The very best comedy writers in the entertainment business can make up to several million dollars per year or even per project. Clearly, however, the odds of getting to the mountaintop of joke-making are really no different than becoming an A-list actor or a superstar professional athlete. But if you do in fact aspire to become a master joke artist one day, what can you expect to earn as you work your way up? If you have a job writing for a TV show, what do you get paid? What are the ways you can supplement your primary source of income with joke-related pay? Here are some thoughts I put together to give you a sense of what up-and-coming comedy writers can expect to take home.
Big cities pay (established) comedic talent relatively well
In doing a bit of research on this topic, I found that comedy writers in the usual suspect regional hotspots (NY/DC/LA) can expect to earn up to $90K per year. My source did not categorize the type of comedy writer here, but this is likely for a job like the lead sitcom writer or the funny features person on a popular talk show.
New comedy writers may have to live at home
Another source I found suggested that burgeoning comedy writers in Hollywood make $36K per year before taxes. I am pretty sure rents in Southern California are not as extreme as those here in New York so maybe that kind of pay will still allow that aspiring writer live independently. However, let’s be real, most likely this guy or gal is living with Mom and Dad. At least you get to stay on their insurance plan until your 26, but I digress.
Ghost-writing jokes is a great side gig option
Maybe getting a job at The Daily Show won’t work out and there just isn’t room for you on Saturday Night Live. If you still believe in your ability to make the mundane funny, consider ghost writing for standup comedians in need of fresh ideas. They can pay pretty well per joke created and if you are full of them and have a captive audience, you may be able to scrape more than a couple of hundred dollars per month if you do it consistently enough.
Debra Wheatman is a certified writer and career coach who has guided the professional development of thousands of clients globally. She is reachable at firstname.lastname@example.org.