To become a comedian, you don't need formal education, but do need to have performance experience and be comfortable in front of people. Classes and acting programs both exist to help prepare for a career as a comedian. These professionals often work in entertainment venues such as casinos or night clubs.
Comedians tell or perform jokes in front of audiences. No formal education is required for becoming a comedian, though enrichment classes in comedy are available at postsecondary schools and may help performers enhance their skills. Comedians typically need to audition to land jobs.
|Required Education||None; optional comedy classes are available|
|Job Growth (2019-2029)*||3% for all actors|
|Median Hourly Salary (2020)*||$21.88 for all actors|
Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
In addition to telling their own jokes, comedians may also write jokes or comedic scripts to be performed by others. Comedians frequently adopt different styles of comedy as a way to connect with particular audiences. Some common comedy styles include improvisation (improv), props, insult, observational, and physical.
Improv comedians usually ask audience members for suggestions and then act out funny scenes that incorporate those suggestions. Prop comedy involves the use of unusual items to add humorous visual aids to an act or scene. Performers who use insult comedy tend to make negative remarks about groups or individuals for comic effect, but the insults often have a dark sense of humor. Observational comedy is a style that's relatable to many audiences because it makes fun of situations that happen in day-to-day life. Physical comedy often involves comedians using their bodies to overact jokes or emphasize punch lines.
Comedians usually have to audition to get performance jobs in comedy clubs or related entertainment venues. After being hired, they generally sign contracts and agree to a certain number of performances. Working comedians may have to travel extensively to get from one performance to the next. Comedians just starting out might not perform enough gigs to make a living, which means they may have to work additional jobs while they market their comedy acts.
While there are no formal certificate or degree programs for aspiring comedians, it's possible to take continuing education or non-credit classes related to comedy and improv acting at some colleges. These courses provide training in writing jokes, developing comedic styles, and creating on-stage personas, and they typically emphasize active student participation. Some classes also offer business training related to working in the comedy industry. For example, some classes teach students about the audition process and how to book performances.
Nearly all comedy classes offer students the opportunity to perform in front of others. Many classes require students to perform several times throughout the semester as a way to help students get over stage fright and build confidence. Through mandatory performances, students also learn how to work with different audiences and how to handle hecklers.
Career Outlook and Salary Information
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs for actors, including comedians, were predicted to increase 3% from 2019-2029, which is as fast as the average. In May 2020, the BLS reported that actors earned a median hourly wage of $21.88.
In summary, a comedian must have a special ability to write and perform jokes, and be able to handle the reactions and heckling of a live audience. No formal education is required, but aspiring comedians can take classes to improve these skills.