25 Ways to Make Money with Your Comedy

25 Ways to make money with comedy

Every now and then you see an article on stand-up comedy and how much money comedians make–or rather don’t make.

Then there’s this article from the New York Times which portrays a not so dismal outlook for comedians.

What are we to believe?

I can only give information on what I’ve experienced as a comedian and a writer. Bottom line is that once you can write and perform comedy and you’re able to work clean, you can make a very decent living.

The problem is that most comedians (especially the new ones) see comedy through a very small lens and they don’t look at ALL the opportunities that are available to them.

Most don’t even know these avenues of revenue exist.

When I started out as a comedian I wanted to learn all I could about the business. And watching my father go through his ups and downs financially as an actor, I looked at comedy, not as frivolity, but as a business. Once I did that, I saw all the possibilities and I focused on the ones that would give me the best return.

So I put together a quick list called 25 Ways to Make Money with Your Comedy.

All of the concepts are viable and most of them I’ve actually utilized with varying levels of success.

But this is a quick list to give you an insight and help motivate you to get good at comedy so you can start to make money doing what you love.

Keep in mind the money varies. I just put down what I have earned in my experience from these events.

  1. Stand-up. Perform in Comedy Clubs or One-niters on the road.
  2. Do college comedy shows (Pay $800-$3500 per show)
  3. Work Cruise Ships ($1500-$4000 per week)
  4. Perform at Corporate Gigs ($400-$5000+ per gig)
  5. Do Comedy shows as Fundraisers for non-profits or schools ($600-$2500 per event)
  6. Work as a T.V. Audience Warm-up Comedian ($1500-$2000 per gig)
  7. Emcee Events in Vegas ($1000-$5000 per week)
  8. Host Trade Shows in Vegas and other cities
  9. Become a Radio D.J.
  10. Write for Late Night TV or Variety Talk Shows ($4187 per week min. ((network))
  11. Write Humorous Greeting Cards ($ varies)
  12. Write Humorous T-Shirts or other gifts
  13. Write fluff pieces for magazines or internet sites
  14. Be a commercial copywriter in advertising with a humorous twist. (Some of the most memorable commercial campaigns are humorous spots (Progressive Insurance, Geico, Discover Card, DIRECTV)
  15. Write Joke Books
  16. Do a comedy spot on T.V. (Comedy Central, Late Night TV, Netflix, Showtime Special)
  17. Write a humorous blog or podcast, build a following sell advertising or get a sponsor
  18. Have a humorous YouTube Channel. Develop a following. Sell Advertising or Merch
  19. Go on tour and open for a band on the road. ($3500-$10,000 per week)
  20. Write humorous speeches or jokes for politicians, CEOs, corporate presenters. ($500+- per page)
  21. Punch-up comedy scripts
  22. Punch-up or write sitcoms
  23. Punch-up or write copy for Animated explainers.
  24. Write comedy movies (I wrote “Stretch”) which reached Critically acclaimed on Netflix. Still receiving residuals
  25. Create a humorous Theme based assembly show for schools, (ie: Prevent bullying) ($1500-$2500 per assembly)

So there you go. 25 ways to make money with your comedy.

The purpose of this post is to give you an idea of all the ways you can create revenue streams if you get good at your comedy.

If you’re thinking about a career in comedy you can drop in and take one of my upcoming stand-up classes.

Or if you are already working professionally and want to learn how each of these revenue streams really operates you can stream my course called “How to be the Richest Comedian Nobody’s Ever Heard Of.” Which is a blueprint for how I was making a $250,000/yr. in comedy without being a household name and without an agent.

In the meantime, use the list to motivate yourself and open your eyes to the cool ways you can make a living in this awesome business.

Revenge may be Best Cold, but Success is Best Always.

Joe Dungan - Winner, Clean Comedy Challenge 2017

One of the biggest joys of running the Comedy Clinic and imparting what I’ve learned through these many years in comedy is when one of my students has a success moment. It’s rewarding in so many ways.

First off, it’s just totally cool to see one of your students succeed… just that. I remember when I was in that same position and I remember the feeling of winning something or succeeding at something in comedy. That sense of accomplishment is sublime and when one of your students achieves success, it’s like having that feeling all over again.

Joe Dungan, one of my hardest working students and one of my master teachers just won The Clean Comedy Challenge 2017 at the Ice House in Pasadena, CA!

Joe competed against a litany of other comedians. And he must’ve done great because at the end of the performances one of the other comedians said to him, “Get ready to collect your prize money,” implying that it was clear who won the Clean Comedy Challenge.

So how did Joe do it?

As many of you know, it can be a challenge to come up with clean comedy that pops. The primary way to make it work is with tightly structured material so that there’s clear, crisp surprise.

The primary way to make it work is with tightly structured material so that there’s clear, crisp surprise.

Joe’s opening line gets them laughing right away “My name is Joe ‘Successful Career’ Dungan, but you can call me Joe Dungan because the ‘Successful Career’ is silent.”

This line accomplishes two things. It self-deprecates, presenting Joe’s dilemma, while using the superiority concept in comedy, instantly letting the audience know that Joe doesn’t take himself too seriously. It also gives us surprise and incongruity because Joe juxtaposes the words “successful career” with a letter that might be silent in a person’s name.

But the structure of that joke is tight. It’s a great opening joke and has the audience on Joe’s side right out of the gate.

Lorne Michaels, the genius behind the success of Saturday Night Live, says that an audience has to be confident in the comedian on stage and there’s nothing better than a well-structured joke right out of the gate to immediately inject a large dose of confidence into that audience.

And that’s the primary focus of the curriculum at the Comedy Clinic. I want you to learn the science and structure of comedy so I empower you with the tools to write comedy that is designed to get laughs by helping you learn the proven structures of comedy and the science behind why people laugh.

I encourage my students to be able to write clean material. You don’t have to do clean material if it’s not your persona, but you should be able to. This way you don’t have to simply rely on shock value to get a laugh.

When you learn to be able to work clean you can work anywhere. It makes you more versatile as a comedian and makes you more likely to succeed as a comedy writer or performer.

Let’s face it, one of the quickest ways to get on the map in comedy is to appear on television and whether it’s Kimmel, Conan, Fallon, Colbert, Meyers or Corden, your material needs to be able to fit in the parameters of that show’s requirements and although many of the shows are showing much more flexibility, you’re still required to be ‘clean.’

Once you have a few appearances on network TV, you are more likely to be able to book higher paid corporate work, get a solid agent and begin developing your professional career even further.

A national TV credit almost instantly thrusts you into the headlining position in most clubs around the country and gives agents a reason to represent you.

But if you’re not able to work clean, the network TV gigs will continue to be off-limits to you as a performer.

If you are able to work clean, almost nothing can stop you.

So congratulations Joe Dungan! Get that video and start getting it out to the talent coordinators booking the Late Night shows on TV.

And to those of you reading this, start learning to write and perform clean. Remember you don’t have to be a clean comedian, but you create exponentially more opportunity if you are able to.

The First Key to Success no Matter What Your Specialty

First Key to Success Jerry Corley

I see it time and time again, people who have amazing possibilities and opportunities, but don’t seem to capitalize on them and succeed.

Are you one of those people? Do you feel like you’re not moving forward or succeeding the way you want or with the speed with which you want?

There may be a way to help you start to change that trajectory with one adjustment in the way you approach life and your own decision making. In other words, by changing the way you think.

Clear Negative Thoughts

Many of us create our own obstacles and our own failures just by the way we think. This type of behavior can have profound effects on the outcomes in our lives. It’s so powerful in fact, experts say that it can mean the difference between success and failure.

You might fit in this group if you have a tendency to do the following. Do you…

  • Blame outside forces for the negative things that happen to you?
  • Resist being open to mistakes by not listening or do you talk over people who are critical of you and offering advice?
  • Feel hurt and angry when people are critical of your work?
  • Always find excuses for situations or events when they don’t go your way?
  • Highlight the negative experiences about an event or endeavor?
  • Respond to the question “how’s your day?” with “Ugh!” “FML,” “Don’t even ask!” or something similar?

If you have a tendency to do any of these things then success might be more elusive to you than it needs to be.

Here’s the good news: YOU have the power to control it. You can change by understanding what is stopping you, then taking one single action to change it.

Keep in mind, it won’t happen overnight, but you can get started immediately.

Key point: negative thoughts and blaming outside elements for you not succeeding is a victim’s mentality and it will only cause you to continue to be a victim subjected to outside forces and everyone else’s thoughts and actions.

Not good.

First, you need to accept–I mean totally OWN the fact that MISTAKES are a successful person’s ASSETS and not owning and evaluating them keeps you from learning from those mistakes. Which only helps you to you repeat negative behaviors and keeps you from overcoming obstacles and moving closer to your goals.

Making the adjustment that you yourself are responsible for the choices you make that impact your destiny is absolutely paramount to your success.

I Am My Destiny

So many people struggle with this concept. One of the reasons is that the negative type of thinking is their comfort zone and it is where they reside on a day-to-day basis. It’s how they wake up. It’s how they live their day. According to experts, this is often due to upbringing, education or the people we choose to surround ourselves with.

It’s hard to break that habit because negative thoughts are not only present but subconsciously it’s comfortable for us to live in the negative because it was an ingrained part of our youth. Also consider that if birds of a feather flock together, you may be choosing, currently, to surround yourself with people who also think negatively and blame outside forces. This will only perpetuate the negativity that will serve to reinforce negative thought processes that drive you because it’s all you are hearing. So it sounds, “right.

Mix together that with the fact that changing that ingrained thought process requires you to move out of your comfort zone–which usually requires uncomfortable work on yourself.

You can see how people can take the path of least resistance and stay the way they are. Because moving outside your comfort zone is hard.

Sometimes, the people you surround yourself with in a support group or a mastermind can also perpetuate this failed thinking. They do so by assuring you that you don’t have control over your behaviors, that there’s a force greater than you that is responsible. This can have long-term negative impacts on your success.

This can have long-term negative impacts on your success.

There is a rush of freedom that comes with releasing responsibility to a greater power. That rush feels so good that it can’t be bad for you, right?

It can be crushing to your long-term success if you don’t also assume accountability for your behaviors by knowing, intrinsically, that you yourself are responsible for your choices.

Keep in mind that you’re certainly not alone in this type of behavior. The majority of people seem to have this tendency to think negatively. But knowing that you can consciously change this behavior by just deciding to do so creates a sublime power.

It’s similar to the goal-obstacle-take action plan I wrote about in a previous blog. It simply starts with a decision to change your locus of control from external forces to internal forces… or one that is fully YOU!

It is a decision that YOU push the buttons that not only steer the ship but give it the power to propel forward.

In other words, stop playing victim to life’s conditions and situations, and instead of reacting emotionally to them, take responsibility for them.

It’s owning control of your own destiny, not cowardly relinquishing the control to some unknown force that’s “greater than you.” I’m not arguing that there is a force greater than you out there that exists or not. That’s not important. What is important is that you KNOW that YOU exist. And that YOU have the scientifically proven ability to make changes in the way you think, behave and react that can flip your trajectory from one that seems to fail to one that more consistently succeeds.

This kind of teaching that you’re not responsible drives me crazy and is utterly senseless. Think about it this way: If you’re not responsible for your own failures then subconsciously your brain will tell you that you’re not responsible for your own successes.

And if you can’t be responsible for your own successes… then why take action at all? It’s cognitive dissonance that leads so many people to repeat their failures.

The core character condition one needs to develop is accountability.

Experts say that all great leaders have this one quality in common. That quality is a willingness not only to accept accountability but to race to it. To own the mistakes that occur not only within ourselves but within an organization. It’s the-buck-stops-here approach.

Well, who is the leader of your life but you? Self-leadership requires the same accountability, the same introspection.

Take Positive Steps Now

So start making choices to take accountability for your own destiny. By first making the decision to start your day positive.

And if it’s not a positive day, take responsibility for that. Think about why and what you could have done to make it more positive and more productive. Because today is tomorrow’s yesterday and if you take the time and make the decision to learn from those mistakes, the lessons learned can be applied to your tomorrow to make it better.

It’s a lot of responsibility knowing that you’re in charge of your own success, but it’s also extremely rewarding knowing that you have all the power you need to succeed.

I know a lot of this may sound like gobbledygook. But if you take a moment to consider it, I think you’ll discover that the gobbledegook has some value.

3 Ways a Comedian can Cope with Criticism

coping with criticism

Comedians are a vulnerable bunch. If pleasing the audience isn’t hard enough, many times we comedians also have to cope with criticism even after we get off the stage.

Sometimes we hear it from club owners or managers. Sometimes we hear it from other comedians and sometimes from an audience member who just watched you and decided that their experience in telemarketing gives them the credentials to bestow on you their expert tips on how you can kill it at your next gig.

“You were crushing it up until that last joke. Just didn’t seem to fit.”
“You’d be funnier if you had fewer F-bombs.”
“You shouldn’t do political material, it makes people uncomfortable.”
“Jokes about rape are inappropriate.”

The list of critique can go on and on.

But before I go off on that, Let’s be clear that there’s a difference between criticism and a note.

Criticism is just when someone offers a critique of what you said or did. A note is also a form of critique, but it also offers a suggestion on what you could possibly do to correct it.

When you’ve been doing this a long time you’ve probably learned how to hit the “off” switch to most of that. But when you’re a new comedian in the business, the criticism can be dejecting and the notes can be overwhelming.

New comedians face this a lot. They’ll have a bunch of people telling them what they need to do to improve a joke or their act.

How do you sort through all of the noise and do what’s right? How do you even know what is right?

Here are some tips for dealing with, understanding and coping with criticism.

  1. Most criticism doesn’t come from a bad place, so first don’t be an asshole about it. Be professional and listen gracefully (or passively). Say, “thank you,” and move on.
  2. There’s no way you can implement every note you receive from everyone into your comedy act. Choose a mentor in your comedic circle (maybe 2), and consider only that advice. It will, first of all, be a lot easier to sort through the notes and secondly if that person is reliable, odds are you’ll get to where you’re going a lot faster.
  3. Sometimes the tips can be something like, you went “too dirty” or “you drop too many F-bombs.” Here’s where it gets tricky. I think you should BE ABLE to work clean. You DON’t HAVE to work clean, but you should be able to. If a booker knows you can work clean it opens up a surprising amount of other opportunities. I’ve been on the road at a club, doing my act. My act can get dirty, but these bookers know that I can work clean. I’ve had club owners book me to do a corporate earlier in the evening, before the show, get back to the club and do the show. A corporate gig can pay me more than the entire week at that club. If I can’t work clean, guess what? I just missed out on a boat load of cash.

Here’s the tricky part. Dropping the f-bomb too much may be an indication that you don’t have any real content or jokes. It also can indicate that you’re lacking an authentic emotional point of view.

On the other hand, it might be what drives your comedic persona. You have to be willing to truly explore your craft and ask whether or not the f-bomb is absolutely necessary to you or if you are using it as a crutch.

If it is something that absolutely drives your persona. If it is inherently who you are, or who your character is then don’t change. Your path to success might be a little longer, but your audience will find you.

I have a student who is a female. She’s smart, she’s attractive, she’s from New York, she was raised by a tough father and she drops the F-bomb. But I also think it fits her persona and her character would be less defined if she didn’t.

She submitted for a comedy competition and the founder of the competition said to me that he likes her, but she uses the f-bomb too much. I told her this and you know what she said?

“That’s fucking ridiculous!”

And she was vehement about it! She went off on a tangent about how sick and tired she is of political correctness and this double standard that men have about women and their comedy.

And she has a point, because the very night that competition founder told me that she uses too many f-bombs, one of the comedians in his competition dropped 47 f-bombs in a 25 minute final round set. He placed third out of 40 in the competition.

So I approached the founder after the competition and said, “that dude used the f-bomb 47 times and he placed third. You need to reconsider whether my student really uses the f-bomb too much or whether you’re just a sexist.”

The following week my student wrote a 6-minute rant about the uses of the word “fuck.” It’s funny, it’s honest and it defines her. So I told her to tighten it, record it on video and submit it back to this comedy festival.

The point is you have to make choices. And if you’re going to make a choice about who you are, then make that choice and don’t apologize for it. In this business you have to learn to develop an unwavering confidence about yourself.

Because no matter what you do, some people will love you and some people will hate you.

And if you go in knowing that dropping the F-bomb limits where you can play and you make that decision anyway, that’s up to you. It’s not the safest choice, but if I wanted to get into this business to be safe, I would’ve been a fucking telemarketer.

How the ‘Broke Artist’ Mentality Keeps many Talented Comedians Broke

think-broke-stay-broke-post-pic2

Business guru, Napolean Hill wrote a best selling book (over 100 million copies sold), called “Think and Grow Rich”

Comedians should have a book called “Think Broke and Stay Broke.”

A large percentage of comedians today have that ‘broke-artist’ mentality. They actually think their way into staying broke.

It’s exactly that mentality that keeps them broke.

Reality vs. Perception

I think part of the problem is reality vs. perception.

Here’s the reality: If you can get laughs consistently and work in almost any environment, you are a valuable commodity.

Here’s the perception: It’s an art, so you shouldn’t think about money.

The problem with that approach is that if you’re not thinking about making money, you ARE thinking about being broke.

When I ran an ad on Facebook for my comedy business seminar called, “How to be the Richest Comedian Nobody’s Heard Of,” where I drill down 20+ ways to monetize your comedy, either in writing or stand-up, one comedian actually commented with, “Don’t even expect to make any money in comedy until you’ve been doing it for 10 years.”

Like somehow 10 years is the magic number?

In other words, “think broke until the end of the 9th year.”

Sad part is, he’s not the only comedian that thinks like this. In fact, I sometimes think that more comedians think this way than not.

This is a bullshit belief system. Why do I say that? Because these comedians love to make these big, broad claims when all the evidence to the contrary is right before their very eyes.

Seinfeld

From the first time Jerry Seinfeld took the stage in 1981 at Catch a Rising Star in NYC, it took him only 5 years to get on the “Tonight Show.” After that, he was made.

Letterman

Letterman was in Indianapolis watching The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. He kept hearing that comedians were appearing at the Comedy Store. He saw an association between the Comedy Store and The Tonight Show, so he moved to L.A., got into the Comedy Store and within 3 years he was on The Tonight Show. He was made.

Both of those guys were making money in comedy before that. Not a lot of money but they were getting paid gigs.

My Own Experience

I was making money less than 2 years into doing comedy and many of my students are doing it just 2 years in as well.

At 27, I had just started dabbling in comedy. I left L.A. to go back to school and finish getting my degree. I wanted to get a degree so I could have something to fall back on just in case my career went in the toilet.

While at college, to make a little money, I got a job teaching comedy traffic school.

At the end of one of my traffic school classes, this student in class approached me. He said, “Hey Jerry. I’m the president of the local Chamber of Commerce. Every year we have an annual dinner where we swear out the old officers and swear in the new. Every year, every Chamber in the country does this. I was wondering if you could emcee that event then do like 30 minutes of comedy. We’ll pay you $800, feed you and give you beer.”

I thought Wow! Beer! 🙂

I did the gig. It was a lot of fun. I hired a videographer to get the event on a broadcast-quality video. I got my check for $800, ate the food and drank a beer.

3 days later, I got a call from the neighboring Chamber of Commerce. The gal said, “Hey Jerry. We hear you did a great job with the Chico Chamber of Commerce. I was wondering if you could do the same for us?”

I did the gig. It went great.

Then I thought how many Chambers of Commerce are there in the country?

Turns out, there’s 7,650.

I mailed out flyers to 200 of them. I booked 28 gigs in a 3 month period, all at $800. That’s $22,400. Or close to $7,500 a month. Not bad for a college kid with no agent, right? And that was in 1991!

Here’s the killer. At that point, I hadn’t done one single club gig yet.

I knew right then, that I had a business. I WAS the BUSINESS.

Note: I don’t say any of this to brag or anything. I say it to point out the possibilities.

Leveraging My Comedy Business

I sent out more fliers and booked hundreds of Chambers around the country.

But, there’s more…
One of the tricks I use to write comedy is to look up definitions. Definitions give you a starting point. When I looked up the definition for the Chamber of Commerce it said, “A local association to promote and protect the interests of the business community in a particular place.”

I thought to myself hmmm… an “association…”

How many associations are there in the U.S.? According to the IRS there is 1.53 million and most of them want a comedian at one of their events.

They just don’t know it: yet.

I recently did a gig for the Northwest Regional Tow Truckers Association, (who even knew they existed?!).
They paid $3500 for one night, flew me in, paid for my hotel and fed me.

And with 1.53 million associations out there, the available gigs is endless.

So when another “broke-thinker” says to me, “you can’t make any money in comedy until you’ve been doing it 10 years:” I say, “No. YOU can’t make any money in comedy. I’M doing okay.”

When you learn how to treat comedy like a business by learning how to create multiple revenue streams, how to scale and how to take advantage of something called “idle capacity,” not only can you learn to make money in comedy, but you can learn to build a comedy enterprise and create a great living.

And this is why I share this information. Because comedians have to get it out of their heads that they are competing with one another. There are enough gigs for everyone. You just have to know where to find them.

All you have to do is stop thinking like a broke artist and start thinking like a business
person.