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Culture, Music & Performing Arts

Comedian

Job Description

Do you want to be the next Frankie Boyle, Meera Syal, Mark Watson, Sarah Millican or Tom Rosenthal? Are you the class clown? Do your friends keep telling you that you’re “proper funny” and “you should defo be a comedian”?

Well, why not? Ok, being a comedian is one of the trickiest, scariest and most competitive professions you can pursue in the world, but somebody’s got to do it.

Essentially, comedians make people laugh for a living. However, they don’t do this by telling a few jokes in the pub and asking their mates for beer-money in exchange for the gags they’ve been riffing. These professional performers make a living by getting out there and making the public laugh during organised comedy events, gigs, films and TV shows.

Some comedians work primarily as comedic actors (e.g. Simon Bird and Sacha Baron Cohen); some specialise in stand-up comedy (e.g. Daniel Kitson); some work as TV presenters (e.g. Graham Norton); others focus their efforts on sketch comedy (e.g. Harry Enfield); some people play hilarious songs (e.g. Tim Minchin and Flight of the Conchords); and some comedians do a little bit of everything (e.g. Rob Brydon and Victoria Wood).

A comedian’s main purpose is to provide entertainment, but the daily work activities that comedians perform are not all about getting up on stage, telling some hilarious stories, collecting a paycheque and going home for a well-earned rest.

No, no! Life as a comedian is no laughing matter. To be successful, you have to have serious amounts of confidence, drive, ambition, determination and talent. On top of that, you need to be prepared to put in a lot of hard work.

The daily work activities of a comedian really depend on how dedicated a comedian is to their art form. Almost all comedians are self-employed and make their living based on the jobs that they, or their agents, find.

Consequently, comedians’ working days can vary from person to person. Some comedians may spend hours a day writing new material, while others may tour relentlessly on the stand-up circuit.

Successful comedians may also be required to make television appearances, attend interviews with members of the press and rehearse for the films and comedy shows that they are currently making.

Depending on the kind of comedy that you do, some typical work activities may include training for physical comedy routines or rehearsing jokes to get the timing right. Every comedian has their own technique for being funny; in order to be successful as a comedian you just need to understand how you can do what you do best.

Salary & benefits

It’s difficult to say just how much a comedian can expect to earn each year. The fact that most comedians work on a freelance basis means that people’s earnings can fluctuate. Understandably, the more successful you get and the more famous you become, the more money you will earn.

Professional comedians can make anywhere between £10,000 and £100,000 a year, depending on the kind of comedy work that they end up doing.

Some comedians who become household names and secure film, television and advertising deals can earn vast sums of money. It’ll take a lot of hard work and effort to get there, but it’s certainly achievable if you’ve got the talent!

Working hours

Understandably, a comedian’s working hours can vary hugely. This is certainly not your average nine-to-five profession.

If you get involved with stand-up comedy, you may find yourself working late nights. Similarly, if you work in television, you may have to get out of bed and work early mornings when filming is in full-swing.

The working conditions for comedians also vary widely, depending on the type of jobs that they have. You could be working anywhere from small, basement comedy clubs and television studios to large auditoriums and film sets.

As comedians usually work on a freelance basis, they attempt to book as many gigs as possible, from large festivals to open mic nights. When a comedian is first trying to establish themselves, they need to get their name out there. 

Entry

The only real requirement for someone that wants to become a successful comedian is the ability to make people laugh. While there are classes and courses that you can take to learn joke delivery techniques, the only real requirement to get into the business is the ability to put a smile on people’s faces.

To be successful, you will need to be confident and courageous. Furthermore, you will need to be incredibly resilient. Your comedy won’t make everybody laugh and when you have an unsuccessful gig or receive a bad review, you will need to pick yourself up, get out there and do it all over again!

Training & progression

No formal training is necessary to become a comedian. However, it’s important that a comedian can deliver their own jokes and routines effectively. Practice makes perfect!

When comedians aren’t performing, they’re often practicing their material to really master their skills. Great comedians are able to deliver a joke perfectly each and every time, which in turn leads to their advancement in the industry.

When it comes to career progression, it’s all about making a name for yourself. If you can be successful in the industry, there’s nowhere to go but up.