Apr 17, 2020
If you wanted to become a professional standup comedian in the 1990s, the path was pretty straightforward. You started by going to amateur open mic nights, where you would hone your act. Eventually, you’d develop five to 10 minutes of solid material and maybe get a slot opening for a bigger comedian. From there you’d work yourself up to bigger and bigger gigs, and if you were really talented and lucky, you’d land a slot on a late-night talk show, or, even better, get signed to an hour-long special for HBO.
These days, the path for the aspiring comedian is completely different. Sure, there’s still the open mic nights and the club gigs. But there’s also a bevvy of online platforms that you can leverage to sharpen your craft and build a following. You might collaborate with other comedians and write sketches for a YouTube channel. You can practice your one-liners on Twitter. And you’ll definitely want to launch a podcast.
As a full-time standup comedian, Joel Byars has employed several of these strategies. I interviewed Byars about how comedians market themselves in this golden age of standup comedy and asked him why he decided to self-produce his own comedy special.