21 Jun National Comedy Center Opens New Exhibit Honoring Caroline Hirsch and Carolines on Broadway
Jamestown, NY – June 20, 2023 – The National Comedy Center, the nation’s official cultural institution dedicated to the art of comedy, opened a new exhibit today honoring legendary New York City comedy club Carolines on Broadway. Caroline Hirsch, founder and owner of Carolines on Broadway, and Journey Gunderson, Executive Director of the National Comedy Center, cut the ribbon to officially open the exhibition to the public.
Located within the National Comedy Center’s state-of-the-art museum in Jamestown, NY, the exhibit celebrates the 40-year legacy of the iconic Times Square comedy venue – one of the world’s most important venues for showcasing the art of stand-up comedy. It features iconic artifacts, including the stage backdrop bearing the world-renowned harlequin Carolines logo, showroom curtains and signage, entry doors and “barfly” stools.
A legendary New York City institution, Carolines showcased the world’s greatest comedic talent – first in Chelsea and later at the South Street Seaport, before calling Times Square home in 1992 – playing an integral role in the resurgence of the Times Square district.
Throughout the club’s illustrious 40-year run, Caroline Hirsch has been a vital force for discovering and developing comedic talent. Comedians gracing the Carolines stage included Jerry Seinfeld, Robin Williams, Chris Rock, Wanda Sykes, Margaret Cho, Jay Leno, Michael Che, Sandra Bernhard, Billy Crystal, Amy Schumer, Tracy Morgan, Norm Macdonald, Kevin Hart, Iliza Shlesinger, Bill Burr, Rosie O’Donnell, and many more.
In December of 2022, it was announced that the Carolines on Broadway was not renewing its lease for its renowned Times Square location. The club’s final shows took place on December 31, 2022.
“The most widely known comedy in our cultural consciousness was often first honed at Carolines; going on to become the specials and albums enjoyed by millions. Hirsch operated her club in pursuit of great art, and comedy is better for it. We’re honored to showcase this legacy at the National Comedy Center,” said the museum’s Executive Director, Journey Gunderson.
“We are so proud to have provided a platform for such incredible talent — who has brought laughter to New Yorkers and audiences from around the world here in Times Square,” stated Caroline Hirsch. “While our brand will continue to expand in new ways in the coming years, we’re thrilled that the Carolines on Broadway story will be preserved and celebrated at the National Comedy Center for generations to come.”
The Carolines exhibit is now open to the public. Museum visitors are welcome to take photos in front of the iconic stage backdrop, as if they were performing stand-up comedy at the legendary club.
The Carolines exhibit joins the museum’s 37,000-square-foot visitor experience, which educates, inspires, and entertains guests of all ages as they take an interactive journey through comedy history, across all eras and genres of the artform. The Center’s archive is the United States’ Congressionally designated preservation home for comedy history and maintains a collection of over 150,000 individual objects, documents, and recordings chronicling the contributions of innovators like Lucille Ball & Desi Arnaz, George Carlin, The Smothers Brothers, Carl Reiner, Betty White and the creative minds behind Saturday Night Live, In Living Color, and Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show. Artifacts from the careers of dozens of artists, from Charlie Chaplin, Phyllis Diller, and Richard Pryor to Eddie Murphy, Gabriel Iglesias, and Mindy Kaling are on view in the museum’s galleries on a rotating basis.
The Center is located in Lucille Ball’s hometown of Jamestown, NY and was born of Ball’s vision to establish a national-scale hub for the celebration of the comedic craft.
The National Comedy Center is a 501(c)(3) non-profit cultural institution whose mission is funded by philanthropic support. Donations and grants support the museum and its work to present the vital story of comedy and preserve its heritage for future generations. Visit comedycenter.org.
About the National Comedy Center
The National Comedy Center is the United States’ official cultural institution and museum dedicated to presenting the vital story of comedy and preserving its heritage for future generations, as formally designated by the U.S. Congress. Opened in 2018 in Jamestown, New York, the museum complex offers an unprecedented, immersive visitor experience using state-of-the-art technology, interactivity, and personalization.
USA Today named the National Comedy Center the “Best New Museum in the Country, TIME magazine named it one of its “World’s Greatest Places,” and U.S. News & World Report selected it as one of the “25 Top Family Weekend Getaways in the U.S.,” while Condé Nast Traveler called the National Comedy Center “one of the best museums in the country,” and People magazine named it one of “100 Reasons to Love America.”
The National Comedy Center has been featured in The New York Times, on CBS Saturday Morning, CBS Sunday Morning and on NBC’s TODAY Show, which called it “the Smithsonian of Comedy.”
Visitors from all 50 states and eighteen countries have given the Center a rare 5/5 rating on TripAdvisor, ranking among the highest in the attraction and tourism industry.
Based on the vision of Jamestown native Lucille Ball for her hometown to become a destination for comedy, the non-profit National Comedy Center’s mission is to provide education on the comedic arts in the form of commentary and contextualization of its bodies of work across all eras and genres of the art form.
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 including collections illustrating the careers of legendary artists like George Carlin, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, Carl Reiner, Joan Rivers, Betty White, 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.
Two new exhibits opened last summer – Johnny Carson: The Immersive Experience Hosted by Jimmy Fallon, a multi-screen theater presentation celebrating Johnny Carson’s 30 years hosting The Tonight Show 30 years later, and Carl Reiner: Keep Laughing, a multi-media, interactive exhibit that honors and celebrates Carl Reiner and his collaborations with Mel Brooks, Steve Martin, Sid Caesar, Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore.
The National Comedy Center recently announced that it will become the home of the Joan Rivers career archive, including her 65,000 joke file spanning seven decades.
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, Debra Messing, Rain Pryor (daughter of Richard Pryor), Jay Leno, Kenan Thompson, Gabriel Iglesias, Ben Stiller, John Cleese, Jimmy Fallon, Lin-Manuel Miranda, “Weird Al” Yankovic, and many more.
The National Comedy Center operates the Lucille Ball Desi Arnaz Museum, which explores the lives, careers, and legacy of the “First Couple of Comedy” and the incredible impact they had on the world, as well as the pioneering role and remarkable influence that I Love Lucy and Desilu Studios had on the entertainment industry for generations to come.
The Lucille Ball Comedy Festival, produced and presented by the National Comedy Center, has showcased comedy’s greatest stars and rising young comedians, including Jerry Seinfeld, Trevor Noah, Lily Tomlin, John Mulaney, Margaret Cho, Jeff Foxworthy, Jay Leno, Amy Schumer, Sebastian Maniscalco, W. Kamau Bell, David Spade, Jim Gaffigan, Paula Poundstone, Joan Rivers, Kevin Nealon and more than one hundred other comedic artists. The 2023 festival will feature headliners Gabriel “Fluffy” Iglesias and Taylor Tomlinson and over 50 live events.
The National Comedy Center is a 501(c)(3) non-profit cultural institution whose mission is funded by philanthropic support. Donations and grants support the museum and its work to present the vital story of comedy and preserve its heritage for future generations.
Twitter and Instagram: @ntlcomedycenter | @lucydesimuseum
Carolines first opened as a small cabaret club in the New York’s Chelsea neighborhood in 1982. Owner Caroline Hirsch, a lifelong comedy fan, soon began booking comedians in her room. The comedy acts – which included now legendary performers like Jerry Seinfeld, Tim Allen, Billy Crystal, Rosie O’Donnell and Jay Leno – were a tremendous success, and it wasn’t long before Carolines became a full-fledged comedy club. As the popularity of stand-up surged throughout the 1980s, so did the popularity of Carolines, which was becoming THE place to see live comedy in New York City.
The great demand for comedy brought standing-room-only crowds to Carolines, which moved to a larger space at New York’s historic South Street Seaport to accommodate the ever-growing audiences. There, business continued to thrive, and the club quickly established itself as the city’s top comedy venue. It also became home to the A&E Network’s highly successful series, “Caroline’s Comedy Hour,” which would eventually garner the prestigious Cable ACE Award for “Best Comedy Series.” In 1992, Hirsch once again relocated her club, this time to its grand setting on Broadway in Times Square, where the club continues to present the country’s biggest and best comedians in a sophisticated, state-of-the-art nightclub, bringing the live comedy experience to new heights.
Carolines on Broadway held center stage in Times Square for 30 years as one of New York City’s most popular and enduring hotspots and as the city’s only genuine nightclub. The club was a New York institution and was one of the cornerstones in the revitalization of the vibrant and bustling Times Square district. The 300-seat venue, designed by Paul and Barbara Haigh of HAIGH Architects received critical acclaim when it received the American Institute of Architects National Honor Award for Interiors and a United States Institute of Theatre Technology Merit Award for Best Club Design. It also was featured on the cover of Interior Design Magazine.
In addition to presenting such top headlining comedians, the club also featured emerging talent, live podcasts, and improve and sketch comedy, as well as played host to countless large-scale fund-raising events and high-profile benefits. Hirsch, a long-time Ms. Foundation board member, created an annual fundraiser for The Foundation that has continued to grow each year. Now in its fourteenth year, “The Ms. Foundation’s Women of Comedy” special recently aired on the Lifetime Television Network to celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Ms. Foundation. Additionally, Carolines hosts a highly successful annual fundraiser for the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund, which honors the late Madeline Kahn. In 2003, the club celebrated 20 years of laughter with a gala comedy event at Carnegie Hall that featured performances by long-time club favorites Joy Behar, Richard Belzer, Lewis Black, David Alan Grier, Gilbert Gottfried, and Colin Quinn.
Carolines produces the highly successful New York Comedy Festival, a weeklong comedy festival that presents comedy’s biggest stars in New York’s most prestigious venues, including Carnegie Hall, Town Hall, the Beacon Theatre, Madison Square Garden, and the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden, to name a few. The Festival has featured such stars as Bill Burr, Dane Cook, Kathy Griffin, Kevin Hart, Denis Leary, Bill Maher, Ricky Gervais, Howie Mandel, Sarah Silverman, and Robin Williams, over the past fifteen years. In 2007, The Festival launched Stand-Up for Heroes, a very special benefit for The Bob Woodruff Foundation that has featured appearances by John Oliver, Robin Williams, Conan O’Brien, Jon Stewart, Jerry Seinfeld, Tony Bennett and Bruce Springsteen. The nineteenth annual New York Comedy Festival will take place in November 2023.
Forty years after it first opened as a small cabaret club in Chelsea, Carolines has grown into one of the country’s top comedy brands and leading destinations for live entertainment for New Yorkers and countless visitors from across the country and the world.
Twitter and Instagram: @carolinesonbway