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What Is a Stand-Up Comedian?

Margaret Minnicks has been an online writer for many years. She writes about various topics including celebrities and entertainment.

Kevin Hart

Kevin Hart

Comedy, Comedians, Stand-Up Comedians: Definitions

In order to fully understand comedians and stand-up comedians, it is good to know what comedy is. Comedy is anything that causes people to laugh or be amused.

A comedian or comic is a person who entertains others by making them laugh. However, all people who make people laugh do not end up making a living that way. When you read the profile of great comedians, they say they were the class clown or the one who kept their families in stitches. Comedians use different methods in performances that include mostly jokes.

Stand-up comedy is a comic monologue performed while standing on a stage in front of a live audience. The person literally stands up and performs. That's how the profession got its name.

Late night comedians such as Johnny Carson, Jay Leno, and David Letterman used to perform brief monologues before they sat at a desk to interview their guests. Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Colbert, and Seth Meyers follow that same trend of standing before their studio audience just like the older comedians did on their talk shows.

The comedian usually tells jokes about things he or she knows a lot about including themselves. There are times when the stand-up comedian will make someone in the audience the subject of their jokes in order to connect with the audience.

General Qualities Great Comedians Must Possess

Even though there is no one thing that makes a great comedian, there are some characteristics that most great comedians and stand-up comedians do possess.

  1. Being funny is surely at the top of the list to become a successful comedian.
  2. Comedians should know pop culture and what is going on in the world of politics so they will have enough material to joke about.
  3. Comedians must be able to make the audience laugh consistently during a performance.
  4. Confidence is a characteristic of a great comedian.
  5. Comedians must be able to handle hecklers who are sometimes in the audience.
  6. They shouldn't be thin-skinned to allow negative reviews to make them change careers if they believe comedy is what they were called to do.

Must Haves For Comedians and Stand-Up Comedians

Other than the general characteristics listed above, there are some specific qualities successful comedians must have.

1. Originality

The real test of a great comedian is having original material. No matter how many times a comedian performs, he must have fresh material. No audience wants to hear the same jokes over and over again no matter how funny they were the first time they were told.

2. Longevity

Comedians who last are those who keep up with social trends. They deliver new material that provokes the audience to wonder what is coming next. That's why some people have favorite comedians from generation to generation.

3. Connections

Comedians who do not connect with the crowd usually fall flat on their face. Even though the crowd may consist only of a couple of dozens or a couple of hundreds, comedians must connect with each individual. They should take listeners on a journey along with them. Therefore, they need to be good storytellers.

4. Knowledge of the Audience

Great comedians know their audience, and they adapt their prepared material for different listeners. That means not telling distasteful jokes to a group of church ladies, or adult jokes to a group of teenagers who might not have any ideas what the comedian is talking about. They might sit through the performance because they paid for it, but they might not become loyal fans.

5. Find a Style

When comedians find a style that works for them, they should stick to it. It is a terrible mistake to copy someone's else style. Some of the best and well-known comedians have their own style. For instance, Richard Pryor was a great storyteller, and people held onto his every word and laughed loudly at the end of his stories, Eddie Murphy and Jerry Seinfeld tell funny stories as well.

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6. Delivery

No matter how good a joke is on paper, it does the audience no good if it is not delivered well. There are better professions for people who stutter and for those who are afraid to speak in public.

Great Stand-Up Comedians

Some of the greatest stand-up comedians are those who can talk and make fun of having grown up in poor families. Eddie Murphy, Steve Harvey, Richard Pryor and many others joke about having a challenging childhood.

Bob Hope was the most popular stand-up comedian of the 20th century. He died at the age of 100 after having had a successful 80-year stand-up comedy career. He is mostly known for performing to the armed service troops over 50 years from 1941 to 1991.

Comediennes: Females Comics

Often a female who tells jokes for a living is referred to as a comedienne. You probably know there are more male comedians than females. Most of them have other jobs for their main source of income. Being a comedienne is their side hustle.

Three comediennes are well-known daytime talk show hosts They are Joy Behar of The View, Loni Love of The Real, and Sheryl Underwood of The Talk.

Other well-known comediennes include Wanda Sykes, Amy Schumer, Tina Fey, Amy Poehler, Sarah Silverman, Ellen DeGeneres, Ali Wong, Chelsea Handler, and Kathy Griffin.

Amy Schumer

Amy Schumer

10 Highest Paid Comedians

There are several categories for stand-up comedians. There is the funniest comedian, the best-known comedian, and the highest-paid comedians. Below are the highest-paid comedians, according to Forbes' recent list whether you think they are the funniest or the greatest. Notice only one female is on the list.

  1. Kevin Hart: $87 million
  2. Jerry Seinfeld: $60.5 million
  3. Jim Gaffigan: $44 million
  4. Trevor Noah: $41 million
  5. Sebastian Maniscalco: $38 million
  6. Gabriel Iglesias: $56 million
  7. Amy Schumer: $21 million
  8. Terry Fator: $17 million
  9. Jeff Dunham: $15 million
  10. Aziz Ansari: $13 million


BRENDA ARLEDGE from Washington Court House on January 19, 2020:

Stand up comedians are great.

I like George Carlin and Rodney Carrington plus lots of others.

I enjoy taking an evening to go to local comedy clubs.

Bob Hope was an all time favorite and I loved the fact that he visited the troops.

This is a nice write.

Thanks for sharing.

Prateek Jain from Madhya Pradesh, India on January 19, 2020:

Amazing article mam, this information is useful for global audience. I would strongly recommend everyone to read it once to gather the insight a out stand up comedian work style and mindset.

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