Skittle Pool games. - Happy Days lunch box. - Pee-wee Herman ventriloquist doll.

System of arrangement

This collection is arranged in 3 series:

Series 1: Novelties
Series 2: Posters and Cutouts
Series 3: Steve Martin Ephemera

Each series is further arranged by the type of material within the series, so that like materials (T-Shirts for example) are grouped together.

Conditions of access and use elements

Conditions governing access

The collection is open to researchers. No materials may be borrowed from or taken out of the Archives & Special Collections.

Physical access

Technical access

Conditions governing reproduction

The status of copyright of the collection is governed by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, U.S.C).

Languages of the material

  • English

Scripts of the material

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Finding aids

Acquisition and appraisal elements

Custodial history

In 2006 collector Jeff Abraham recommended to Rev. Warren Debenham, who was seeking a home for his collection, that he get in touch with the American Comedy Collections. He sent the materials to Boston in November, 2006.


No additional materials are expected at this time.

Related materials elements

Existence and location of originals

Existence and location of copies

Related archival materials

Warren Debenham materials can also be located at the San Francisco Public Library Schmulowitz Collection of Wit and Humor.

Publication notes

Debenham, Warren. Laughter on record: a comedy discography / by Warren Debenham. -- Metuchen, N.J.: Scarecrow Press, 1988. ISBN 0-8108-2094-3
(Available in the Archives: PN6151 .D43 1988)

Notes element

General note

Researchers wishing to cite this collection should include the following information: Container number, Warren Debenham Comedy Novelty Collection, American Comedy Collections, Emerson College, Boston, MA.

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