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 in 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 Caroline’s; 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 art form. 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.