As founder and owner of the world-renowned comedy nightclub that bears her name, comedy doyenne Caroline Hirsch has consistently proven herself as an entrepreneur, visionary and innovator in the entertainment industry during an illustrious 30-year career. As one of the country’s most popular destinations for live entertainment by presenting nationally renowned entertainers, Carolines on Broadway comedy nightclub stands as the crowning achievement of Hirsch’s illustrious career.
With an uncanny ability to bring together the very best players in the comedy industry, Caroline also lends her star power to high profile fundraising events and other philanthropic causes, including the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund, the Scleroderma Foundation, and The Bob Woodruff Foundation.
A Brooklyn native, Caroline graduated from St. Brendan’s High School and attended the City College of New York and the Fashion Institute of Technology before working at former retail giant Gimbels. Her storied career in comedy began in 1982 when Caroline followed her true passion for comedy and, along with friends Bob Stickney and Carl Christian, 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. Carolines soon became a mandatory stop on the way to comedic greatness. It continues that trend today with the recent generation of comedic talent such as Jon Stewart, Tracy Morgan, and Sarah Silverman.
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. She created and executive produced the highly successful “Carolines Comedy Hour,” which under the aegis of her production company, Pinky Ring Productions, 120 episodes were produced and aired. The show ultimately won a Cable ACE 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.
Hirsch celebrated the 20th anniversary of Carolines with a gala comedy concert at Carnegie Hall that featured performances by many of the comedians who had risen through the ranks to stardom under Hirsch’s watchful eye. Among those who helped fete Caroline and her club were Richard Belzer, Lewis Black, Mario Cantone, Judy Gold, Gilbert Gottfried, David Alan Grier, Denis Leary, Kevin Meaney, Paul Mooney, Colin Quinn, Caroline Rhea, Jeffrey Ross, and, in a surprise appearance, Jon Stewart.
In November 2004, Hirsch launched the New York Comedy Festival, a weeklong comedy festival that has featured the industry’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 grew 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, Rosie O’Donnell and Steven Wright, to name just a few, center stage. The Festival has also spotlighted some of the industry’s talented up-and-comers through such events as the “New York’s Funniest Stand-Up” competition, in which New York stand-up comedians are invited to vie for a cash prize and a coveted spot on a major festival show.
Hirsch also created Stand Up for Heroes, a benefit for The Bob Woodruff Foundation. To date, Stand Up for Heroes has raised almost $40 million, and has featured the likes of Jon Stewart, Ricky Gervais, Jerry Seinfeld, Conan O’Brien, and Bruce Springsteen.
Hirsch was named a Comedy Legend & Groundbreaker by Daily Variety in its November 9, 2011 issue.
A member of the board of directors of Comedy Central’s annual Comedy Awards and the Hamptons International Film Festival, Hirsch also 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 serves as a board member for the Times Square Alliance, NYC & Company, the city’s official tourism marketing organization. The Association for the Help of Retarded Children; and for the national advisory board of Count Me In, a micro lending organization for women.
Hirsch formerly sat on the board of the Ms. Foundation. During her tenure with the organization, she 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 numerous awards, Hirsch has been 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.
Additionally, Hirsch was recently honored by the National Coalition Against Censorship for her unwavering support of free expression and artistic freedom through comedy at NCAC’s annual Celebration of Free Speech & Its Defenders.
Hirsch has also 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 Hirsch was bestowed an official proclamation for her numerous achievements from the Council of the City of New York in a ceremony at City Hall.
Caroline lives in Manhattan and, when not helping to launch the next great comedian or seeking out new ways to uplift and expand her brand, enjoys playing golf and spending time at her home in Water Mill, New York.
For more information on Carolines on Broadway please visit www.carolines.com. For more information on the New York Comedy Festival, please visit www.nycomedyfestival.com.