A lot of people do comedy so eventually they can get into the money, the sweet cheddar, the bacon bits (does anyone other than me call it that?), the problem is comedy is notorious for how long it could take to get paid and the amount you are getting. This is something you have to keep in mind if you are going to pursue comedy as a living. There is no get rich quick scheme because if there was everyone would do it and it would not be a scheme, but what ever the opposite of scheme is…a plan? Anyway, money lies heavy at the heart of many a comedian.
Let’s first talk about the starting comic. The open micer who is trying to get as much stage time as possible. Maybe you are lucky and you live in a major metro area. Lucky you! Now you don’t have to drive that far to get on stage and you may have a plethora of stages to choose from. If you live in a smaller area, then that will create problems. I live in Spokane, there are a lot of open mics here, but not to the extent of say Seattle. Going over to Seattle, you can park your car and just walk to the rooms. That is sweet if you know how brutal parking is in the big cities. The issue arises when I go over there. I have to pay for gas and I have to have a place to stay. Now I have friends over there, but I am not going to wear out my welcome by going over there every week and sleeping on the couch their dog calls home. So I get a hotel room, and depending on the room it can be between 75 bucks and up. And for 75 bucks you are not getting the Marriot. You will be lucky if they don’t charge you for shower curtains. The gas is another expense. With gas creeping at 4 bucks a gallon it is about $120 dollars to get to Seattle and back. Then you have to buy food and handjobs and you can see where the expenses can pile up (I’m joking about the handjobs that is a DIY thing).
It takes a lot of people a long time to get paid to do comedy, especially if you are in a small town or you have other obligations. I started getting paid for comedy after about 6-7 months and something I had to learn was how to budget your money when you are on the road and when you are in between shows. I have seen comics blow the tiny amount of money they got that night on booze and food. I like to fashion myself an expert on how to make my money stretch on the road. First, I plan out the destination so I know how much money in gas I will be spending. If I am only going to make 300 bucks, I can not do a trip from Spokane to eastern Montana and back. I will basically break even or have about 40-50 bucks after the trip. Is that really worth the drive? Now, there is an exception to this because when I first started doing runs like that I would break even or lose money just so I could show the booker that I was dependable and good enough to do a bar near the Canadian border. Second, I don’t splurge on the food and alcohol (the second part is easy because I don’t drink). I would talk to some guys who would do the same run as me, and they would talk about how they came back even and I knew you could make 2-300 bucks on the shows and that what that tells me is that they are not being smart with their money. I don’t go to restaurants. I go to the grocery store and get my food there. I save a lot of money by not drinking. People drink, I get it, but I am not about to miss my phone payment so I can drink Barley hops after the show (that’s not even a thing is it?). My one weakness is energy drinks, but I will only buy them if I can get them in a deal like 2 for 5.00 or something.
Then there is the long haul. I am in that point in my career (and that part of the country) where shows can come in bunches and then there is a drought. I have done shows for 3 weeks a month for 4 months straight and then have 2-3 months where there isn’t that much work. You have to be a camel. What that means is you have to plan for those times by not blowing everything you make. One month I made about 3500 bucks. Really good right? Not if you take into account that I might not have another show for 2-3 months than that is way less than 3500 a month. Once I get home I pay all my bills as far back as I can pay them. If I can pay the phone bill and my car payment for 2 months that means that if I get more work later and I don’t need to pay them I can either pay it again and that is another month I have knocked out or I can save it for when something happens (and something always happens). I know a lot of people want to live like a rock start, but when you are a lower tier comic you have to work with what you got.