Make Them Laugh: A Career in Comedy
You know how to make them laugh. Witty retorts roll off your tongue. All your friends know you as the funny one. A career in comedy looks to be in your future, but what steps do you have to take to get there? The arts in particular can feature bigger roadblocks, including little job security, erratic hours, and low pay. But for many, those are small sacrifices to make to pursue your passion.
You may have years of school ahead of you, but there is still lots you can do in the meantime to jumpstart your comedy career. From the moment you decide to take funniness seriously, it is time to get writing. Comedians spend a lot of their time outside performances working on their material. Always have a pad of paper or phone on you ready for notes and ideas. Commit yourself to coming up with at least 10 jokes per day. That might seem like a lot. Perhaps you are afraid most of those jokes will be awful. And you’re right. All of that material creation might only net you a few usable jokes on a good week, but the only path to good material is through a plethora of unusable bombs.
Performing that material, however daunting, is critical. Your friends are a great source of a safe audience that can help you overcome stage fright. But it will be necessary to go in front of strangers as well. Take advantage of class presentations, school assemblies, and volunteer opportunities in theatre. Comedy can take varied forms, including stand up, improv, and scripted performances, and it is a good idea to try them all to find your preferences.
Many post-secondary schools offer drama-related programs. However, you will want to consider studying a non-related field. Not only can you simultaneously take comedy courses in and outside your school, such as The Second City Training Center, you will also prepare yourself for a day job. Many comedians have noted that it took several years or more to find success, and a sustainable source of income is important in the meantime. That may not be ideal, but finding an enjoyable job that can also inspire your material is an important stepping stone in building your career.
National Household Survey data from 2011 demonstrated that 36% of comedians found work as independent artists. Another 20% were employed by theatre companies such as the Second City. The number of comedians in television have decreased over the last three decades, while the film and television industry saw an increase from 9% to 17% from 1991 to 2011. This type of work often requires juggling multiple jobs at once. In 2010, the average employment income for actors and comedians who were not full-time was $25,407.
The work may not provide the greatest income, nor may it be very stable, but the arts are for those whose passion outweighs those issues. If comedy is that important to you, then it is time to take it seriously.
Actors and Comedians. Service Canada. http://www.servicecanada.gc.ca/eng/qc/job_futures/statistics/5135.shtml
How to Become a Stand-up Comedian. The Art Career Project. http://www.theartcareerproject.com/become-comedian/