As founder and owner of the world-renowned comedy nightclub that bears her name, and as the reigning queen of the New York comedy scene for the past twenty-five years, Caroline Hirsch has consistently proven herself as an entrepreneur, visionary and innovator in the entertainment industry. As one of the country’s most popular destinations for live entertainment, Carolines on Broadway (www.carolines.com) stands as the crowning achievement of Hirsch’s illustrious career.
Hirsch’s storied career in comedy began in 1982 when she opened a small cabaret club in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. With the popularity of stand-up comedy on the rise, she began booking comedians – including such then-unknowns as Jay Leno, Jerry Seinfeld, Garry Shandling, Sandra Bernhard, Pee Wee Herman, Billy Crystal, and, later, Chris Rock -- to perform at her club.
In 1987, Caroline moved the club to the South Street Seaport where it became a full-fledged comedy nightclub, the first of its genre to offer high-quality entertainment and equally excellent food in a sophisticated, upscale environment. Carolines became “the place” for rising comedians to perform. Having earned a reputation for discovering comedy’s brightest future stars, Hirsch was asked by the Arts & Entertainment network to produce a stand-up comedy show called “Carolines Comedy Hour.” Under the aegis of her production company, Pinky Ring Productions, 120 episodes were produced and aired, and the show ultimately won a CableACE award for Best Stand-Up Comedy Series.
In order to meet the growing demand for business, Hirsch moved her club uptown where it has played an integral part in the revitalization of Times Square. Today, Carolines on Broadway, as it is now known, holds center stage in the heart of Times Square as a top New York nightspot and one of its most popular entertainment destinations for tourists worldwide. The 300-seat club, with its elegant art deco décor, received the American Institute of Architecture Award for Best Interior Club Design and was featured on the cover of Interior Design Magazine.
In November 2004, Hirsch launched the New York Comedy Festival (www.nycomedyfestival.com), a weeklong comedy festival that features comedy’s biggest stars performing in New York’s most prestigious venues including Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, Harlem’s World Famous Apollo Theater, Madison Square Garden, Town Hall and Carolines on Broadway.
In its first four years, The Festival has grown into the country’s biggest and most successful festival of its kind, and has placed such comic luminaries as Denis Leary, Dane Cook, Roseanne Barr, Howie Mandel, Bill Maher, Artie Lange, Sarah Silverman, Drew Carey, Paul Mooney, Rosie O’Donnell and Steven Wright, to name just a few, center stage. The 2008 New York Comedy Festival will take place this November 5 – 9.
The Festival has also spotlighted some of the industry’s talented up-and-comers and features specialty shows such as Stand-Up for Heroes, which benefited the Bob Woodruff Family Fund for traumatic brain injuries. The all-star line-up of talent included host Conan O’Brien, comedians Lewis Black, Brian Regan and Robin Williams; and a special musical performance by Bruce Springsteen. The event raised more than $3 million for The Fund. Last November, the festival also presented its first-ever “New York’s Funniest Stand-Up” competition, in which New York stand-up comedians were invited to vie for a cash prize, a coveted spot on a major festival show.
Hirsch serves as a board member of The Creative Coalition and implemented the highly successful Stand-Up for Class program in both the New York City and Los Angeles public school systems. She is also a board member of the Times Square Alliance (formerly the Times Business Improvement District); NYC & Company, the city’s official tourism marketing organization; the board of The Association for the Help of Retarded Children; and the national advisory board of Count Me In, a micro lending organization for women. Additionally, she formerly sat on the board of the Ms. Foundation.
During her tenure with the organization Hirsch was instrumental in launching the Take Our Daughters To Work program, produced the 10th anniversary TV special “The Ms. Foundation’s Women of Comedy” for Lifetime, and for nearly 20 years has also hosted an annual fundraising event for the foundation at her club.
Among her countless awards, Hirsch was honored with the New York Police Athletic League’s Woman of the Year Award, the Ms. Foundation’s Philanthropic Vision Award and the National Association of Women Business Owners’ Signature Award for Lifetime Achievement.
Recently, she received the Leadership in Tourism Award from the NYC & Company Foundation, a nonprofit dedicated to building the Big Apple’s economy and positive image; and, in a ceremony at City Hall, was also bestowed an official proclamation for her numerous achievements from the Council of the City of New York.
Hirsch also just stepped from behind the scenes and into the spotlight to co-host a new weekly segment on ABC’s “Good Morning America NOW,” which can be seen on ABC Online and on its cable network ABC News NOW. The segment, called “Carolines on Good Morning America NOW” features lively discussions with many of the top comedians who perform at her club.