Overnight Success and the Reality of a Life in Comedy

Some famous douche, probably British

People that get into the field of stand-up comedy do it for a number of reasons. I won’t take the time to list all of them because comedians are fickle and they likely will say “I didn’t get into it for ANY of those reasons, I did it because of blah blah blah blah”.  I don’t give a shit why you got into stand-up comedy to be honest about it.  However, many of us currently giving comedy a go are seeing really shitty comedians (in my opinion) thrust into the lime light in what appears to be nearly overnight success.  In this blog I am going to take a look at a few careers that seem to be of folks we have never really heard of that are killing it in comedy but seem to have just appeared out of fucking nowhere.

Terry Fator
Now this one is controversial right off the bat because Terry is a puppet act.  Last year he grossed $20 million dollars and I had no fucking clue who he was.  Overnight sensation?  Nope, Terry got started his act in the mid 80’s and only made it big when he got on America’s Got Talent in 2007. Where did Terry perform before the big break? County fairs and anywhere he could get a gig.

Russell Peters
Again, you must be a regular watcher of Comedy Central to know who the hell this guy is.  Maybe it’s just me, but I had no fucking clue this guy existed until this past year.  He raked in $15 million last year globally doing stand-up with no puppet.  Now, I am not saying money is the determining factor of success, but you are no loser in comedy when you make $15 million unless you are Larry the Cable Guy (gimmick comic) in my book.  He started in 1989 and finally started making it as a comic 17 years later.  Not bad, and far ahead of the normal career spike.

On to some not huge, but definitely being booked everywhere comics starting to make it big.

Kyle Kinane

Kyle Kinane
Kyle has been moving up the ladder lately in the world of comedy headlining clubs all over the country but still keeping a firm grasp on his every-man persona by remaining easily accessible to fans and comics.  He opened for Patton Oswalt on a tour in 2009 and recorded his debut album in 2010 “Death of the Party“.  He is one you will see in movies and in larger roles in the very near future.  While he isn’t raking in millions, he is making a living and not starving anymore.  He started his comedy career in 1999.

Reggie Watts
I have heard comics hate on Reggie because he is a musical comic and not the traditional set-up, punchline kind.  However, you can’t deny that you probably have at least heard his name and a year or so ago, you probably had not.  Reggie is now making a living as a comedian with his beat box driven musical compositions, but once again, is no overnight sensation.  Reggie got his start in Seattle performing in bands beginning in the early 90’s but moved to NYC in 2002 to make it a go as a solo comedic performer.  In 2004 one of his videos he put together for CollegeHumor.com went viral and this spawned the birth of an online fanbase that keeps Reggie on the road throughout the year.  That’s right, his big break came in 2004, but he didn’t really hit the ‘mainstream’ radar until 2009-2010.

Not many comedians make it in their 20’s, yet every week I hear about some young comic that has moved to LA in hopes of making it big, likely without the reality check that it is going to take them years in LA and NY potentially before anyone gives a shit. What we see is a decade is about the amount of time it will take to even really make a living doing comedy, sometimes longer.

A notable exception to this rule is Bo Burnham who started his comedy career in 2006 by posting a video of a song he wrote so his brother could see it, the video went viral and two years later he had his own Comedy Central special.  So….. If you don’t have witty funny shit that you are putting on Youtube, expect to be in this for the long haul.  Even if you DO, the odds are stacked against you.  Reality check delivered.  You are welcome!

Matt Ward is a stand-up comedian living in Knoxville, Tennessee.  He has 15 years experience in the entertainment industry promoting, producing, performing and marketing live events. He only has 5 years under his belt as a comedian, so he is currently living on a diet of canned food and peanuts while on the road.

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Matt Ward is a comedian, comedy show producer and promoter, web designer, graphic designer, musician, father and occasional fisherman.

One Comment

  1. Anonymous
    March 21, 2012
    Reply

    Also I feel that comics that are too young need to take a while to build an act before trying out a big city. There’s only so much longevity to call of duty and working at a grocery store jokes can hold. I really think mid 20s is a good time to start because you’ve experienced enough life. I mean being 19 can give you about 30 minutes TOPS of material… unless you’re some prodigy.
    -Derek

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