We write on all sorts of topics here at 10 Tips, from the broad to the more niche, and this feature exists with some very specific people in mind. You might be the class clown or the office joker, or the idea of touring might appeal without you having a single musical bone in your body. Comedians are highly respected for their craft nowadays, although there is a lot more to it than merely telling jokes. If you fancy the idea and are brave enough to potentially fall flat on your face in front of a live audience, it could be an unconventional but highly rewarding career path. Take a closer look at our tips to decide whether it could be right for you.
1. Always be Ready to Make Someone Laugh
This might sound like the most obvious tip in the history of this website, but we’re not necessarily talking about telling good jokes on stage. Unsurprisingly, most successful comedians are pretty funny people in their day to day life too. If you can’t make people laugh at home or in the office, there’s a decent chance that an audience wouldn’t respond well either.
2. Come Up with Some Material
If you’re the funny one in those day to day situations, you can probably get away with some recycled material. Jokes from obscure TV shows or long-forgotten books can do alright if your friends and family haven’t seen them before. However, as soon as you expose yourself to a wider audience, and one that is willing to pay for the privilege of comedic entertainment, you’ll soon get found out. If you have the ambition to become a standup or other comic performer, you should get used to writing your own jokes sooner rather than later.
3. Ensure You’re Quick to Respond
Not all comedians need to do standup, although most at least do it on the side. There are other avenues to go down, especially if you can specialise in situational comedy. If you’re quick-witted and good on the comeback, there’s usually a niche of some description out there for you to fill – but you need to be honest as too many missteps can destroy your credibility.
4. Grow a Thick Skin
In an audience of dozens or hundreds of people, then chances are you won’t be able to make everyone laugh. If you have even a passing interest in comedy, you’ll know all about hecklers. There will always be one or two people that like to think they’re funnier than the entertainer, and you need two skills to deal with them. First, don’t take anything personally – alcohol and false bravado are usually involved. Secondly, if you’re suitably quick-witted, you’ll have a good retort to hand and some free material to pass the time.
5. Hit the Circuit
You’re not going to sell out famous auditoriums on your first night, and comedy is very much a business where you need to pay your dues. Comedy nights, open mic nights and any other opportunity to get in front of an audience are perfect for testing material and its reception among real people.
6. Try to Get on TV
As great and funny as you may be, nobody is going to pay to see someone they’ve never heard of and know nothing about. At best, you’ll find yourself on the undercard for a comedian that’s capable of moving tickets. However, there are enough comedy shows and panel programs out there that you might be able to jump the queue. There is no better way for a comedian to get their name in front of tens of thousands of people than to appear on TV. Even if you’re not very good, a fair few people will remember the name, and that will be enough for a boost to ticket sales at your next shows.
7. Take in the Work of Others
Unless you form a troupe or want to appear on Saturday Night Live, you’ll find comedy to be a very lonely profession. It’s therefore important to make friends and keep an eye on what others are doing, even if only for your own sanity. When you hit writer's block or have stage fright, knowing how others in the same position deal with it can be immensely beneficial.
8. Fill a Niche
Getting into comedy is something of a paradox, as it can be both difficult and easy at the same time. Both affect your career. In being easy to get into, competition is stiff and you need to be able to do more than tell jokes. It can benefit you in the long-term to find a style or a niche and use that as the basis for your stage persona. You might play a character every time you step on stage or become known as the person that makes jokes about a specific subject. When that happens, you need to remember that you’re known, regardless of what for!
9. Make Yourself Available
It is often said that comedians are often among the unhappiest people behind the jokes and laughter. That doesn’t apply to everyone, but if you do get into a bit of a lull and feel like shutting the world out, you need to remember to be available when needed. Unless you sell out shows on the day that tickets become available, you always need to be on the ball to ensure demand for your skills. If an invitation to appear on a show comes through, ideally you’ll be in a position to say yes. If not, then at least make sure you respond – or get your agent to do it if you’ve reached that level.
10. Explore Every Avenue
As we publish this article, there is still something of a stigma around the term ‘YouTube Comedian’. Some might dismiss those that match the description as not being good enough to be a ‘real’ comedian, but viewing figures and subscriber numbers tell a different story. If you don’t want to spend hours travelling from gig to gig each weekend, get your materials out there by any means possible. Funny goes viral like nothing else, so if you’re confident in your jokes, get them told.