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How Much Do Comedians Make?

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What is the salary of a comedian?

Maybe your friends and family consider you to be witty and hilarious, and many people have encouraged you to pursue comedy as a career. However, if you are entertaining the thought of becoming a comedian or are just curious, it can be interesting to learn how much do comedians make in a year.

Many top comedians like Jerry Seinfeld, Dave Chappelle, or Tiffany Haddish can make stand-up comedy look almost effortless. However, becoming a great comedian who earns well is not that easy. Like any job in the entertainment business, comedians must work hard to hone their craft, develop skills, and develop a good reputation to make their careers successful.

Most comedians who are already in the business will tell you that your income depends on your reputation, the kind of comedy you perform, your skill level, the venues you work at, and whether you are a headliner or an opening act. There are a lot of factors that come into play when you want to become a successful comedian.

We have discussed the top income you can expect to receive as a comedian in this article. You will also find salary estimations of different types of comedians to learn about the variety of jobs a comedian can take on.


How Much Do Comedians Make?

Screen actors and stage actors are most commonly part of a union that sets minimum rates for a job. On the other hand, comedians are not unionized, which can make determining the salary of a professional comic difficult.

No matter if they are performing on live TV, they are not a part of the Screen Actors Guild, which can cause pay rates to vary significantly as compared to stunt actors and film performers. The top factors that impact the income of a comedian are:

  • The Comedian’s Popularity and Reputation (headliner, featured act, or opening comedian)
  • The Venue of the Performance (a small-town bar or a comedy club in New York)
  • The Kind of Events You Perform at (colleges, cruise ships, cable TV Specials)
  • The Humor Style and Its Target Audience (women, college kids, older adults, etc.)
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A comedian interacting with the audience

The General Salary of a Comedian

In the USA, stand-up comedians typically can make from $16,640 to $74,880 per year. The average salary of a comedian is around $54,080. Most stand-up comedians who have garnered a following generally make something between $54,080 and $60,827. If they have podcast income or additional bonuses on top of their earnings from stand-up comedy, their average salary may be greater than the amount quoted here.

The most important factors when considering how much a comedian can make are their level of skill and their part of the program in the act. Essentially, the type of comedy and the number of audiences you can make happy dictates the amount of money you can expect to make as a comedian.

How Much Does an Opening Act Comedian Earn?

An opening act comedian can typically earn from $25 to $50 for their performance. Opening act comedians are normally selected from the local pool of comedians or usually feature up-and-coming comics.

An opening act comedian will open the show for more senior or accomplished professional comedians. If a comedian wants to earn more and work on becoming a headliner themselves, they will have to garner more laughter from the audience and increase their performance time. Opening act comedians perform for about fifteen minutes or less.

How Much Does a Feature Act Comedian Earn?

A feature act comedian usually performs for almost 15 to 30 minutes, depending on the requirements of the gig and the venue. They usually earn more or equal to the opening act comedian in a show. If a comedian has been picked as a featured comedian, they can expect to make about $50 to $100 for each gig.

a comedian performing a set on stage

How Much Does a Headliner Make?

A headliner is a comedian who performs a straight stand-up comedy set for almost 45 minutes or more. They also need to write quality comedy material that can make audiences laugh for almost 18 seconds for every minute they perform.

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Headliners can usually expect to make around $100 to $200 for every 45-minute set they perform. This is on the low end of the scale, especially if a comedian is quite popular among the crowd. If a comedian is well-known, has a good reputation, accumulated a lot of experience, and performs a variety of gigs, they can earn more than just $200 from a gig.

You can compare the amount of money a headliner comedian makes with a typical job which is paid by the hour. This would be similar to earning $133 to $266 per hour at work.

Although these numbers may seem attractive, the amount of time writing good material, perfecting it, and ensuring to deliver it well is not an easy task. The pay a comedian gets from a comedy club varies widely. There’s no set amount a club can pay to their performers and comedians.

An important thing to keep in mind regarding professional comedian headliners is that they are independent contractors and do not receive a fixed salary. They are paid for each gig or performance accordingly.

Comedians who perform at corporate events can make almost five to ten times of what they earn at a comedy club, whereas cruise ship comics can generate an even higher income. Nevertheless, these gigs do not come easy and depend on a comedian’s reputation and whether their material is appropriate for their company.

A stand-up comedian delivering a joke

How Much Do Different Types of Comedians Earn?

There are various nuances of stand-up comedian rates in the comedy club scene of each city. Many comedians will share that they get zero to $20 for each set they perform at a comedy club. Even comedians with Netflix specials can struggle to get good payment for their sets in some comedy clubs. Nevertheless, there are different jobs comedians can try to generate a better income.

College Comedians

College comedians are comics who work as a part of NACA or APCA showcases. These organizations allow college campuses to promote their events. Comedians who perform at the college showcases can expect to make around $800 to $1200 per show.

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Corporate Comedians

There are different comedians who also deliver performances for corporate company events. A business can hire headliner comedians to perform a gig for office parties, gatherings, and networking events. These comedians are paid almost five to ten times what they would earn as headliners at a comedy club.

Cruise Ship Comedians

A few talented comedians also get hired to work on cruise ships to entertain the passengers. These comedians usually earn almost $500 to $1500 per show, which is a great amount of money. Their earnings also depend on the type of performance they deliver to the crowd.

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How much do stand-up comedians make? You would be surprised. This week James D. Creviston dives into the numbers and gives you a peek into the wallet of a stand-up comedian.


The earnings of a person working in the entertainment industry can vary significantly and range from minimum wage to almost millions of dollars. Similarly, comedians can earn $20 to more than $1000 per performance depending on the venue, their style of comedy, the audience, the program they’re performing for, and what their performance entails. A comedian’s salary is not fixed and can depend on fame, talent, and fan following as well. Now, whether you are watching a performance at a comedy club in Houston or a comedy club in Boston, you’ll know how hard each professional works to pursue their passion.