Punchline Magazine anaylsis: What makes a stand-up comedian?

By | April 27, 2011 at 1:44 pm | 4 comments | News, Opinion | Tags:

What does it exactly take to call yourself a “stand-up comedian?”

Is after you take the stage for the first time and kill amongst your friends? Or after you bomb terribly? Do you have to go up night in and night out performing anywhere from clubs and theatres to the corners of laundromats?

How about using your stardom and an appearance on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon to tell one joke that’s “based” on an actual working comedian’s material? Does that count?

This past Monday, Harry Potter himself, Daniel Radcliffe, appeared on Fallon and told one joke that’s based on British comedian Peter Kay. Though Radcliffe was goaded by Fallon to perform and Radcliffe would most likely not call himself a comedian, every post/article about his appearance made it seem that Radcliffe had his “stand-up comedy debut.”

And even though the headlines, for the most part, were written with tongue slightly in cheek, the mentions made it sound like he was any other hard working comic “cutting their teeth” in LA or NY at open mics, small shows where no one is there to see comedy, getting ready for their single moment to be in the national spotlight. Regardless, it brings the above question to light.

If you talk to “road comics” who make their living performing all over the world no matter if it’s in Wisconsin or in Hollywood, some might tell you that you’re not a stand-up comedian until you’re physically ill, vastly deprived of sleep, in a room full of far-gone drunks that could care less what you have to say and perform that you have the right to call yourself a stand up comedian.

Perhaps, earning such a title isn’t that extreme, but it’s certainly one that’s up for debate as many celebrities as of late have taken to starting their own comedy tour exploiting their fame to get them surpass the painful process in coming up as a stand up comedian. The opposite is also true as many popular comedians have tried making rap albums non-ironically and get play because of their name. Are they real MCs?

What do you think? What do you think it takes to legitimately call yourself a stand-up comedian?

About the Author

Jake Kroeger

Jake Kroeger has dedicated his life, for better or probably worse, to comedy. Starting and continually running the Comedy Bureau, a voice for LA comedy, by himself, he also writes and performs stand-up comedy in LA and watches more live comedy than is probably humanly tolerable. He's been a daily contributor to Punchline Magazine, now Laughspin.com because he loves and believes in comedy so much. Said of Kroeger, "...without his dangerously insane, unhealthy work ethic, certain comics would not have any press at all."

  • http://www.funnyindian.com Rajiv Satyal

    $50 K.

    That’s my answer. Ha.

    Well, here’s my point: You can call yourself a comedian when you make enough money doing standup to pay the bills. Until that time, you’re an aspiring comedian.

    I say $50 K because that’s what you’d need in LA (where I live) to survive. That number would vary depending upon where you dwell.

    Similarly, I think you can call yourself any professional title once you’re making enough doing it to support yourself. If I make $50 K this year acting… voila… I’m an actor.

    So, that’s it. $50 K.

    A philosophical debate boiled down to a number.

    Spoken (or written) like a true nerd.

  • http://www.timdavisnetwork.com Tim Davis

    In my opinion, someone can call themselves a stand up when they get an audience to laugh that didn’t want to laugh, made a joke work that didn’t get a laugh and can do a late night prom set.

  • http://www.facebook.com/thefakemarkgonzales Mark Gonzales

    its very subjective but personally “stand-up comedian” is a title that you have to earn. you can take all the classes you want, go to all the open mics you need to but that still doesnt make you one.

    you’ll know when the time has come to call yourself a comedian. as far as timeframe, it depends on the person. it took me 2 years to feel comfortable enough to start calling myself a comedian and thats only because i felt like i finally deserved it. going up 7 nights a week, killing more than bombing and being asked to perform on shows is a huge honor. its kind of like becoming a cop, you must go through training and when your ready to represent the force, you’ve earned the right to call yourself an police officer.

  • Adam Holwerda

    I think (and feel free to call me an idiot, Canadians) you’re a standup comic when that’s the thing you are before anything else.

    Like, there’s runners. Then there’s people who run sometimes and want to be runners. Then there’s people who never run but want to call themselves runners.

    It’s an interesting debate. When does the definition fail to describe the label?

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