The Monetization Dilemma in Comedy
As you could imagine, one of the most common questions I get with regard to comedy is "How do I start in comedy and make money with it?"
I mean how useful is it as a career if you can't monetize it to support yourself or a family?
Comedy and money is a very touchy subject. Whenever I hold a course in making money with your comedy and I post the ad or article on Facebook, there's always some "purist" that thinks that I'm some how tainting comedy if I discuss how a comedian or comedy enthusiast can monetize their humor.
One guy actually left a comment on Facebook that said, and I'm paraphrasing here, he wrote, "How dare you talk about making money in comedy!" You can almost hear the disgust in his voice. Ha!
My answer was, "How dare I talk about making money in comedy?
I'm confused. If you're not planning on making a career out of your comedy, what were you planning to do with it, live in your car?
And by the way, if you have a family and you're not thinking about how to make money with your comedy, how dare you!"
Understanding Comedy's Many Avenues
There are a multitude of ways that you can make money with your comedy, but why is making money in comedy a concept that has left a so many people in the dark?
One of the reasons is that, as opposed to the corporate ladder, there is no play book for how to get started or what the process is from the learning-phase to the get-a-job-phase like so many other careers might have.
If you want to be an engineer, you go to school for engineering. There's a set curriculum you need to study, you have to get a certain amount of units of study you have to pass in order to get to the next level. All of that is planned out for you.
In comedy, no plan like that exists.
Comedy, as an industry has many facets.
That's not even a complete list!
Stand-up comedy itself has it's own subcategories of areas where you can get paid for your craft. Under the stand-up category you can work as a stand-up comedian for:
The Golden Ticket: Corporate Comedy
All of these types of gigs pay different amounts of money. I find that when starting out, your best bet to start making money is in what's known as "corporate comedy."
Corporate comedy is any comedy event where you perform material, quiz shows, roasts, for a business or any other business related organization.
So when someone says, how do I go from getting into comedy to making money in comedy, it's good to understand where the money is.
When I started in comedy, I did some open-mics and got some spots at some clubs but ran into a dilemma, I wasn't making any money. I was spending a lot of money getting to the mics, buying a beverage or two, but nothing was coming in. This is okay for a hobbyist. I hobby is something that's fun and usually costs money to sustain, but for me, comedy wasn't sustainable this way. The mics were taking up a lot of my nights so I needed to figure out how to monetize this.
Chambers of Commerce: The Gateway Drug
As a side-gig I started to teach comedy traffic school. I would teach an 8-hour course on Saturdays. The state wanted me to cover a mandated curriculum and the company wanted me to make that information funny while keeping it clean.
Little did the company know, that teaching that class would lead me to making enough money in comedy where I didn't need to work for them any more. Lol!
During one of those traffic school classes, one of the students came up to me afterwards.
He was a man in his fifties.
He said, "Jerry, I really enjoyed your class. You took what we thought would be a boring Saturday and you made it funny." Then he continued. He said, "I'm the president of the local Chamber of Commerce. Each year all of the Chambers in the U.S. have what they call an 'Annual Dinner.' This is where they swear out the old officers and swear in the new. The problem is they usually have a hard time getting someone who can emcee the event, while keeping it entertaining and fun."
To make a long story short, he hired me to emcee this the local chamber's annual dinner.
It was a lot of fun. The neighboring Chamber of Commerce found out about it and they wanted to hire me.
The same thing happened at their event. Then another neighboring Chamber found out and they hired me too.
I remembered what the original president said to me. "Every chamber in the U.S." does this event. There were 2650 Chambers of Commerce in the U.S. at this point and in my mind they ALL needed an emcee.
I wound up booking hundreds of those gigs over the years.
I knew with all those Chambers of Commerce, there was theoretically an endless amount of work available for me as a comedian. Each of those gigs at the time paid about $1000 for the night.
I knew with all those Chambers of Commerce, there was theoretically an endless amount of work available for me as a comedian. Each of those gigs at the time paid about $1000 for the night... until... I asked for more. Then they paid me $2000-$3000.
Back in 1994 that was a lot of money. Back then I would be lucky to make $1000 in a week at a comedy club on the road.
One thousand a night or 1-3 thousand for a week. Which would you rather do ?
The math is pretty easy.
Endless Amounts of Work
But what is a Chamber of Commerce?
It is an association.
Ask yourself how many associations are there in the U.S.?
Here is some mind blowing data: According to the Association Forum (the Association for Associations)
• The IRS recognized 63,866 trade and professional associations in 2016.
• The IRS recognized 1,237,094 charitable and philanthropic organizations in 2016.
• Trade and professional membership associations generate $116 billion in revenue.
• In total, associations account for more than 315,000 meetings held in the U.S. each year, with 59.5 million participants in attendance.
What does that data say to you?
To me it says there's a lot of money to be made as a comedian in the world of corporate comedy. Just doing gigs as an emcee or a keynote speaker or doing a humorous kick-off breakfast or just doing 45 minutes of clean stand-up for one of their more than 315,000 meetings.
Empower Yourself: Learn the Techniques
The key to getting these gigs is that you have to be able to work clean.
The good news is there are over a dozen approaches to writing comedy that can help you to get laughs while still being a clean comedian.
Some of the techniques are simple, easy-to-learn writing formulas that can get you started right away.
And I teach these techniques in a single intense weekend during my 2-day comedy writing workshops.
I also teach you 3 simple ways you can access these corporate gigs immediately.
Check the 2-day comedy writing workshops here
Even if you don't think you can work clean, I think these techniques will totally change your mind...
... and then you could piss off that dude on Facebook and start making some really good money in comedy!