Why Top Tier Comedians Continue to Get Paid Handsomely
The best comics on the planet are in the top tier for a reason: they dedicate their lives to stand-up. Even the most naturally gifted comedians don’t just rely on sheer talent to get by. They work hard, they network, they treat it like a business, some of them even throw out old material every year so they’re forced to come up with something fresh and original in the next year – whatever it takes not just to make a living out of doing comedy, but to make it big.
What do all of these big time hard-hitters have in common?
#1 They Secure Network Deals
Since the 90s, nearly everything about comedy has changed in some way save for one thing: Seinfeld is still on top. In a Forbes list of the highest paid comedians, he managed to earn $69 million from June 2016 to 2017, securing the top spot once again after falling to a still impressive spot in second place last year. There’s no big secret to Seinfeld’s success. A big chunk of that $69 million comes from his eight-figure Netflix checks both from his stand-up specials as well as his groundbreaking show Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee.
#2 They Can Handle Any Situation
Here at Manhattan Comedy School we know how important flexibility is to any aspiring career comedian. If you want to be one of the biggest names in the industry, you have to know how to handle almost any situation that may arise when you’re onstage. Just like Bill Burr, you have to be scathingly relentless in handling hecklers. Like Todd Barry, you need to know how to coax something funny out of typically boring crowd interactions. If you want to be on top, always be ready to handle anything.
#3 They Tour Regularly
In 2016, the highest paid comic in the world was Kevin Hart who made an impressive $87.5 million. While Hart has other ventures apart from stand-up, a big chunk of that was from the over 100 live shows that he did that year in sold-out arenas and stadiums. And it’s not just Hart. During the time that Chris Rock was missing from the movies, as he was out doing what he loved: taking his show on the road. It’s hard work, but it’s what makes household names.
#4 They Don’t Let Success Get to Their Heads
Dave Chappelle has some controversial views that he often airs onstage, but he never comes off as too arrogant or mean-spirited. Kevin Hart is a self-confessed hoarder of designer clothes, but he always takes care to maintain a humble public image, making sure that his extravagant onstage persona translates well in off-stage interactions.
Complex claims these two highly successful and ridiculously rich comedians have nothing but respect for each other. While humility and being low-key is not always the key to lucrative success, it’s one of the most effective methods to holding on to that money once you make it to the top.
#5 They Secure Residencies
While Seinfeld is on top, comedian Terry Fator is at number eight on the list of top earners in 2017. What do these two have in common? They’ve secured residencies from high-paying establishments – Seinfeld is at New York’s Beacon Theater while Fator is at Las Vegas’ Mirage. It has been speculated that Fator earned $18.5 million in 2017, with the bulk of his salary coming from his residency. One of the quickest ways to build a loyal audience, and the bank balance, is creating a solid foundation at one location.
#6 They Still Earn From Residuals
While the bulk of Seinfeld’s cash comes from Netflix, what’s consistently earning him cash on the side are the residual checks from his 90s sitcom. These residuals are just part of his overall earnings. However, it’s basically a source of passive income for the already successful and legendary comic.