The National Comedy Center, the nation’s official cultural institution dedicated to the art of comedy, will honor Water Mill resident Caroline Hirsch and the 40-year legacy of her iconic Carolines comedy club, by preserving artifacts from Carolines on Broadway, which will be displayed in 2023 at the National Comedy Center’s state-of-the-art museum in Jamestown, New York.
Hirsch, who founded and owns Carolines on Broadway, and Journey Gunderson, Executive Director of the National Comedy Center made the announcement on Thursday at the legendary comedy club. They were joined by Ross Levi, Executive Director of I Love New York, and Tom Harris, President of the Times Square Alliance, as the club prepares for its final shows this weekend.
Earlier this month, it was announced that Carolines will not renew its lease after 30 years of presenting stand-up comedy and will close its renowned Times Square location at the end of the year.
“Caroline Hirsch has been a vital force for nurturing comedic talent for 40 years now, and Carolines on Broadway has been one of the world’s most important venues for showcasing the art form of stand-up comedy,’ Gunderson said, adding, “Comedy material born and polished here went on to be the stuff of specials and albums seen by millions — the most widely known comedy in our cultural consciousness was often born here.”
She continued, noting, “Caroline operated this club in pursuit of great art and comedy is better for it. We are honored to preserve Carolines’ rich legacy and tell this important story in our museum in Jamestown.”
Hirsch pointed out that while her iconic venue was closing shop, her Carolines brand is not finished.
“We are so proud to have provided a platform for such incredible talent — who have brought laughter to New Yorkers and audiences from around the world here in Times Square,” she said. “While our brand will continue to expand in new ways in the coming years, we’re thrilled that the Carolines on Broadway story can be preserved and celebrated at the National Comedy Center for generations to come.”
Items being preserved by the National Comedy Center include the iconic stage, backdrop bearing the world-renowned harlequin Carolines logo, showroom curtains, the microphone, signage, “barfly” stools and entry doors.
“For New York State, comedy is serious business because when you have one of the most famous comedy clubs in the world in New York City, coupled with the only museum dedicated to comedy in the U.S., it makes New York State a mecca for the best in comedy,” Levi said, speaking as the Executive Director of I Love New York. “We look forward to Caroline’s next chapter ahead and know she’ll keep the comedy flame burning bright.”
Harris, President of the Times Square Alliance, added, “Caroline has been an integral part of the revitalization of Times Square. While it is sad when a great show on Broadway closes, great shows go on tour, so I am looking at this as Carolines on tour to upstate New York in Jamestown. My wish for 2023 is that there will be a revival of Carolines in Times Square.”
Caroline Hirsch & Carolines on Broadway
Carolines began 40 years ago in Chelsea and later moved to the South Street Seaport before calling Times Square home in 1992, playing an integral role in the resurgence of the now tourism-centric area.
The club showcased the world’s greatest comedic talent through the years, including Amagansett’s Jerry Seinfeld, Robin Williams, Billy Crystal, Chris Rock, Margaret Cho, Jay Leno, Michael Che, Sandra Bernhard, Wanda Sykes, Tracy Morgan, Jo Koy, Kevin Hart, Bill Burr, Rosie O’Donnell, and many, many more.
National Comedy Center
The National Comedy Center opened in 2018 and has collaborated with dozens of artists and estates to preserve materials that represent comedy’s significant artistic, social, and political contributions to American culture.
The museum collections illustrate the careers of legendary artists like George Carlin, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Carl Reiner, Betty White, Johnny Carson, Lenny Bruce, The Smothers Brothers, and the development of groundbreaking creative work such as sketch comedy series In Living Color, Saturday Night Live, and more.
Within the Comedy Center’s museum galleries, more than 50 interactive exhibits and immersive experiences employ cutting-edge technology to present the story of comedy from its origins to the present day — using archival documents, artifacts, and media as their core.
Its educational programming on the art form has featured George Lopez, Tiffany Haddish, Margaret Cho, Norman Lear, Hamptonite Debra Messing, Rain Pryor (daughter of Richard Pryor), Leno, Kenan Thompson, Gabriel Iglesias, Ben Stiller, John Cleese, Sagaponack’s Jimmy Fallon, Lin-Manuel Miranda, “Weird Al” Yankovic, and many more.