Colin Quinn, Caroline Hirsch talk return of New York Comedy Festival

NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- After the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the 2020 event, the New York Comedy Festival returns in person Monday with an all-star lineup of laughs.

The festival kicks off with the annual "Stand Up For Heroes" benefit to raise money for The Bob Woodruff Foundation, started by the veteran ABC correspondent and his wife Lee to help injured veterans and their families.

This year's festival features shows in all five boroughs spread over seven days, with more than 200 comedians, including Colin Quinn.

"Everybody's just got an energy," he said. "Like you don't know what you've got until it's gone, and now it's back, so I fell like there's something going on that's good."

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Quinn has known club owner and event organizer Caroline Hirsch for more than 35 years and is happy to help her stage the festival again after a one year break.

"The meaning of this year's show is that we're back, and I think New York City is back," she said. "We took a hiatus last year. We're back, but what's really great is what we're trying to do this year is really to help out the smaller venues around New York City. They were closed down for over a year, and some of them had to close permanently."

The historic club that bears her name, Carolines, has bounced back and has been open again for months -- but it is not yet as full as it was before COVID-19 hit.

"All through this pandemic, all I've been hearing is, 'I really need to go out and get a laugh,'" she said. "Well, you have a week here from the 8th to the 14th. Go out. There are so many great shows to see."

The shows feature the likes of Bill Maher, Brian Regan, Michelle Wolf, Vir Das, and so many more.

"This year, we're putting our eyes on diversity in comedy and entertainment, and that diversity is for everyone," Hirsch said. "It's for men, women, transgender. It is for every different race, creed and color."

Hirsch and Quinn both grew up in Brooklyn and have the self-reliance and tenacity so apparent in many residents of the borough.

She's from Marine Park and he's from Park Slope, which Quinn says got gentrified after he left.

"No coincidence," he joked. "People think of comedy as a New York thing, so we have to have a comedy festival."

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His show, called Colin Quinn: The Last Best Hope, is at the Lucille Lortel Theater in the West Village as part of the festival before he heads out on a national tour.

For the full schedule of events and ticket information, visit the New York Comedy Festival website.

WABC-TV is an official sponsor of The New York Comedy Festival.

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