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Humorist Vs Comedian: What Is the Difference?

Humorists and comedians work toward the same goal in bringing a smile to the face of someone. This article compares and contrasts these two entertainment careers and gives you some important information about both.

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Comparing Humorists to Comedians

Humorists and comedians are similar in that they both work to make someone laugh. However, humorists usually work with the written word and comedians work with the delivery of a punch line. Below is a comparison of the two.

Job Title Education Requirements Median Salary per Hour* (2016) Job Growth* (2014-2024)
Humorist Bachelor's degree $29.44 (for all writers) 2% (for all writers)
Comedian High School Diploma $17.34 (for all entertainers) 5-8% (for all entertainers)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Responsibilities of Humorists vs. Comedians

Humorists and comedians work very hard at their craft. Humorists find the humor in something and use it to tell a story they may be addressed in a story, script or article. Their writing will commonly address bigger themes, and the humor comes in the realization of irony or over exaggeration. Comedians, on the other hand, work to create jokes that will bring about instantaneous laughter. Comedians want you to laugh at their punch lines and sometimes every third or fourth sentence in their performances. They will use lines, props, costumes and an emotive face to create the laughter.

Humorist

Humorists, for the most part, are writers like Mark Twain (Life on the Mississippi), Jean Shepherd (A Christmas Story) or Garrison Keillor (A Prairie Home Companion). They look for the humor in natural situations that people take for granted most of the time. Many have gone on to work in radio, while others may write newspaper articles regularly for syndication like Dave Berry. Some humorists often augment their work by giving oral presentations at colleges or conventions. They are rarely seen at comedy clubs as these are not truly conducive to a humorist's more subtle work.

Job responsibilities of a humorist include:

  • Use the written word to exploit humor as they see it
  • Create radio scripts, newspaper articles or novels using humor
  • Perform some of their work for audiences
  • Preview work before publication or performance

Comedian

Comedians perform before an audience and use humor to elicit laughter. Comedians usually work with a gimmick of some kind be it using props, the way they dress, or the creation of a character. For example, Larry the Cable Guy dresses up and plays the rube; Lewis Black always seems angry; Jeff Dunham plays the straight guy. The good stand-up comedians develop a style that can be recognized by their fans like Kevin Hart, Chris Rock or Kevin James. They take their own life events and warp them somewhat for the humor and laughter through the use of punch lines.

Job responsibilities of a comedian include:

  • Create jokes around life events or everyday situations
  • Find humor in politics or world events
  • Practice gags using props or costumes
  • Stay up-to-date with events and what people find as funny
  • Collaborate with other comedians, directors and writers

Related Careers

Humorists and comedians love to bring joy to audiences making them laugh. They do their work differently, and this may lead to other related career fields. Voice-over actors often come from the realm of comedy. A lot of animated films feature well known comedians, like Robin Williams. Television comedy is also littered with funny comedy writers who couldn't do stand-up. These men and women often find jobs with comedy writing teams on successful shows.

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