So I started doing stand-up for reals (though not for pay) when I was 21. I didn't get paid until I was 23 and I didn't make a real living from stand-up until I was 29 (and that was still supplemented a bit by secretarial work and at 32, I'm still signed with my temp agencies in case of a slow month which hasn't happened in a while).
I can tell you what I make, but it is different for everyone and I don't know — FROM DAY TO DAY, MONTH TO MONTH what I will make. I didn't know about 3 of these gigs until last week in November.There is no shame in having a "day job" or secondary passion to support you while you pursue an artistic career. There is nothing creatively stimulating about living in a cockaroach-infested apartment and busking for change (I've done that), not knowing where you'll get money for food, living on credit cards and not having health insurance. I did the above in the beginning and ended up in a lot of trouble! Now, I do not use credit cards and live below my means- there is no 401 K PLAN for comedians.
That said — Example income for starting "headliner" — middles and emcees make considerably less — Comedy Club gig — Thermopolis, Wyoming (5-45minute shows) $1200 gross (minus airfare $200 and then minus %20 of net in commissions $190 and minus federal tax 30% of ? of net after airfare and commissions: TOTAL NET: $680. And for comics, it usually takes a few years (at least for me, 10 years) to headline. They don't pay for hotel or air for emcees and middles — lots of driving and crashing with friends. Clubs pay you in cash or without taking out taxes — some comics get in trouble when they don't pay quarterly taxes to IRS (Read:me).
Sample Television taping- The Late Night 2AM Interview show- audition for 2 years: $1100 gross (minus tax of 350, minus commissions of 330: TOTAL NET: $420)
So, you're on the Tonight Show and do your first headling gig and you have $1100 for the most exciting month of your life. I earn about as much as a well-paid legal-secretary after expenses- about 50K. And I'm very lucky. To live in LA — on your own — it costs about $2000 a month — so I still temped up until up until a year ago. And, from what I hear- there are no guarantees. Just like McDonald's still has advertising, comics can't really coast on a Tonight Show appearance from 5 years ago. As in any business, it is constantly building and creating new contacts and maintaining old ones.
Net income on Comedy Central Special is $5,240.($15,000 gross, minus 40% tax — $6,000 (higher tax bracket) and 25% ($3,750) commssions) after 9 years of stand-up. And the deal is a "buy-out" meaning you don't receive residuals and they can play it as much as they want for as long as they want. Which is great for exposure and is wonderful, and it's definitely continues to pay in terms of getting better rates for comedy club bookings. Currently, there is no union for Comedians — club pay depends from person to person. Emcees in a club make $150 to $300 a week, middle acts: $150-700 a week and headliners $800 to $2500 unless you're a celebrity or they do door deals where you get a percentage of the door if you're a big draw — Carlos Mencia, Brian Regan are a few comics who aren't necessarily househould names, but "draw", are famous among comedy aficionados.
No wonder so many standups turn to acting, hosting, TV commercials, writing, etc. As for Bamford, at least she's now collecting a nice paycheck from those Target ads.
Labels: about standup
Permalink | 12/21/2009