How To Make Money In Stand-Up Comedy

I’m sure we all have been attending a stand-up show at some point in our lives. Maybe it was an impromptu gig in your local bar or festival or you actually booked to see one of the more familiar faces in a bigger venue. I have done them all. I even once played with the idea of taking up stand-up comedy as a tool to help me be more confident when publicly speaking. Ironically, the fear of standing in front of a group cracking jokes just didn’t sit well, so that was that. 

I’m sure we all consider ourselves quite funny. I do laugh about my own jokes sometimes; quite silly I have to admit. But could I stand up in front of paying customers and make them laugh for 60-90 minutes? I doubt I could. What would I start with? Telling true, funny stories? How would I deal with a heckler? A lot of valid questions, and obviously potential pitfalls, but most importantly is it worth exploring the idea professionally?

how to make money in stand up comedy

Key pointshow to make money in comedy

1. Stand-up comedians can make anywhere from zero to a few hundred thousand dollars per show

2. To be a successful stand-up comedian, you need to not only be funny but have a uniqueness about how you make people laugh

3. Stand-up comedians need to be persistent and always be working on new material.

4. The currently highest-paid stand-up comedian is Kevin Hart

5. Comedy clubs can be profitable, but there are many factors that affect this and more recently many had to close due to the pandemic and the move to streaming stand-up gigs through social media and TV

Do you get paid for Stand Up?

There is no simple answer to this question, as comedians’ earnings can vary quite significantly depending on factors such as the size of the venue, the number of shows, and whether or not they are headlining.

As you start out on your stand-up comedian career expect anything from nothing to very little. Some newbie comedians even have to pay up to be able to have a short warm-up gig in some venues. 

So yes, it is tough but seemingly the way many of today’s comedians have found their way through the ranks. Possibly, today’s speed to fame could be shortened with the use of social media channels where you can gather an audience as well, but as in all things, this will also take quite some time as well, but possibly at reduced costs.

Moreover, you need to be funny and have a uniqueness about how you make people laugh. It might sound very straight forward but many of the top comedians have spent months and months finessing and exploring jokes and lines in order to really deliver and entertain the crowd.

This makes sense, as anything than a successful tour or gig will reduce your future earnings markedly. This is even more apparent when you simply look at the natural progression some of the most respected comedians took and ended up as film stars. Jim Carrey, Whoopi Goldberg, Steve Martin, Robin Williams and Michael Keaton to just name a few. It really is a launchpad to much larger successes down the road

How do you become a stand-up comedian?

As in many careers, trial and error is probably the right approach when exploring a stand-up comedy profession. There are quite a few things one can start with.

First, start small but most importantly start with writing good material. This means writing jokes that are funny and relatable to your audience.

Second, it is important to have a stage presence and be able to command a room. This means being comfortable on stage and being able to engage with the audience, which for many (including myself) is probably the biggest challenge.

Finally, it is important to be persistent and always be working on new material. This means constantly writing new jokes and honing your craft. 

You really have to be relentless in the pursuit of excellence to stand out. Furthermore, it also helps to study your competition, both from entry-level comedians to the very best. Listen, watch and learn.

So, be prepared to a decade or more of learning, tinkering and getting your name out there. A lot of your success will also be determined by how well you structure and build your network over time. At some point in your road it might be worth considering employing an agency which will do most of the networking for you. Up until you reach that level of fame, hustling is your go to method. 

I was thinking about it for myself. I would start with a Youtube, Twitter, TikTok or Instagram profile, probably all of them and start building out. In order to work on my presence, I would look out for a few open-mic comedy gigs which turn up from time to time. This is probably the most intimidating aspect of growing and learning the craft. I am sure there will be awkward moments and probably you will also get heckled and booed at, but that’s the hard road which will ultimately make you stronger, better and a more natural presenter when you’re on stage.

What makes a good stand-up comedian?

Humor is obviously very subjective and as such very much up to the interpretation of every one of us. In many ways, that’s the beauty though as there is no bullet-proof way to make sure that you’re funny. Let’s face it, not everybody likes even the best comedians out there.

To me, Kevin Hart isn’t funny for example. I am more of a fan of simple, British humor, the dark stuff. As such, if you’re aspiring to be a comedian you have to find your niche and with that comes the following of people who will find this kind of humour hopefully irresistible. What is a niche? 

I have been to a comedy club not too long ago and find the diversity in the way people are setting up their gigs quite intriguing. There was this guy, who basically for 30 minutes just shouted out one liners. Then there was a lady who just talked about, well sex-related issues from a female perspective which men maybe are not thinking about. It proves, once again, that there is no way to make people laugh. 

What I noticed though in all of them was that the delivery or the perceived character portrayed on stage really matched up with the script they were delivering. Authenticity is the word that comes to mind and my bet is that’s what differentiates the great from the average.

In many ways it’s similar to a corporate presentation. Haven’t you noticed how some totally competent people can’t deliver simple presentations? But also the reverse where people without actually delivering precise messages just give you a great presentation by merely being themselves, or presenting in a pleasant voice or tone or just being extremely charismatic

How much do you make from stand-up?

Anywhere from zero to a few hundred thousand $ per show, depending of course who you are. The higher bracket is reserved for names like Jerry Seinfeld, Kevin Hart and David Chapelle. As a beginner stand-up comedian, you can expect to make $20-$100 per show.

The average stand-up comedian can expect to make $500-$5,000 per show. It really depends on your negotiation skills when you set out to do your first gigs. If you pick a small venue, say of 50 people capacity.

The typical entry fee for a comedy evening, comprising of 5 comedians is around $10. That’s only $500 to go around of which the venue will probably take at least 50%. So that’s $250 to be divided by the stand-up comedians themselves. $50 for an evening’s work is not overly enticing, yet probably an important stepping stone on your way to success. 

Now imagine yourself a decade or so later performing in New York’s Madison Square Garden, in front of 20,000 fans who are probably paying an average of $100 to see you for an hour or more. One night alone would probably pocket you close to $1 million after promoters, venue and supporting staff and acts are being paid. Not bad for cracking a few jokes.

Obviously, the higher you go up the pay ladder the more extra costs you might incur by either having promoters, PR people and agents who cater to your networking and publishing needs. Commissions for these services don’t come cheap so expect to fork out between 5 and 10% of your gross earnings.

The beauty, however, is that you can probably command quite a few perks along the way. Free dinner? Sure, what do you want to drink with that. Best hotel in town? How many suites would you like. Want a chauffeur to pick you up from the airport? Sure, from the private jet terminal. Life is tough up there, no joke.

Who’s the highest paid stand-up comedian?

The currently highest paid stand-up comedian is Kevin Hart who has an estimated earnings of 59 million $ in 2022 so far. Jerry Seinfeld is probably the wealthiest stand-up comedian with an estimated fortune of 1 billion $, that’s right a billionaire comedian in the house!

David Chappelle also features as one of the highest-grossing stand-up comedians. It is reported that he got paid nearly 25 million $ for his comedy special which was aired on Netflix.

List of 10 richest stand-up comedians

Jerry Seinfeld$1 billion
Ellen de Generes$500 million
Adam Sandler$420 million
Larry David$400 million
Jay Leno$350 million
Drew Crey$165 million
Jim Carrey$150 million
Kevin Hart$150 million
Bill Murray$140 million
Ricky Gervais$110 million

Are comedy clubs profitable?

Comedy clubs can be profitable, but there are many factors that affect this. Some of these factors include the size of the venue, the number of shows, and whether or not the club is able to attract big-name comedians.

More recently, and mostly due to the pandemic a lot of comedy clubs had, unfortunately, to shut down.

Meanwhile, a lot of the highest-paid comedians are exploring streaming services to deliver their content which in itself kills the comedy club business. Comedy clubs really are run like restaurants with most of the income being generated through the consumption of drinks and occasionally food as well.

How much is it to hire a famous comedian?

This can vary greatly depending on the comedian’s fame. However, some of the highest-paid comedians can earn $50,000 to $100,000 per show with the top-grossing comedians being able to command a few hundred thousand for an appearance.

What comedian makes the most money?

The individual earnings are difficult to estimate as the top-performing stand-up comedians are not only making money from their live gigs but also from various different engagements such as film, DVD’s promoting and selling own brands, etc.

Currently, the highest paid, (not in terms of wealth but yearly earnings) comedian is Kevin Hart. Not only is Kevin earning up to $1 million per live gig, he is also earning millions through media collaborations with companies like Disney and Netflix. It is also reported that he is one of the highest-grossing actors in Hollywood at the moment.


In conclusion, it is possible to make a living from stand-up comedy, but it is not easy.

It takes a lot of hard work, dedication, and talent to make it to the top. Moreover, it is important to constantly be working on new material and honing your craft.

The best stand-up comedians are always able to command high fees for their appearances with the best of them earning up to $1 million per appearance.

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