Maybe your friends and family think you're funny or maybe you've had people tell you that you should be a comedian. Whether you're serious about pursuing a career in entertainment and comedy or not, it could be interesting to know how much a stand-up comedian typically makes.
A stand-up comedian makes an average of $54,080 a year, plus bonuses. Opening act comedians make about $25 to $50 for a 15-minute performance. A featured comedian makes about $50 to $100 per show, while headliner comedians make around $100 to $200 for a single 45-minute routine.
Even with this average pay, you can make a lot more money depending on your reputation, humor, and popularity. The city you work in can also affect how much you get paid and whether or not you'll be invited to perform again in the future.
How Much Money Does a Stand-up Comedian Make?
Stand-up comedians in the United States typically make anywhere from $16,640 to $74,880. The average salary is $54,080. Most stand-up comedians make something in between $54,080 and $60,827. Most comedians will make bonuses as well. (Source)
The amount of money you make as a stand-up comedian largely depends on your skill and which part of the program your act is. Comedians can make more money if their skill level is higher. The type of comedy they do can also influence their pay rate. Basically the more laughs you can generate, the more money you'll make as a comedian.
- Opening Act Comedians
Opening act comedians will typically make anywhere from $25 to $50 for their show. Opening act comedians are usually picked from local talent. They will usually open for more accomplished professional comedians. If a comedian wants to move beyond this level, they should focus on generating more laughs and increasing the amount of time they can perform. Opening act comedians typically perform for about 15 minutes or less.
- Feature Act (Middle Act) Comedians
A feature act, or middle act comedian, usually makes about $50 to $100 for each show they perform. These comedians can also have the opportunity to open for established corporate comedians. These performances are usually around $200 or more per performance. Middle-act comedians typically perform for about 15 to 30 minutes depending on the venue and the requirements of the gig.
- Headliner Comedians
Headliner comedians include those who can consistently deliver 45 or more minutes of stand-up comedy. They also need to be using material that produces about 18 seconds of laughter for every minute that they perform. These comedians can make between $100 and $200 for just one 45 minute performance. This is actually on the low end of the scale. If a comedian is well known, has a good reputation, is popular, performs a wide variety of gigs, or has a lot of experience, they can earn even more than that.
The amount of money a headliner comedian makes for a 45-minute performance can be compared to the amount made in a typical job paid on an hourly basis. This would be about $133 to $266 per hour of work. That's not too bad of a paycheck. The pay a comedian gets from a comedy club can vary a lot. There is no one set amount that these clubs pay their comedians and other performers.
Another thing that's important to realize is that all professional comedians are independent contractors. It's not common for a comedian to be paid a salary. Instead, they are usually paid for each performance (or gig) they do.
Other Types of Comedians
- Corporate Comedians
There are a few other types of comedians as well. Corporate comedians are headliner comedians who can be hired to perform a gig for non-comedy club meetings, parties, or other events. These comedians can get paid anywhere from 5 times and up to 10 times as much for a single show as a headliner comedian at a comedy club.
- Cruise Ship Comedians
Some comedians get hired to work on cruise ships. These comedians typically get paid anywhere from $500 to $1500 per show. Of course, this also depends on what type of performance they are required to do.
- College Comedians
College comedians are another type of comedian that usually work as part of APCA or NACA showcases. APCA and NACA are both organizations that help promote and run events for college campuses. Comedians who perform at these showcases can usually make around $800 to $1200 per show.
Best Cities to Do Stand-up Comedy
Big cities will usually have more opportunities available, but there is also a lot more competition in these highly populated locations. Many comedians get their big break in New York City and Los Angeles, but those aren't the only places you can make it big. Chicago, Denver, Orlando, Atlanta, Austin, Minneapolis, San Francisco, Portland, and Boston are also big cities with great comedy.
Big cities are great for jump-starting your career, but the cost of living is usually much higher and not suited for those just starting on their stand-up journey. Big cities are also much more competitive than some other smaller cities with more welcoming comedy scenes. There are also some other cities that may be unexpected, but also have great comedy scenes and could be a great place to start your stand-up career.
Some of these cities include Sacramento, Bloomington, Billings, Missoula, Albany, and even Boise.
- Sacramento, California
Sacramento has a strong and supportive comedy scene. Some locations offer open mic and improv nights, classes, and other shows and other locations help stand-up comedians just getting started, while also offering larger venues for comedians to perform in once they get a little more experience under their belt.
- Bloomington, Indiana
Even in the Midwest, there are great comedy venues to be found. There are locations that host major headliner comedians, but also venues dedicated to hosting local talent as well.
- Billings & Missoula, Montana
People won't usually think of Montana when they think of comedy, but this state is actually home to one of the best comedy festivals: the Big Sky Comedy Festival. This takes place in Billings and comedians will come from all over to attend this festival. It provides a chance for comedians to be seen by many club owners and potential employers.
The Wilma is a venue in Missoula that hosts comedians from across the United States. There are also locations that offer open mic nights. In addition to the opportunities provided, the cost of living in Montana is low which is helpful as comedians are just getting started.
- Albany, New York
Just like Sacramento, Albany is home to some great comedy clubs which offer open mic nights. Locations in Albany are known to be supportive venues for those new, aspiring comedians.
- Boise, Idaho
You wouldn't expect Idaho to be a good place to start as a comedian, but in the Boise community, there are many opportunities for improv, stand-up, and open mic nights for performers of all abilities. There is also a big comedy festival hosted in Boise every year in September. The friendly and supportive community is great for beginners and experienced comedians alike.