Comedian Job Description
Comedians tell jokes, act out physical gags, and entertain audiences on stage, on radio, and onscreen. They work in comedy clubs, nightclubs, and on television and movie sets, but comedians also work at home or in offices they rent to write their comedy and market themselves. There is a great deal of travel involved as comedians spend a lot of time on the road going to various clubs and establishments to tell jokes to live audiences. Comedians usually work for themselves as freelance agents responsible for finding their own gigs to earn money.
Comedian Duties and Responsibilities
Though comedians tell jokes at events and perform before live audiences, their work is not all fun and laughs. Because comedians are in charge of their own careers, particularly at the beginning, they wear a number of different hats and perform a number of different tasks:
Write and Edit Comedy Bits
Comedians write, edit, and polish the comedy bits they perform. Comedians who advance in their career path may eventually write scripts for television shows and movies.
Perform before Live Audiences
Many comedians perform stand-up comedy on the stage and on television.
Make Radio and Podcast Appearances
Comedians give interviews and engage with radio and podcast hosts.
Create Long Form Writing
Many comedians supplement their income by writing humorous blog posts and articles.
Act on Television
Successful comedians may be asked to act out roles on TV commercials or in a series.
Perform Voice Work
Comedians perform voice work for video games and animated entertainment.
Because they can deliver jokes and perform before crowds, comedians also find work hosting events, serving in an emcee capacity.
Diffuse Live Hecklers
Comedians learn how to handle live hecklers who attempt to pull attention toward themselves during performances.
Particularly at the beginning their career, comedians work to find and schedule their own gigs at clubs and other establishments.
Comedians sell themselves to audiences and market themselves using social media and other channels.
Comedian Skills and Qualifications
Comedians are performers working in the entertainment industry, a vast landscape. To be successful, comedians master many different skills and abilities:
- Timing – many successful comedians say that timing is an essential component of comedy
- Writing – successful comedians master a variety of writing types
- Personality – this career often requires an over-the-top persona to gain notice from audiences
- Sense of humor – comedians have a good sense of humor and the ability to make others laugh
- Fearlessness – comedians perform live, sometimes before audiences of thousands
- Communication – comedians should communicate clearly to deliver jokes to audiences
- Marketing – comedians market and promote themselves through a variety of means
- Internet savvy – comedians engage fans and find potential work through social media and other internet channels, often creating websites to promote their comedy
- Finances – comedians who work freelance manage their own travel expenses and taxes
- Team spirit – often, comedians collaborate with other comedians, writers, producers, and directors
Tools of the Trade
Comedians work with a variety of tools to create and perform their comedy. These include:
- Stage equipment (microphones, lights, cameras)
- Props (stools, chairs, random items to support jokes)
- Writing tools (word processor software, pens, notepads)
Comedian Education and Training
Comedians do not require special education or training, though some comedians choose to attend acting and/or dance classes to improve their performance skills.
Comedian Salary and Outlook
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that the 2016 median pay for actors was $18.70 per hour. In 2016, there were 63,800 jobs available in this career field. BLS data estimates that the job growth for actors is 12 percent through 2026, faster than the national average.
Because comedians operate on a freelance basis, they receive no benefits. Comedians are responsible for their own healthcare, retirement, and vacation needs.
Comedians can find opportunities and learn ways to hone their skills with these resources:
National Association of Comedians – This association provides benefits to comedians of all kinds, as well as information about news and events.
How To Be A Stand Up Comedian: The Beginners Guide Towards Becoming A Successful Stand-up Comedian – This guidebook is for beginning comedians who want to hone their comedy skills and take them to the stand-up stage.
Comedy Exchange Association – This website is full of resources for comedians, including information about radio stations and comedy writers.
Mastering Stand-Up: The Complete Guide to Becoming a Successful Comedian – This book is an in-depth guide for comedians who want to master the stand-up comedy industry.
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