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How To Be A Comedian Who Succeeds

July 29, 2011

Did you know that more than 3 million people a month search Google in an attempt to figure out how to be a comedian?

But while millions of people want to become a comedian, significantly fewer understand what it takes to actually become a successful comedian.

That’s why I’ve put together the following list of 50 things that will help you figure out How To Be A Comedian Who Succeeds:

1. Try. Don’t be afraid to go after your dreams.

2. Get on stage.

3. Get on stage again.

4. Stick with it. Don’t quit.

5. Find your voice.

6. Be original. Be unique.

7. Learn from the masters.

8. Get to know your peers.

9. Be professional.

10. Embrace, empower, and appreciate every one of your fans.

11. Always be creating.

12. Understand it’s a job. A fun job, but a job.

13. Be patient.

14. Don’t be afraid to fail.

15. Don’t be afraid to succeed.

16. Don’t steal other people’s material.

17. Don’t be paranoid about other people stealing your material.

18. Your short term goal should always be to get better.

19. Your long term goal is your career.

20. Don’t just be a stand up comedian. You need to be more.

21. Learn the business of comedy. It’s just as important to know how to build a career as it is to know how to build a joke.

22. Recognize it’s not enough to just be funny.

23. Find people that connect with your view of life and make them your fanbase.

24. Don’t worry about the people that don’t get you. They don’t matter.

25. Create your own definition of success.

26. Have something to say.

27. Don’t get jealous of other comedians’ success. What they do has nothing to do with what you do.

28. Create your own opportunities.

29. Control your own career.

30. Listen to the conventional wisdom of the industry. But don’t always follow it.

31. Don’t think you’ve made it because you got representation.

32. Don’t give up.

33. Be funny. Be talented. Be lucky. Be persistent. And not necessarily in that order.

34. Understand that the comedy business is very big, but it’s also very small. Don’t burn bridges and don’t ruin your reputation.

35. Don’t fool yourself into thinking you’re better than you are by only performing for friendly crowds.

36. Have a functional website, YouTube channel, Facebook page and Twitter account.

37. Adapt.

38. Practice multiple forms of comedy – stand up, acting, sketch, improv, writing, podcasting.

39. Perform in different kinds of venues for different kinds of crowds.

40. Know that being a funny person and being a comedian are not the same thing.

41. Treat every person that sees you perform as a potential lifelong fan.

42. Produce your own live show or project at some point – it will help you better understand the business.

43. Remember that your agent or manager works for you – not the other way around.

44. Understand what your strengths are as a performer and seek out opportunities to exploit them.

45. Brace yourself for the inevitable frustrations and disappointments.

46. Don’t become a jerk when you succeed.

47. Work.

48. Recognize that you’re competing with every other comedian in the world. But remember that you have an advantage because none of them are you.

49. Be honest. Be open. Be real.

50. Have fun!

That’s how I think you can become a successful comedian, but I’m sure you all have plenty of other thoughts about this as well. Please leave them in the comments…

Did you like this? Please share it:

{ 51 comments… read them below or add one }

Andrew Hall July 30, 2011 at 4:04 am

I have found that persistence trumps talent a vast majority of the time.

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Tom Stewart July 30, 2011 at 10:20 am

51. Subscribe to Connected Comedy

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Dee Marie July 30, 2011 at 10:41 am

people google it probably after they just watched there favorite comic….but im sure its a passing thought for most!!! In the nyc circuit, the open mic scene which is tha breeding ground for talent is full of people who dont take it seriously!there are always those shining that u know are different from the pack!!either u have it or u dont!!not saying u cant eventually get it but.. A COMEDY CAREER IS A BATTLE WITH YOURSELF AND NO ONE ELSE!

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shawn walker May 27, 2013 at 8:49 am

yes you are very correct.

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Michael Lee November 20, 2013 at 8:20 am

I think this is all right but people should still set out for their dream

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Richard Wentz July 30, 2011 at 10:47 am

Josh, this couldn’t have come to my attention at a better time!

If I were to add one, it would be “Know what you define as success, and work to repeat that success daily.”

My story:

Last night I produced and hosted what was probably one of the better shows I have done from a material and audience standpoint, the comics I brought in did their thing, and the crowd ate it up! I hosted the heck out of the funny people, we all engaged the audience, no hecklers, but plenty of participation! Pretty much a happier, more satisfied, laugh for your buck-crowd you would be hard-pressed to find. The venue was awesome, the food and drinks great!

There were several other draws for audience within a 40 mile radius, and despite heavy print and radio advertising we didn’t draw what we should have. I know ‘should’ is a relative term and I am basing it on the the prior 2 shows I’ve done there, one in April, the other in January. The January show was over-capacity, had to turn people away. The April show was about half that, and this one was half of the April show, maybe a tenth of the venue.

I made it a point to personally thank each and every server, waitress and facility staff, and gave them each a small amount of money for their time, because there wasn’t enough bar activity to have generated any significant tips, and they worked hard.

Without going into specifics, suffice it to say I lost my shorts. I spent the entire 90 minute drive going over in my head what I could have done differently, what variable it was that would have made this a success that the other shows were, what did I do to lose so much money. My answer: Nothing. I invested heavily in marketing. I had venue support. I had talent that people were willing to pay for. I did the radio morning shows, I did the call-in shows, I pushed it on my Facebook, Twitter, and personal website (www.richwentz.com). I worked harder on this show than I have on any other show, and I had the absolute worst results from a financial standpoint.

As a comedian, this was the absolute best performance with the best results of audience building I’ve had yet. I shook the hand of every guest, asked them each to visit my website and sign up for future shows. I added 21 Facebook friends and 9 followers on twitter. I received about 20 emails thanking me for a great night, and promises to come again and bring friends. The best quote was “I thought it wouldn’t suck, but I couldn’t believe the quality of the people on stage. My friend and I agreed on the ride home that this was the best night out we’ve had in years. When’s your next show, I want 8 tickets.”

On the drive home I was thinking about throwing the towel in, screw this producing my show crap, I’ll just see who will give me time. 12 hours later, I realized if someone came up to me and said “Rich, give me twelve hundred bucks and I’ll give you 20 life-long fans who will follow you show to show-venue to venue.” I would do it in a heartbeat. And most comics I know would too, and think it was a bargain at twice the price!

Thanks for the motivation, brother! Yet another in a growing list of why I’m happy to be ConnectedComedy.

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Longhorn The Comedian July 30, 2011 at 5:50 pm

There is a lot of truth there…but I will add one more….remember, it is 90% and 10% talent….once you understand this formula it all makes sense.

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Mike September 21, 2012 at 12:09 am

90% what?

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Sariyah October 4, 2012 at 4:14 am

uh, yeah, 90% whut? yikes i hate moves like that! {smaknmyhed}…

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Brian January 29, 2013 at 12:10 pm

He means 100% talent lol 90 and 10 equals 100

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Jamie November 2, 2013 at 9:47 pm

I think hard work, right?

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Michael Lee November 20, 2013 at 8:22 am

yes right

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BIG CHUCKLLZ July 30, 2011 at 7:29 pm

Very Helpful…thanks Josh!!!

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scott W. July 30, 2011 at 9:02 pm

Help up-and-coming comics understand the importance of developing their point of view.

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Jonode July 31, 2011 at 1:30 am

I’m still sticking with my personal rule #1, which I took from Bill Hicks : Don’t give a fuck.

Also…Longhorn : what the fuck do you mean? How can something be 90 and 10%?

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lysa December 11, 2012 at 2:35 pm

Considering the date this was posted (July 2011) I am reading this almost a year and a half later but boy did it make me laugh! your absolutely right, “don’t give a fuck” obviously, Mr. 90% and 10% didn’t give a fuck!

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andrew August 29, 2013 at 3:56 pm

2 years have passed and i’m still wondering what the 90% was.

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Reggie January 3, 2014 at 10:36 am

I think the 90% he referenced is Persistence. Looks like he was replying to the very first post…

Andrew Hall July 30, 2011 at 4:04 am
I have found that persistence trumps talent a vast majority of the time.

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Kenny Kinds July 31, 2011 at 10:31 am

#35 is right on the money

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Karen August 22, 2011 at 11:33 am

As soon as I saw it , I thought the same thing. #35 is a very important one. (This rule applies to Karaoke, too!)

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Terry Yonka September 3, 2011 at 1:19 pm

That’s where I started doing Stand-Up by performing doing Karaoke I would twist & butcher up song to my needs and the crowd goes wild with laughter and basically I didn’t even try to get a laugh it just came natural!!! ;)

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Geoff with a G. Armstrong August 1, 2011 at 4:21 pm

Spot on, Josh! I always put “Have fun!” at the top of any list! If you’re not having fun, what’s the sense?

Fame is a fickle bitch. The love of money is the root of all evil. It’s a razor’s edge to skate along to find the balance between sell out/indie. Don’t wanna work for The Man but dig on the perks. Gotta find a happy medium with the proper comedy medium.

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Chuck Montgomery August 23, 2011 at 7:02 pm

After 30 years of doing this in a less than organized fashion I’ve come to a few conclusions. If you want to make more money faster, discounting some great breaks, work clean. I’d rather do a paid show for a tough crowd than a free show for people who laugh at everything. These hot crowds are great for writing. If I’m working a tough crowd, I’m sticking with tested killer stuff. But when you get those crowds that go everywhere on the journey with you—-you can be amazingly creative on stage, bold enough to try what might not have worked before, retool stuff & go out in left field to new places that could turn into your signature bit or viral video (if you vid all the time.) Be funny when you can. Lots of people who know yer a comic just wait for you to crank them up. Do it. If you can get on a roll, hurt them—-with laughter. You are learning to use your super powers–just use them for good–have fun & spread joy!! I’m pretty jazzed that Josh is here to assist with all this stuff, many portions of which hurt my head!

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Matt Mellon September 3, 2011 at 3:08 pm

“Don’t get bitter, get better.”

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Dana S. Austin September 3, 2011 at 3:29 pm

Thanks for reposting this. I needed a refresher course in doing this! Now it’s ON WITH THE SHOW!

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Frank Prince September 4, 2011 at 6:15 pm

Right on the money !

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germal mccray January 14, 2012 at 3:48 pm

I agree … you are 100% correct.

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Sir Eric McNair February 3, 2012 at 6:10 pm

Hi, ok well I read a lot of useful information. Thank you for all the advice. I have just started performing as a Stand up comedian on amateur nights ie Open mike. When I said started I mean I’ve done it one time. And did got some laughs. I refuse to believe my appearance influenced that? Anyway I plan on doing it a lot more until Eddie Murphy is excited just to meet me? Or the other way around? Anyway as a retired boxer that know one ever herd of ? I should have a lot of material? I was a class clown that the teacher never stopped because she was too busy LAUGHING. As well as everybody else. So keep your eyes and ears open and look for Sir Eric McNair.

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blickblondhi July 11, 2012 at 6:37 pm

nah.

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Chris Anderson September 11, 2012 at 5:10 pm

Good luck. I wish you every success.

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tim November 6, 2012 at 6:47 pm

Your a coward and should do the same material no matter the crowd….I understand adjusting a few swear words or using less offensives content for say a younger crowd but to just change what you think and believe cause they aren’t. Laughing is selling yourself short and ur letting the crowd own YOUR material

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tim November 6, 2012 at 6:49 pm

Also how many people voted class clown became successful comedians? Probably one out of ten thousand…..funny people aren’t comedians

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JagdeoComedy on Twitter April 2, 2012 at 7:49 am

A few things that really helped me:

1) I found a mentor. Talking to guys that have opened for the likes of Dave Chappelle really helped me understand the roadmap that I was embarking on.

2) Reading books that outlined the best practices for stand-up comedy. Mike Bent’s Everything Guide to Comedy and Jay Sankey’s Zen and the Art of Stand-up Comedy were INVALUABLE.

FYI – I wrote a summary of the most helpful tips from Sankey’s book recently if you care to check it out. http://michaeljagdeo.wordpress.com/2012/04/02/zen-and-the-art-of-stand-up-comedy-lessons-learned/

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Bill Large April 4, 2012 at 9:50 am

the last thing i would do is not be myself and all my material is off the top of my head i just want a shot at it my material has swearing in it to get the point across

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MC BOMBER D' COMEDIAN May 4, 2012 at 2:46 pm

Thanks for d advice i had found some point in it an i will go trough this

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shawn neverson July 10, 2012 at 2:58 pm

This is the best breakdown i’ve ever seen i this business.

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Deanna July 22, 2012 at 8:53 am

Granted, i am only 14 years old, but since i was tiny all i have ever wanted was to make people laugh. I am not the class clown, shouting things out that the entire class roar at, i tend to mutter something to the person sitting next to me and allow them to get told off for laughing. As good as this list is, i find it hard to think of jokes, as in things to say. I couldnt be a stand up comedian because of this. Speeking wise, i usually make people laugh with my ability to make any conversation sound dirty (one of my sketches) Do you guys think that i could start off with a youtube sketch show? I got a mahoosive list of sketches but most comedians start with stand-up. You say to give up but with so few people succeeding in comedy, is there point to competing with so many naturals?

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Chris Anderson September 11, 2012 at 5:08 pm

Please carry on and follow your dream. I know this is controversial but I believe great talents are made by hard work, courage, open mindedness, experience and confidence which grows with time. I just did my first stand up and it was awesome. I got invited back. I ain’t stopping for nobody. I think you should find the comedy that makes you laugh and use it to inspire you. If you notice you have some funny comments that get laughs keep a note of them to build up an act. Good luck

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petrer k barron October 10, 2012 at 3:13 pm

congrats, but how advice the up coming comedians?

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Adrian Saunders September 30, 2012 at 7:03 am

I just launched the worlds first global open mic comedy contest at http://www.fiveminuteslive.com
It has had a soft launch in Australia and will go live in the US in the next week. It is an extension of a contest I started 7 years ago which runs succesfully now. I recommend uploading any gig you have recorded as it will give exposure and you could even win the $5000 USD prize. Cheers Adrian

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btandon October 14, 2012 at 6:28 pm

I believe that a funny person has what it takes to be a funny comedian

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Alison Hambleton January 14, 2013 at 9:57 am

Thanks for the Advise. I enjoyed reading it. x

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loneberry March 16, 2013 at 7:33 pm

You are an amazing person. I am a kid trying to get over her stage fright with something she loves, comedy. And you’ve taken me one step closer to getting over the barrier that is stage fright. You don’t know how it is getting in front of my class and knowing though I have to give a report or tell about a project I may not be able to do it. You have helped me so much and I have one thing to say, thank you

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jerry austin April 16, 2013 at 12:58 am

My Mom told me…..Jerry, “She never liked to call me son because it was a reminder that I actually was”, She said do everything you possibly can to make it on the world stage either as an actor or as a comedian…..because if you don’t, your going to wind up in a loonasylum. The difference bewteen so many actors in Hollywood or comedians and people in mental institutions is a key word called Marketing!

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nathan d April 25, 2013 at 10:44 am

you need to know what people like to hear all truth and not just adults kids aswell

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Kittykat June 4, 2013 at 11:13 pm

I really enjoyed reading these facts. They are all spot on and respectful. Makes me that much more confident!

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Jones Howell August 21, 2013 at 6:16 pm

There are friendly crowds?

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Marvin phipps September 22, 2013 at 11:09 am

This is awesome I’ve been doing comedy for 7 years and I’ve learned all these things the hard way wish I would have read this 7 years ago!!!

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Roza Comma November 25, 2013 at 8:10 pm

Hi guys!
I have been thinking to be a comedian for a year!!
When I can start in NYC?
Could you give me some advice,
thank you

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Ben June 3, 2014 at 2:58 am

I can give yu advice right now. Don’t start in NYC unless you’re already a local. For that entire year, you should have been writing. Nobody is going to guide you one-on-one and you should have been practicing at some open mics in your hometown. It all has been on you and will be. Always blame yourself cause it is all you. Sorry, but that’s the truth. No self-initiative; No go. That’s the raw deal.

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T.k. vinoth July 14, 2014 at 6:09 am

How to be a hero?
—5 steps
How to be a comedian?
50 steps

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