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Comedian Job Description, Career as a Comedian, Salary, Employment

Definition and Nature of the Work, Education and Training Requirements, Getting the Job

Education and Training: No specific academic qualifications required.

Salary: Median— $32,000 annually

Employment Outlook: Good

Comedians are performers responsible for entertaining people by making them laugh. Comedians have their own specific style, and may use various techniques like puppetry, ventriloquism, and music, to amuse audiences.

Comedy is a form of art, and there are different types of comedy routines. When a performer uses a prop to make his/ her viewers laugh, it is known as a prop comedy. On the other hand, in stand-up comedy, the comedian is required to address the audience directly. Stand-up comedy is usually a one-man show where audience feedback plays a decisive role. Character comedy makes use of imaginary characters, while slapstick comedy pertains to the physical antics of the performer. Improvisational comedy can be the right pick for those with superb comic timing as these performances are mostly impromptu. Observational comedy refers to acts where mundane trivialities are exaggerated to make people laugh. Performers can concentrate their comic act on the aspect of word play. One can also choose to perform situational comedy which is now a popular genre on television. Television comedy mostly uses the “cringe” type of humor, where inappropriate actions and words are the source of laughter.

Comedians are primarily responsible for writing comic material for their own performances, or for the web, radio, and print media. They need to rehearse their acts and be able to tailor them in accordance with the audiences’ preferences. In addition, they should be able to promote, publicize, and produce their acts.

Education and Training Requirements

Although no specific academic qualification is required to become a comedian, it is advisable to have a high school degree at least. Skills are mostly picked up while on the job. However, there are some basic talents and aptitudes that need to be honed before taking up the profession. For instance, comedians need to have excellent communication skills. They need to be able to deal with a wide range of audiences, and also have a stage presence. Comedians who write their own materials need to extensively research topics, and also have exceptional writing skills. It is also beneficial to have knowledge of public relations and marketing.

Comic sense and timing are the greatest assets of a comedian but these can’t be learned. They have to be inculcated naturally through practice and performance. Nevertheless, a background in drama and stage performance can come in handy. Training in other fields of artistic performance such as acting, singing, and comic writing can also prove to be of great help in the creative growth of a comic performer.

There are a number of training centers and academies that offer courses in stand-up comedy, speech correction, voice modulation, and physical movements. Aspiring comedians can also attend workshops where they can interact with veterans in the profession.

Getting the Job

Comedians perform at public functions, private parties, night clubs, and concert halls. There are specific comedy clubs that host stage performances for stand-up comedians. Motion pictures and television are also potential employers, but employment in this sphere is marked by keen competition and a prolonged audition procedure. Comedians can also find employment in radio shows. In addition, acting schools and performing arts companies offer job opportunities for aspiring comedians. Information regarding such openings can be found on websites, in newspapers, journals, as well as through the various associations of comedians.

Many comedy clubs offer amateur or “open mic” nights, where aspiring comedians can try out a few minutes of material in front of an audience. Finding a few open mic nights at local clubs can be a great way to get one’s feet wet in this profession. Comedians can also find gigs through private entertainment companies — the type of companies that often book DJs or musical acts.

Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook

It is a good idea for beginners to participate in comic festivals and competitions. These act as a platform for budding comedians, and provide them an opportunity to showcase their comic flair. It also helps them to get acquainted with professional comedians and pick up a few tricks from them. With experience, comedians can venture into the film and television industry which offers greater exposure, fame, and better pay. One can also choose to work on a freelance basis.

Job openings for comedians are expected to increase in the next few years. Due to increased government funding in film and television productions, there are likely to be more opportunities for comedians. However, in order to better one’s prospects, comedians need to socialize and promote themselves.

Working Conditions

Comedians spend a lot of time writing and preparing their acts. Depending on the place of employment, they may have to perform on stages or bars before a live audience, or in front of cameras. Work hours can be very erratic, and comedians are frequently required to perform in night shows. Travel is another important part of this profession. Comedians often journey to other states and even foreign countries to perform at various events.

Where to Go for More Information

National Association of Comedians, LLC
157 Broadway
P. O. Box 597
Long Branch, NJ 07740

Christian Comedy Association
1111 Candlewood Drive
Lakeland, FL 33813

Comedy Writers Guild

Salary, Earnings and Benefits

The earnings of comedians depend entirely on their place of work. For instance, those working in bars may earn around $50 per show, while comedians involved in corporate performances can earn up to $100 for a 10-minute act. Those working at comedy clubs can expect to earn anything between $200 and $1,000 for each show. On the other hand, comedians performing at college fests easily earn around $4,000 per show. According to 2009 data, the average annual salary of comedians in the United States is $32,000. However, famous comedians have been known to earn more than $10,000,000 in a year.

Since comedians are rarely salaried employees, they do not get the benefits that come with regular jobs. However, flexible working hours and travel are some of the advantages of this profession.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesCommunication and the Arts