by Jonas Polsky
If you’re reading this, you’re probably wondering how you can sell jokes to stand up comedians.
The short answer, is that there’s not really a market.
Professional stand up comedians generate their own material, that’s why they’re able to make a living at it. A guy who can only tell jokes without being able to write them won’t have much of a chance as a stand up comic.
Once upon a time, in the era of vaudeville, comedians didn’t have unique voices. They were a bunch of guys onstage telling old jokes. For the most part, they didn’t even tour. Back then, you could sell a joke to a comic passing through town, and he could go perform it for audiences in another state, and no one would know that you were both doing the same act.
In a world of televised stand up and the internet, sharing material in this manner is impossible. What does happen however, is that comedians freely give jokes to each other. Not their own jokes, mind you, but they’ll write a “tag” or supporting punchline for another comic’s bit, and offer it to them for free.
The demand for jokes is much higher now, but joke originality is prized highest of all. Even if you cornered Louis CK and told him your incredible joke, he probably wouldn’t want to perform it because it wouldn’t be “his.” It’s not his unique idea to show off to audiences, which is the essence of why people do stand up.
There are situations like a roast, or televised hosting gig where comics solicit jokes from their close friends, but they are generally looking for topical jokes, or jokes specifically written for that event. There is a chance for money in these situations, but only for friends of the comedian performing. So to be in that spot, you’d need to already be performing stand up, and be friends with the comedian who is going to be on TV.
The likelihood that Jerry Seinfeld hears your joke, then convulses with laughter while opening his wallet is in the realm of zero percent. My advice is; if you’re coming up with hilarious jokes, find some stage time and do stand up in front of a crowd. That’s why comedians do it.
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