Caroline Hirsch On The Phone: Taking Comedy Seriously At Guild Hall

The name Carolines is synonymous with comedy. All year, Caroline Hirsch produces shows at her club Carolines on Broadway, several comedy festivals and some one-off shows such as her upcoming evening Carolines @ The Beach at Guild Hall on August 5. On a recent Friday, I caught up with Caroline by phone, en route to her home in Watermill. She stops at Exit 70 for phone meetings, at a parking lot where this doyenne of laughs knows there's a good signal.

Guild Hall would seem like a natural venue for comedy shows. Is this your first out east?

I used to bring a lot of comedians to Guild Hall, before they were household names: Lewis Black, Jeff Ross, John Tinnett, Rich Jeni, and Bill Burr. Last year I presented Bill Burr at my New York Comedy Festival at Madison Square Garden. He sold out 15,000 seats. I have a great mixture of people who have worked the club: Karen Bergreen, a lawyer, Yamaneika Saunders, a regular on the Meredith Viera show: Food Network star Alex Guarnaschelli, a chef at Butter has a show, "Busting my Chops." Vince August is hosting.

You grew up in Brooklyn. It's a long way from there to Broadway. How did you make that journey?

I used to watch a lot of comedians on the Tonight Show when I was a kid, with my father. I liked George Carlin and noticed a new generation of observational humor.

Carolines is my third club. In the '80's I had a club on 8th Ave and 26 Street and introduced Jerry Seinfeld, PeeWee Herman, and Sandra Bernhard. This is typical of Carolines: comedians break out and become big names. In 1992 I had a place in the South Street Seaport and moved to Broadway. Times Square is a great place to be in, the heart of New York entertainment.

You could have been a producer of shows, musicals, or other entertainment. What made you choose comedy? And, how do you grow talent in comedy?

When I started out, comedy was just starting to happen. David Letterman was on every night at 12:30. Every time Jay Leno went on his show, he'd say, I'm playing at Caroline's--that's how I marketed my club--I tried to get my people on television. I would build up talent, staying with great talent like Jay and Jerry and Bill Maher. I'm honored to be in this business, which has blossomed. I especially get a kick out of young women. Tom Segurra and Nikki Glazer are coming to the club. Come see Natasha Leggero--she's coming to the club in the fall.

The New York Comedy Festival is a great event. Who's coming in the fall?

As you know, the Comedy Festival kicks off with Stand Up for Heroes with Bob Woodruff. This is the 10th year. We have lots of big names coming back for that, but I cannot tell you yet. We have a great line up of shows at the Beacon Theater and Town Hall.

Who would you like to work with more often?

Ricky Gervais is so much fun.

I saw you at the Café Society premiere. Have you ever worked with Woody Allen?

No but when I was introduced to him, I said, "You are so prolific." Without missing a beat he said, "quantity over quality." He was so quick.

You must be the hardest working woman in show business.

I'm lucky to take Fridays off.

A version of this post also appears on Gossip Central.