So You Want a Career in Comedy?
Updated: Jul 1
You've always been told you were funny! All of your friends think you are the funniest person they know. You grew up being excused by family as thinking you're, "some kind of comedian." And you've always known you wanted to be a comedian.
There's just one problem. How do you do that!?
Here's what I can tell you, you have to go at it! There's no sense in waiting to do something you think you'd love to do. I don't know this because I went for it and had this illustrious career in comedy. I know this because I didn't do it.
As soon as I got out of college I went the safe, Plan B route. I was 30 when I started doing comedy. Which is fine! When I was around 33 Comedian Sara Schaefer told me once that it doesn't matter and not to worry about the age I was when I got into comedy.
Age doesn't matter, experience does. And wanting to live a life full of what you love and are passionate about really matters. Experience what you love sooner than later!
If I had gone up to NYC when I graduated college I would have learned from the UCB greats in the early days of their school along with some wonderful comedians you and I watch and admire. I don't regret my life, I just wish I pursued my dreams sooner than I did because the experience has been so great and life-affirming!
I don't know a lot out of all the things I could know about pursuing comedy, but here's a start!
3 Things You Must Do to Pursue a Comedy Career:
Get at It! You have to get involved...somehow. I've heard Conan O'Brien say several times that whenever someone asks him for advice about breaking into the industry he answers, "Go to the places making the kind of work you want to make and get a job there. Any kind of job." This is good advice for someone seeking work in any field. It's good advice for the entertainment industry because the most common thing people say is, "Go to Hollywood," which is horrible advice for someone starting out. What you need first is some experience and you can get that working somewhere that is doing what you love. You will learn so much!
Keep at It! You really can't allow yourself to give up easily. It's not only the most successful people who work hard and stick to it, but also people who are advancing. You can't advance if you don't continually focus on your pursuit and at practice. This is meant to be encouraging. You can do it, just keep doing the next little thing you can do.
Get Some Satisfaction. Because I'm a nerd I once watched a clinic that John Mayer did at Berklee School of Music. Something he said in it is something that any creative person can learn from. To paraphrase the statement it was that you have to define what you consider, "making it." What he encouraged in his talk was defining for yourself how to be fulfilled. This is good advice because far too many people look at fame as "making it," but that animal is far too illusive (and dangerous) for you to chase. Mayer also talked about people he knew who had big time, bonafide success but because they didn't every consider what would satisfy them or process their goals that tremendous success they had was unfulfilling.
So what do you really want out of this comedy thing anyway? That's a good question to process over.
Any answer that doesn't hurt anyone else is okay.
I'll help you start. What would satisfy you? What type of work do you want to do? How do you want to do it? Do you want to do it professionally or as a hobby? Where do you want to do it? What would it take for you to do it?
Answer these and you've started realizing the path to your goals! I once read the co-founder of Charleston, SC's Theatre 99, Greg Tavares, say that he is "doing what he wants to do, where and how he wants to do it. That's a big deal." Yes, indeed, it is.
Get at it, friends!