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Thursday, September 19, 2013

So you wanna be a comedian...

I've doing stand-up as a hobby for about 3 years, mostly in Chicago. In that time, I've been to around 500 open-mics and seen dozens of comedians come and go. That hardly makes me an expert, but you don't need to be a weather man to know which way the wind is blowing.

Here are some observations/advice about the life of a comedian:

1) Comedy is showbiz and the competition is intense. If you really want to make a career out of comedy, be ready to spend the first 5 to 10 years making little or no money from it.

2) LA and NYC charge for stage-time at open mics, so its best to practice in other cities with good comedy scenes where you get free stage time. This includes cities like Chicago and Washington DC.

3) About 99% of people who try comedy make no money from it and the rest make little. For many, the peaks of their careers may be performing on cruise ships or being an opening act for years.

4) All comedy clubs have idiotic, please-laugh-we-beg-of-you names. I have no idea why this is.

5) If you go to mixed open mics, you will be spending 3 or 4 hours listening to guitars. If you go to comedy open mics, you will be spending 3 or 4 hours listening to unpolished jokes or the same jokes over and over. You will quickly tire of dick jokes.

6) Comedians tend to be unhappy, drunken, male, and drug-addled. There are pros and cons to this.

7) The most successful people polish their acts at open mics and then enter into contests. A good showing in a contest usually gets the ball rolling.

8) Showcases are often just glorified open mics, but they're still good practice.

9) Even the most popular comedians on the open mic/showcase circuit still have day jobs- often menial ones.

10) Although most comedians start in their 20s, there have been plenty of late-bloomer comedians like Rodney Dangerfield and Louis CK.

11) If stand-up doesn't work out for you, try improv, written comedy, or musical comedy.

12) Happiness is all there is; everything else is just a way to get there. There's plenty of fun to be had as a mere "open miker".

This site is good place to learn more about a comedy scene in a major city. I have written a few articles for them. 

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