Caroline Hirsch on building comedy club

Tickets go on sale Aug. 17 for the 12th annual New York Comedy Festival, so Alison Morris sat down with Caroline Hirsch, who found the festival and Carolines on Broadway, to talk about how she built her business.

For starters, Caroline Hirsch says New Yorkers are probably the hardest people to make laugh.

She would know.

Hirsch has been in the business of making people laugh for over 30 years.

For the last 23 years, she's had a comedy club, Carolines on Broadway, in the heart of Times Square.

But Hirsch wasn't always involved in stand up comedy. She was a market rep at Gimbel's until the department store went out of business in the early 80s, when a call came that changed her life.

Hirsch says some friends who owned bars around New York City decided to open a cabaret. They wanted to call it Carolines and asked Hirsch to invest.

She says the first Carolines featured music acts with a little bit of comedy, until they hired Jay Leno.

Back then, Hirsch describes Leno as young and hip, and says people were coming just to see him.

That turned the place around.

Before long they were attracting other up and coming talent, like Pee Wee Herman, Jerry Seinfeld, and Billy Crystal.

The rest, as they say, is hilarious history.

Carolines moved from a 100 seat theater in Chelsea to 175 seats in South Street Seaport.

Today, Carolines on Broadway has room for 300 and has won awards for interior design.

Hirsch says the theater isn't just well-designed, but it also has great sight lines, so everybody feels like they're part of the room.

Not to mention, they serve good food and throw great parties.

Hirsch recently announced the lineup for her 12th annual New York Comedy Festival this November, which includes stars like Judd Apatow, Billy Crystal, Bill Maher, John Leguizamo, Trevor Noah, and Sarah Silverman.

Attracting big talent like that is a skill Hirsch has honed over the years.

Throughout her career, she's worked with some of the greatest artists in the world, but says in the early days, getting comedic talents to come to Carolines was simple---she paid them.

This year's New York Comedy Festival runs from November 10-15.

Tickets are available at: