Tuesday, October 12, 2010

How to Make $20 Million a Year as a Comedian

Want to pull in $20 million per year as a comedian? Get a puppet.

At least that's the message sent by a recent Forbes article on America's 10 Top-Earning Comedians. Two of the Top 3 grossing acts are ventriloquists. Here's the full list:
  1. Jeff Dunham, $22.5 million
  2. Dane Cook, $21 million
  3. Terry Fator, $20 million
  4. Chelsea Handler, $19 million
  5. George Lopez, $18 million
  6. Larry the Cable Guy, $16.5 million
  7. Russell Peters, $15 million
  8. Jeff Foxworthy, $11 million
  9. Howie Mandel, $11 million
  10. Bill Engvall, $10.5 million

According to the article, "the comics had to count stand-up as their primary income, a qualification that left funnymen like Jerry Seinfeld, Conan O'Brien and Jay Leno off this year's list." Curiously missing from the list is prop comic Carrot Top, who is undoubtedly raking in big bucks for his ongoing gig at the Luxor in Vegas.

I'm not sure we can read too much into the list, but let's try. Here's a breakdown by style:
  • 33% Blue Collar Comedians (Cable Guy, Foxworthy and Engvall)
  • 20% Ventriloquists (Dunham and Fator)
  • 20% Minority Comedians (Lopez and Peters)
  • 10% Female Comedians (Handler)
  • 20% Other. High Energy? High Style? (Cook and Mandel)
Clearly it helps to have a gimmick. And before you flame me in the comments section, let me put that a more palatable way -- clearly it helps to have an easily definable style.

Being funny is one thing. Being marketable to the masses is another.

To successfully crack the Top 10 for next year you very well may need a good hook. So while you're working on your killer monologue, don't forget to work on your packaging.

You need a good angle. Or maybe just a puppet.

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