Can you work in comedy and still pay your rent?

Could you do this for a living? Emphasis on living. by Sam Corbin
Could you do this for a living? Emphasis on living. by Sam Corbin

Making your friends laugh at a party is one thing; but can you really rely on your sense of humor to pay the bills? Comedy is a risky enterprise, and ‘making it’ in comedy is even riskier. That said, if your heart is set on a gig in the biz, then we’ve got good news: you’re not going to starve yourself doing it.

Splitsider’s Priyanka Mattoo crunched some numbers gig-by-gig, and then we did some math of our own to estimate yearly salaries. And you know, it actually looks OK. You might have to pinch a few pennies, but you can probably make a career out of comedy (and still pay your rent). 

Here’s how the pay stacks up:

An entry-level contract writing for late-night TV will still land you around $48, 100 over 13 weeks. And if your contract is renewed 4 times (to make up a full year’s worth of writing), that comes out to $192,400/year.

If you write for a regular, 20-episode television series, you’ll earn around $70,000/season.

Standup comedy is the toughie, but we did some math of our own using Splitsider’s numbers. Let’s say that over the course of a year, you headline 5 clubs, do a college tour where you visit 3 schools, tour with one comedy festival (not as a headliner), and have about 100 club gigs.

3 x $5,000 = $15,000
5 x $3,000 = $15,000
1 x $10,000 = $10,000
100 x $50 = $5,000

Total income: $45,000

It’s the tightest squeeze of the above, but the takeaway here is that you’d get by with a little savvy and a whole lotta hustle.

It’s never too late to get started, either. If you’ve always wanted to do comedy but you’re just starting out, check out our tips on how to kill at your next mic! And maybe someday you’ll be thanking us, the little guys, from inside the letterbox on a 90-minute Netflix special that’s playing through our computer screens.


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