A look at how much comics make doing commercials

The Funny People Behind the Famous Ads looks at how much comics make when they're in commercials.

Most performers in commercials don't make life-changing money. They often work for scale, a minimum negotiated by the Screen Actors Guild: $592.20 per day of work, plus a declining fraction in residuals as the commercial airs, down to $51.65 per showing. There are separate rate schedules for network, local and cable TV, and it can add up to a healthy middle-class lifestyle. But celebrities—and performers in long-term campaigns like Stephanie Courtney and Pete Holmes—may graduate to more lucrative deals, says Doug Ely, a commercial agent at AKA Talent.

"I'm sure Stephanie has a multiyear contract," Mr. Ely says. "Let's say she gets $100,000 per year, though I'm sure she gets substantially more than that at this point. They'd contract for x amount of work that includes commercials, print ads, radio, personal appearances."

Ms. Courtney declined to talk about her deal, but concedes, "It's definitely changed from where I was. But where I was, was a one-room studio, really hand-to-mouthing it. Now, to not freak out if you have to go to the dentist or something, it's made life a little easier."

Mr. Holmes also didn't want to be specific, but added: "When it's all said and done—many recording sessions, many rewrites, rerecords, and after they've all aired for a year— you're looking at about the starting salary of an ophthalmologist."

Brian Baker, a former Second City improv actor who played the "trench-coat guy" in Sprint ads for six years, says the role was like hitting the lottery. Bobby Collins, a Los Angeles comedian, says he got more than $300,000 for appearing as himself in four Certs commercials.


Also worth mentioning: All those auditions ya have to go on that lead nowhere.

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