Stand up comedy : an alternate career choice.

According to Wikipedia a career is “an occupation undertaken for a significant period of a person’s life and with opportunities for progress.” In today’s competitive age, the career choice plays an important role in an individual’s life. The career choice of a person influences his/her friend circle, family life, social image, partners and finance. Earlier, preferred career choices were a doctor, an engineer or a lawyer. However, recently a number of alternatives have opened up. For example: fitness expert, fashion designer, tattoo artist. These alternatives are completely different from the “quintessential” choices. One such career choice which has gained a lot of popularity and fame is that of a stand-up comedian. A stand-up comedian is the one who performs generally in front of a live audience and interacts with them. Internationally acclaimed stand ups include: Eddie Murphy, Late Robin Williams, Kevin Hart, Trevor Noah, Ellen DeGeneres and Amy Schumer. Back home comics like Kenny Sebastian, Kapil Sharma, Bharti Singh, Rohan Joshi, Vir Das and Aditi Mittal continue to win over hearts with their acts and sketches.

So what goes into the making of a stand-up comedian? There is no such formal education required to be a comic. The basic requirements to be a stand up include:

  • A good sense of humor

It is an obvious requirement. A sense of humor is something which is inborn, it can’t be taught and hence, naturally a good humor goes a long way.

  • A great personality

A charming personality always works. It makes the comic more likeable and generates better response from the audience.

  • Creativity

Repetitiveness doesn’t work well with the audience. The comic has to be innovative in terms of his/her jokes.

  • Originality

Originality is a key factor in stand-up comedy. The comic just cannot just recite someone   else’s comic material. It has to be an original.

  • Good memory

Since, the comic recites his jokes and doesn’t read them out, a good memory is an essential component of being a stand up.

  • Public speaking skills

Most of the times, more than the content of the jests it is the way or the manner in which they are presented that makes it funny. The comic has to have the knack of public speaking. In the end, presentation matters.

  • Quick thinking

The comic has to have the ability to make the audience laugh at the top of his head. Quick thinking is important in case a joke goes awry.

Though there is no formal education that is necessary for being a comic, there are certain institutions that provide workshops and have yearlong programs to develop and improve the comic ability of the person. Some of these institutes are: American Comedy Institute, The Comedy Institute, The Second City, And Improv Olympic to name a few.

Now comes the most interesting part: How much does a stand-up comedian make?!

Well, the salary structure of each comic varies. However, in India,  generally the comics just beginning in the world of comedy earn about 5k-10k per gig, while the ones who have a little more experience make about 10k-15k per gig plus travel and stay. And the most popular and professional comics earn anywhere from 1lakh and above for a corporate gig.

In the United States, the salary depends upon “what” the comics are booked to do. An emcee makes around 50 dollars or so. Middle acts vary a lot. Nationally touring headliners usually make a few hundred per show. Some headliners will make a few thousand during a weekend at a comedy club (about 5 shows or so). It depends a lot on the actual comedian in question.

In conclusion, there’s a lot that goes into being a stand-up comic. It isn’t merely about saying a joke out loud. It is a skill that is a valid career option in today’s stressful world. If a person has a knack for it he/she should consider it seriously. After all, you shouldn’t be stuck devoting a significant period of your life to an occupation that you don’t love but is socially acceptable.


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