We're still another week or so before the NCAA's March Madness kicks off, but in just two days, 64 comedians will begin their own march to glory in New York City in the third annual 2009 March Comedy Madness at Carolines. Julian McCullough won in 2007; Reese Waters last year. The winner gets a cash prize, a weekend of paid gigs at Carolines, and if past years are a guide, an interview with ABC's Good Morning America (online edition) and further exposure.

The concept was brought to reality two years ago by Josh Filipowski from Like2Laugh and Bryan Kennedy, a stand-up then running Carolines New Class Clowns. After scouting and booking the 64-comic tourney the first two years, they opened up the process in 2009 to the Internets, and allowed everyone to vote for their favorite up-and-comers. The seven top runners-up from 2008 automatically had their return tickets booked (Dan Hirshon, David Baker, J-L Cauvin, Liz Miele, Pat O'Rourke, Rob O'Reilly and Ryan Reiss). You can find the remaining 57 at-large comedians who made the cut here. They'll get matched up in head-to-head bracket competition.

In the first round at 9:30 p.m. March 11, comedians will perform one minute each in head-to-head matchups, advancing to the next bracket based on audience response. Subsequent Wednesday nights narrow the field, with two rounds each on March 25 and the finals. Strategy certainly plays a huge role throughout the competition, trying to hit the audience early and often in the initial rounds, and for those who make it to the final weeks, balancing material to cover two completely different sets.

2009 March Comedy Madness at Carolines
March 11: 64 comedians, one-minute sets
March 18: 32 comedians, two-minute sets
March 25: 16 comedians, three-minute sets; 8 comedians, four-minute sets.
April 1: Final Four, seven-minute sets; Championship, 10-minute sets.
Tickets: $16.50 (plus two drink minimum)