Laughter is, research has proven, crucial for all aspects of human wellbeing — mental and physical health benefit from laughing regularly, and bonding over something funny is an integral part of social relationships. Looking at life from that angle, comedy writers have one of the most important jobs in the world.
If you have excellent writing skills and are innately funny, you may have wondered whether you could become a professional comedy writer — as well as what your earning potential could be if you were to be successful. Let’s take a look!
Average Salary for Comedy Writers
You may be surprised to learn that popular career websites have compiled average yearly salaries for comedy writers. ZipRecruiter, for instance, reports that:
- The average annual base salary for a comedy writer in the United States is $55,283, which amounts to $27 per hour — significantly higher than the federal minimum wage.
- The lowest earners, who make up 29 percent of all jobs in this field, make between $19,500 and $26,499 per year.
- Top-earning comedy writers, which according to ZipRecruiter constitute a mere nine percent of all comedy writers, make more than $89,500 annually.
As you read these details, you should keep in mind that ZipRecruiter is, here, referring to comedy writers in TV, film, for radio, and in other forms of entertainment that center around traditional media. Comedy writers may also, in 2021, find ample career opportunities in digital media, even as freelancers. This fact is not currently included in their estimates.
The popular site Glassdoor also reports average annual earnings for comedy writers, and they estimate it to amount to $55,520.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics keeps tabs on average earnings in a wide variety of professions, as well. They report that the median annual earnings for writers and authors in all categories was $67,120 in 2020. In the performing arts and related fields — which would include comedy writing — the median yearly salary is higher, the BLS estimates, at $82,350.
These figures tell you what you can, potentially, earn a year as a comedy writer — if you are successful. They do not tell you what you will earn if you attempt to get by in this profession.
Salary Based on Experience and Education
Even in other writing-related fields, candidates’ and professionals’ earning potential may follow a fairly predictable path. If you look at resume writers, academic writers, technical writers, and web content writers, for instance, you will see a clear and expected trend. Those with more advanced qualifications, and in some cases professional credentials, can expect to earn more. The same holds true for people with more years of experience in a given field.
The same is not necessarily true for comedy writing. Should you land your dream job as a comedy writer on a radio or TV show, you may reasonably expect that your salary will rise with time. However, comedy writers must also stay relevant and remain funny.
No reliable data regarding career progression is available for this field, unfortunately.
Top Paying States for Comedy Writers
Data recorded by ZipRecruiter suggests that comedy writers in the following states make more money than those in other states:
- Washington State
- New Jersey
It is also important to note that many comedy writing opportunities are now remote or web-based, however, and that this fact will influence your earning potential as a comedy writer.
What Exactly Does a Comedy Writer Do?
At the very essence of this job description lies the ability to use writing to make people laugh. Comedy writers write humorous scripts or lines to entertain people or to make them think. Beyond that single common thread, however, individual comedy writers can work in almost countless different settings.
Some may write scripts for TV shows, whether sitcoms or late-night programs. Some comedy writers help stand-up comedians come up with novel and funny lines. Some may be consulted for their skills as comedy writers as companies or non-profit organizations come up with messages to connect with their respective audiences. Some comedy writers create humorous content for radio or theater, while others do so for print or online media. In certain cases, comedy writers may even be engaged to test potential scripts for potential comedians, and to help create funnier lines.
Comedy writers have extremely varied job descriptions and responsibilities, then, but their sense of humor and ability to consistently make others laugh lies at the heart of it all.
Qualifications to Be a Comedy Writer
Those who have the ambition to be successful comedy writers may benefit from considering degrees related to writing — majors in creative writing, English, English literature, communications, drama, TV, film, and communications could all be useful. Many of these qualifications will teach you the fundamentals of excellent writing, and those are without doubt invaluable to comedy writers.
To truly be able to understand what makes people laugh, and why, however, it is also crucial to have a deep understanding of human nature. Studying psychology could be a path to explore for this reason.
Skills Needed to Be a Comedy Writer
Comedy writers draw on a surprisingly varied set of skills to be able to do their jobs successfully. You may not need an advanced degree to be a comedy writer, but you do — absolutely — require strong natural talents. These innate abilities can be nurtured over time, but only if you started from a solid foundation.
Skills comedy writers rely on include:
- Strong creative writing skills. You can hone these over time, but a certain extent of talent is probably required. Comedy writers create scripts, which will likely require structure, plot, and an excellent vocabulary, whether the material they craft is performance-based or strictly publication-based. The good news is that creative writing skills can be learned.
- Being funny. We all possess a sense of humor. The sense of humor a comedy writer has will have to align with other people’s ideas of what is funny, or they will not be able to appeal to a sufficiently broad audience.
- Life experience. Comedy writers need to have ample material to choose from as they decide how to get a particular message across or make people laugh. The best comedy material can be drawn from common and relatable life situations as well as tragedies or unusual events. The more you have lived, regardless of your age, the more likely you are to be able to pull funny situations from your imagination or experience.
- Rock-solid interpersonal skills. Whether your comedy is ultimately delivered in writing or on stage, a good comedy writer is able to connect with their audience and form a bond. Charisma is important for comedians, but comedy writers only need their writing to speak to others.
Can You Be a Professional Comedy Writer Without a Degree?
Yes, it is possible to become a professional comedy writer without an advanced degree — or even, in some cases, without a high school diploma or equivalent. Some comedy writers begin their careers as stand-up comedians. No formal qualifications are needed to make people laugh. Comedians will, on the other hand, undoubtedly need a thick skin. As they discover what people find funny and entertaining, they’ll also unquestionably make the types of faux pas that get them jeered out of a room.
Life experience will also help; people often unite in laughter around adversity and tragedy, and the more personal examples you have to draw from, the more powerful you can become in your ability to make people laugh.
How to Become a Comedy Writer?
People who have the drive and talent to become comedy writers may practice their creative writing skills, gain experience at open-mic stand-up comedy events to establish whether they have the skills to consistently make people laugh, and constantly practice their lines on everyone they meet. They may wish to explore advanced education in fields related to writing, and being open to perfecting their craft in other writing-related fields may be desired.
In addition to this, aspiring comedy writers will want to network as much as possible. By gaining connections in the comedy field and making creative use of them, you can create the perfect opportunities that allow your skills to shine.
Comedy Writers Job Outlook
The need to laugh, have fun, and forget about the stresses of everyday life is very human. There will always be a demand for comedy. Unlike more traditional fields, however, comedy writing lacks a clear career progression. Most comedy writers will find themselves without the job stability many workers in other fields have.
To be able to pay the bills, some aspiring comedy writers — perhaps already having pursued degrees in related fields — may, at least temporarily, turn to other types of writing. Copywriting, web content writing, and various kinds of creative writing may all have a higher immediate potential to bring in earnings.