What are the best day and night jobs you can have when you’re trying to make it in comedy?

It always cracks me up when people come to open mic and say they’re going to “try comedy out” since they hate their job or have been laid off.  From your first open mic to the time you can make enough money to survive will most likely be at least five years.  That’s minimum.  That’s assuming you’re really good, have some luck, and can survive on a poverty-type lifestyle.  Perhaps you’re still living at home or having your parents support you (but who would admit to that?).  Rent is usually the largest expense.

You’ll need very flexible jobs while you’re building your act and gaining stage experience.  The best job to have as a beginning comic is to work at the comedy club.  That’s where I got my start (I had no intention of ever taking the stage).  Seeing hundreds of shows teaches you so much.  When I started MCing I had all of the announcements memorized.  I saw the things that worked, the things that didn’t work, and the things that infuriated other comics and the staff.  It also led to a lot of gigs because I knew who was coming up on the schedule and could get my requests in early.

***However***  There is a point where you need to stop working at your home club.  That’s discussed in my book, Don’t Wear Shorts on Stage.  Feel free to order a copy (paperback or ebook).

The second job I recommend is for the stage of your career when you’re starting to work the road a little.  Maybe you’re getting MC weeks around the state and taking uneconomical one-nighters 300 miles away for $100 to build your experience and learn what the road is like.  I know quite a few comics who started, but never finished college.  Well you’re in luck.  For states like here in Missouri, you only need 60 hours of college credit to substitute teach.  Subbing is the PERFECT job for a part-time touring comic for the following reasons:

–It’s usually at least $90 a day.

–You have to adapt to every situation (2nd graders are a tough crowd) and learn to improv while you’re uncomfortable.

–It forces you to get up early instead of wasting your 20s away sleeping in.

–It is validating most days.  You can have fun no matter what the assignment is.

–It’s 100% flexible.  Almost every school has an online booking system (some even have an app!) for getting subbing gigs.  It’s very easy to fill one to five days a week.  Five days pays at least $450 which is about the average feature pay for a week.

Do your research and find a good district nearby.  Pick your battles in the classroom and take it seriously.  It’s a good chance to put on your professional skin.

I could go on and on, as I subbed for six or seven years and am now teaching full time.  Google subbing tips or find me for more questions about the job.

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About Rob Durham

With an English Degree, three years as a doorman at the Columbus Funnybone, over a decade of stand-up experience, and a recent certification in teaching high school English class, writing a book seemed like the next inevitable step for Rob Durham. The son of a coach, Rob has an excellent ability to teach and explain things in the easiest and most direct way possible. His (often labeled ridiculous) memory allows him to think of every possible situation that a new comic might face because at one point he was there too. Rob gives an inside look at comedy that doesn’t sugarcoat the challenges every performer faces. Without ego and the myth that “anyone can do it” Rob gives the reader a true feel of what living the so-called dream feels like, from preparing for that first open mic night to touring the country. View all posts by Rob Durham

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