What Is A Stand Up Comedian And How To Become One

2nd May 2022

What Is A Stand Up Comedian And How To Become One
Georgia Carter

Georgia Carter

Do you know the best stand up comedians out there and want to follow in their footsteps? Have you ever wondered how to start writing the best comedy act that will get you seen and make the move from your bedroom to a live audience at a comedy club or on the big screen? I can give you all the info you need to make people laugh and make a career out of it. I will tell you how much stand up comics get paid and of course give you the list of stand up comedians to follow. So keep reading. 

What Is A Stand Up Comedian? 

A stand up comedian is someone who performs up on stage, and addresses a live audience. Have you always wanted to tell stories, jokes, anecdotes, even use props or ventriloquism in your set? Stand up can be performed anywhere including; pubs, festivals, nightclubs or theaters. So if you know you are a born entertainer and always make people laugh, then you may have found your vocation.   

There are particular genres of stand up and this may affect how stand up comedians write their set. 

For example, a comic may use naturalism in their set, making observations of everyday life, the silliness of the norm or they may use music. Another way is using a persona, or satire in terms of making fun at political figures in the press to get a few laughs.  Think about SNL, they are very good at this!

There is ease to their performance and most of the time it will be planned but when in front of a live audience anything can happen, so you must be able to improvise. The first row at a stand up show knows they will be the first to be ridiculed. It’s just common knowledge. 

History And Genres Of Stand Up 

Stand up comedy has been around for many years and its roots are back in the 19th, 20th century when burlesque, vaudeville and music halls were all the rage. There were a few people who made their name as comedians as it were – Nellie Perrier and Finlay Dunn, but it wasn’t a performance that you may expect today. Nellie sang comedy songs and he would mock his large size.

If you look at Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton – both famous for brewing silent comedians started a trend which has accumulated into what we know today. 

First Steps Of Becoming A Stand Up Comedian


Write original material and write jokes for your routine. Do not take other comedian’s material and you need to stand out from the crowd, make a name for yourself. Be unique. The best stand up comedians on Netflix all have a distinct way about them and they have stayed true to this. This is why they have become household names. 


Practice your jokes and create a linear narrative, to ensure the story will be polished and coherent for your audience. Have a lot of back-up material ready in case your set bombs, and remember you really have to be able to engage with an audience, and you have to get them on your side.


Get up on stage as much as you can, then you will see what works and develop your own style. There are open mic nights at comedy clubs or cafes. You may even need to travel to other cities for gigs. 


You can also join improv comedy clubs. There are probably some local to your area and these are the best way to perform in front of an audience and to cut your teeth in the circuit. You will also have to think on your feet as much of the night will be set by the audience suggestions. 


Mentors can be a real gift and if there is a seasoned male or female stand up comic that you can look up to and get advice from, this will in turn help you and keep booking those shows. The comedy world is small, so it can be a lot of networking and who you know. Once you have been performing for many years, you could even merge this into working in tv or film. You know, Judd Apatow, was a male stand up comedian for 8 years before becoming a film comedy writer. And look at Amy Schumer, as a female stand up comedian, she has created, written and starred in her own comedies. 

The critical thing to remember is that if you have the timing, delivery and the punch lines all figured out, your audience will love you, so get out there! 

Best Current Stand Up Comedians

  • Sarah Silverman
  • Amy Schumer
  • Taylor Tomlinson
  • Tina Frey
  • Amy Poehler
  • Katherine Ryan
  • Aisling Bea 
  • Mindy Kaling
  • Jerry Seinfield
  • Jeff Dunham 
  • Ricky Gervais

We must give credit to those who are no longer with us who make it in the comedy sector. For instance, Robin Williams was a true stand up comic and one of the best male comedians to boot. His performances spanned across tv, film and pop culture. 

How Much Do Stand Up Comedians Make? 

On average, a comedian may make £19,500 in the UK and they can earn anywhere between $100-200 per show. However, of course if you are Jerry Seinfield or Kevin Hart, this can be a different story. Jerry is thought to be worth $950 million and Kevin is worth $215 million. Ricky Gervais is thought to be worth £140 million. There is much scope in the field of comedy and what has been a marker in terms of success for any comic is the uniqueness, their USP if you will. You can be like anybody else and so your fans may differ from those of another comedian. 

Final Thoughts

That’s all folks and I hope you are now rattling off your own jokes in your head after reading this, ready for the people to hear and laugh at. You know what makes a great comedian, is that if after the show when you’ve gone to see someone live and you just can’t stop raving about this comedian’s set, and you tell everybody about them? Well that could be you someday!

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