New York Comedy Festival arrived just in time to offer dose of laughter

Bruce Springsteen performs at “Stand Up for Heroes” this year.

Anyone would agree that New Yorkers could use a few laughs these days. With the city still feeling the effects of Hurricane Sandy, it seems that the New York Comedy Festival is well-timed, at least for the audience members. Founder of the festival and owner of Carolines on Broadway, Caroline Hirsch, on the other hand, is still busy putting out fires.

“[It's] very stressful to be putting something on like this where people are flooded in their rooms and have no food and water,” Hirsch says. “So it’s kind of a weird time, but we’re getting through it.”

One threat that had loomed large was the dangling crane on 57th Street, close to Carnegie Hall, where some comedians were scheduled to perform. With the crane now secured, it seems that one of the biggest questions looming over the festival is this: Sandy jokes — too soon?

“It’s kind of a fine line,” Hirsch explains. “It was just like 9/11. It takes people time to just heal a little bit before they can start to make fun of, probably, that the water was up to their knees in the railroad stations. I don’t think that those kind of jokes are going to be made right now.”

We’ll see about that. This festival is, after all, front-loaded with some of the biggest talents in comedy today, most of whom are well adept at turning tragedy into a punchline.

Tickets to the marquee acts tend to sell out quickly, which is why Hirsch recommends a few events that make the festival more accessible. The festival’s “Stand Up for Heroes” event — a benefit for injured service members and their caregivers — may be sold out, but the performances by Mike Birbiglia, Patton Oswalt, Jon Stewart, Robin Williams, Ricky Gervais and Bruce Springsteen will be streamed online. A number of smaller shows with up-and-coming talents will also take place around the city. Given Hirsch’s legendary gift for spotting talents like Jerry Seinfeld and Jay Leno, you can expect top quality comedy.

Since the festival is happening just after the election, we wondered if Hirsch agreed with the idea that a victory for Romney would’ve meant a victory for comedy.

“Listen, four years ago, people used to say, ‘how would anybody ever make fun of Obama? How would they ever find jokes?’” she says with a laugh. “Trust me, if there’s a way to find a joke, they will find it.”

If you go
The New York Comedy
Festival runs from now to Sunday. For more information about shows, schedules and tickets, visit


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