Caroline Hirsch and Carolines on Broadway Honored by the National Comedy Center

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Caroline Hirsch and Journey Gunderson holding a harlequin panel from the Carolines showroom stage backdrop.

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National Comedy Center

The National Comedy Center, the nation’s official cultural institution dedicated to the art of comedy, will honor Caroline Hirsch and the 40-year legacy of her iconic Carolines comedy club, by preserving artifacts from Carolines on Broadway, which will be preserved and placed on display at the National Comedy Center’s state-of-the-art museum in Jamestown, New York in 2023.

Caroline Hirsch, founder and owner of Carolines on Broadway, and Journey Gunderson, Executive Director of the National Comedy Center made the announcement at the legendary comedy club this afternoon, 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 the club 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,” stated Journey Gunderson, National Comedy Center Executive Director. “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.

“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, NY,” added Gunderson.

“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,” stated Caroline Hirsch, Founder and Owner of Carolines on Broadway. “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.”

Journey Gunderson and Caroline Hirsch

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. We look forward to Caroline’s next chapter ahead and know she’ll keep the comedy flame burning bright,” said Ross Levi, Executive Director of I LOVE NEW YORK.

“Caroline has been an integral part of the Times Square Community for 30 years and helped spur 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. The best shows always have a revival, so my wish for 2023 is that there will be a revival of Carolines in Times Square in 2023,” said Tom Harris, President of the Times Square Alliance.

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 Times Square area. Carolines has showcased the world’s greatest comedic talent through the years including 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 more.

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, 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.

Two new exhibits opened this past 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 during his centennial year.

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 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.