Making Money And Stand-Up

So let’s talk about making money with our creativity.

I have a pet theory that whatever you were doing before you moved into stand-up, that’s how you’re going to do stand-up.

I was singing songs in pubs and clubs, so I approached stand-up like that. Write a bunch of songs (jokes), put them in a running order (set list). Drop the ones that don’t make people dance (laugh). Making money? I’m just happy to not have to pay to play.

Maybe because Jimmy Carr was doing marketing for a blue-chip company, he went straight in at the exec level, figuring out the power structure, befriending gatekeepers and getting ahead.

Before I was singing songs for a bit of money, I had a job. A job is where you have a boss, and if you make them happy you might get a better job, maybe better money.

When we got into stand-up, a lot of us had jobs. Then, when we started getting paid for stand up, we transplanted our job thinking into our stand-up thinking. There’s a boss (a promoter), if you make them happy (by making the audience happy), you get promoted (better gigs – nicer, or more lucrative).

This definitely works and makes sense. We would be nowhere without the circuit and the people who work their tails off trying to put audiences in front of our non-famous asses.

But how do performers like Daniel Kitson and Stewart Lee and Simon Munnery and Richard Herring and… (you finish the list) get to do the art they do? I can’t speak for them, but it seems to me that they didn’t turn it into a job.

It might be design, it might be default, but instead of (or as well as) building a list of bosses and thinking up strategies to please them, they built an audience. Sometimes one person at a time at fringe festivals, sometimes with the help of an accelerant, like TV.

There are two(ish) big companies who own all the famous people, and this duopoly works tirelessly to get their famous people on the TV shows that they make. Let’s not sit around waiting to get picked.

The internet’s a connection machine. “Publish” is a button on a website. You have your own TV channel. You have your own radio station. Go to it!


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