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Everyone likes laughing. But not everyone is very good at getting other people to laugh. It is very easy to make a joke that falls flat, because comedy requires talent, practice and timing. Only extremely funny people can make a living out of telling jokes.

Comedians can work in television and movies, but the majority of them tour clubs and festivals, performing for live audiences. Usually, comedians focus on a few subjects, such as their childhoods, relationships or the workplace. They will come up with 10-30 minutes worth of jokes, and stick with this routine for quite a while, dropping bits that stop being timely, and adding in new jokes that appeal to certain audiences, or fit within the political climate of the day. Comedians are like actors, and the people they become on stage are not necessarily the people they are off stage. Not only do they have to be funny, but they have to be in control of their persona, so that the show continues even if the audience is unreceptive.

Not only do comics write their own material and perform it as often as they can, but they also have to promote themselves to club owners, television producers and other comedians. They spend a lot of time demonstrating their skills to anyone who will listen, in hopes that the big break is just around the corner.

Some comedians will hire an agent who will scout out good clubs and festivals where the comic's jokes will go over well. But the comedian still has to write material. The pressure to make people laugh can be intense.

Comics need to memorize, rehearse and rewrite the same few jokes over and over again. Agents can mean more contracts and traveling, which can be exhausting. Still, those flawless performances and large happy audiences mean the comedian is securing that hard won reputation they fought so long to get.
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  Interests and Skills  
Interested in becoming a comedian? Comedians need to be creative and imaginative, patient, motivated and self-disciplined. Not to mention funny! They should enjoy making people laugh, have a quick wit, and be able to come up with jokes and funny comments on the spot. Comedians need to be good story tellers. They need to have the confidence to pursue their dreams even in the face of rejection. Comedians must be able to adapt quickly to different situations. Comedians should be interested in all aspects of the business, including professional meetings, working with agents, directors, actors, other comedians and producers.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Brainstorm ideas for jokes and commentary
  • Practice jokes until an act takes shape
  • Perform the act over and over again for anyone who will listen
  • Contact agents, producers, comedy club owners
  • A typical day for a comedian will involve reviewing material, rejecting some old bits and developing new bits and performing for audiences. Some days the audience will be receptive, but other days the audience will be harder to get laughing. A comedian will spend some of each day looking for new ideas, contacting club owners and agents, looking for that big break.
  • .

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Comedians are employed by comedy clubs, night clubs, hotels, dinner theaters and television networks. Most comedians are self-employed and they work on contracts much like actors. They may work at a series of different nightclubs, over a few nights or have a specific run, such as two weeks with two nightly shows at one club. Comedians spend part of their days researching, honing and practicing their acts. Some comedians work alone, while others work in teams, or ensembles. They may perform improvisation work if they are part of a team. Their hours are long, and the schedule can be demanding. There can be a lot of travel. New comedians may have to pay for their own expenses on tour, and may have to perform for free until they have made a name for themselves.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Comedians looking for fame and fortune have a long road ahead of them, and may choose to switch gears after years of performing at dives and unknown bars. They may take their talents to acting, motivational speaking or writing for television and movies. They can write fiction, and humorous non-fiction. They can become teachers, or even open a comedy club.

Comics who choose to stick with it, however, can turn their act into television shows, perform on late night talk shows, and travel the world, performing to sold out amphitheaters.

  Educational Paths  
While there are no specific guidelines for a budding comic, there are a few educational options for people who want a little more training than what you get at the School of Life. Comics need to practice. They need to get out there and perform for large and small groups of people, especially strangers. They should perform for free, in dives, at birthday parties. They should try their material anywhere and everywhere people will listen.

Along with all this practice, there are also a few college and university courses which may help. Studying acting, public speaking, psychology, communications and pop culture can help. Along with contributing to the comic's performance, the more comics learn about people and the world they live in. Even travelling, eating out, and scrubbing the kitchen floor can be seen as important stages in the comic's development, as these are all experiences they can derive material from.

Some colleges and universities in North America have some comic training programs. Make sure you check out the program before enrolling.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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