Have you ever considered pursuing a career in the limelight as a professional entertainer? This interview will take you through the ups and downs you can expect, what it takes to land the job, what you can expect to earn and more. This is a true career story as told to DiversityJobs and is one of many interviews with individuals in the entertainment profession which among others includes a Singer, a Circus Performer, and everything in between.
I have been working in the entertainment business as a stand-up comedienne for the past two years. I'd describe myself as humorous, self-deprecating and bewildered.
I am a Caucasian female, which hasn't exactly hurt me or helped me in the entertainment business. I feel I mostly break even, but I have found that it is harder to be a woman in some circumstances. When I've encountered some male comedy club owners, they automatically assume that I'm another ditzy blonde and I feel like I have to work twice as hard to prove them wrong. This actually helps my act and material, but I resent that I feel the need to prove myself.
I'd describe what I do as a huge leap of faith and at times, downright terrifying. When I get up on stage in front of a crowd that have paid money and expect to laugh, I feel a huge amount of pressure, but once I get in the groove and get the first chuckles from the audience, my confidence rears back, the sweating slows down, my hands stop shaking, and I forget why I was nervous in the first place. A common misunderstanding that I've encountered is that women are not funny. In my experience, women are the funnier of the sexes - at least the ones I've met.
On a scale of 1 to 10, I'd rate my job satisfaction at about an 8. I'd like to change the pay, as it can be dismal, although most stand-up comedians will tell you they don't do it for the money. While that's true, it wouldn't hurt to make an obscene amount of money for doing what I love and not having to work two jobs.
This job makes my heart swell with happiness when I can make a crowd laugh riotously at my jokes. There's nothing like having to pause before your next bit because you won't be heard over the crowd's laughter.
I got started in this line of work on a dare. I was always the class clown, from grade school all the way through college. One of my friends dared me to get up on stage during an open mic night and I did. It was one of the best nights of my life, and I wouldn't change a thing other than I'd have started earlier.
I learned the hard way that not everyone will think your brand of humor is funny. I was heckled by a group of men at a comedy club and I reacted quite badly to it by engaging them in a debate about "what is funny." Insults were spewed on both sides, and I learned that you have to ignore the people who don't find you funny and concentrate on the people who do laugh at your jokes.
The single most important thing I learned outside of school about the working world was to be yourself. All the other good personalities are taken.
The strangest thing that's ever happened to me in this job was a comedy club owner expecting me to provide sexual favors in return for performing in his comedy club. Not only was it strange, but insulting and scary. And I'm not alone, as a few of my female comic friends have encountered similar situations.
I get up and go to work every day because I love what I do. It's the most amazing feeling when someone comes up to me after a show and tells me I made their stomach hurt from laughing. That makes it all worth it, and then some.
I don't think my job is too stressful, until I encounter writer's block. Although this is rare for me, it can be detrimental when you're trying to come up with new bits and jokes for your act. I maintain a healthy work-life balance by stepping away from writing new material, taking a breather for a few days and coming back refreshed and with new ideas.
The salary in this field can vary greatly, as you're paid per performance. If it's a large venue, you can be paid anywhere from $150-$500, depending on the owner's pay scales. Sadly, it's not a lucrative business unless you're Dane Cook or Louis CK and get megamillion deals for standup and TV series.
I can take vacation anytime I feel like it. But there's a rub - if I don't book shows, I don't get paid. It's basically like a freelance gig. No work, no play.
You don't need a formal education necessarily to succeed in comedy, but you do need to be funny. You have to show that your act will bring people into the club and keep them there.
I would tell a friend considering breaking into stand-up comedy to check their skin - and make sure it's thick. There is a ton of criticism in this business, and it can be devastating to someone who dwells on negativity.
If I could write my own ticket, in five years I'd be doing exactly what I'm doing, but on a larger scale and in bigger venues. With a ton more fans, of course!
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