Comedians work in a wide variety of venues, including comedy clubs, resorts, hotels, and cruise ships. Cable television and streaming services such as Netflix are major employers of comedians. They hire comedians not just as performers, but as writers for situation comedies, movies, and talk shows, and as entertainers for the audiences at live tapings. A comedian interested in performing is well advised to hire an agent to find employers and book engagements.
Getting started as a comedian is often very difficult. There are thousands of people who want to make people laugh, but relatively few venues for aspiring comedians to get exposure. To find an opportunity to perform, you may have to repeatedly call local nightclubs, bars, or coffee houses. Generally, these clubs will already have a number of comedians they use.
A common way to get a first break is to attend open mike nights and call for auditions at a local club. These auditions are not private showings for club owners but rather actual performances in front of audiences. Usually, comedians are not paid at these auditions, but those who show the most promise are often invited back to put on paid performances.
Another way to break into the career is through a comedy improvisational group. These groups offer novice comedians a chance to refine skills, developing techniques and contacts before starting out on their own. However, joining many of these groups can be highly competitive; often, an aspiring comedian may join a lesser-known improv group while working on skills and auditioning for better-known groups.
Some comedians gain exposure by creating their own YouTube channel with performances or creating a podcast. Another way to get a start in comedy is through acting. Actors with a flair for comedy can audition for film comedies and situation comedy series. In general, comedians use multiple sources of income to earn a livable wage.
Comedians who find success at local clubs or as part of an improvisation group can go on to perform at larger clubs and theaters. Some may also find work in the corporate world, entertaining at trade shows and other meetings. Extremely successful comedians may go on to record comedy routines for broadcast or even have their own television shows.
Comedians can also branch out somewhat in their career goals. Some choose to write material for other comedians or review comedic performances for the local media. Others become comedy club owners or talent agents, creating employment opportunities for other comedians.
Comedy writers may go on to work for advertising agencies, using humor as a means of creating commercials or other promotional materials. Others may develop television or movie scripts.
Tips for Entry
Develop and practice your comedy act. Perform your act for your friends and family, or participate in open mike nights and comedy showcases in your community.
Attend comedy shows of top comics (or watch them on TV or the Internet) to determine what makes their acts successful.
When you feel you are ready to perform professionally, contact local comedy clubs to see if you can land a job as an opening act.
Write and attempt to sell your jokes or "gags" to stand-up comedians and television shows for their use.