You can break into comedy writing and earn a paycheck at the same time. You can work as a freelancer or a full-time staffer, but it takes motivation to get yourself into the market.
Do you have a knack for making great toasts at weddings? Then try your hand at writing them for others. If you search the Internet for “speech-writing services,” you'll find dozens of companies offering their services to CEOs, politicians, and anyone who gets tongue-tied in front of an audience. Another place you can offer your writing services is
Are you great at writing jokes but have no interest in performing standup yourself? Try writing jokes for other comics. Many well-known comics have freelance writers who submit jokes to them on a regular basis. If they like the joke, they send you a check. Some television shows also accept prescreened freelancers' submissions for use in their monologues. In Los Angeles it's not unusual to see a comic read some jokes out of his notebook on stage, and then collect cash from comics eager to make those jokes their own.
Newspapers and Magazines
Being a freelance writer for newspapers and magazines is a great way to get your work noticed. It will also help you build up a body of work that could later lead to a book of comic essays — or better yet, a nationally syndicated column. The best way to get started is to submit some writing to your local newspaper and work your way up.
Greeting cards are big business. Billions are sold every year, and funny cards are a big chunk of the market. If you think that you can write a funny line that would cheer up someone's day, you might want to pursue a career as a greeting card writer. And it's not just the big companies that get all the action. About a third of the market consists of smaller companies with their own clientele in specialty stores. The quality and low cost of printing makes it an inexpensive proposition to try your luck at selling your own line of cards to smaller, independent stores that aren't beholden to the larger companies.
Light Humor Books
There is a huge market for comedy books that are purchased mostly as gifts or impulse buys. Hundreds of titles are published every year. Books like Simon Bond's 101 Uses for a Dead Cat, Tim Berg and Tim Nyberg's Duct Tape Book series, and Daniel Butler, Alan Ray, and Leland Gregory's Dumbest Criminal series are big sellers that spawn sequels. If a topical story breaks in the news, there might just be a couple of books about it in the stores a week later. Also, new joke books and humor books on every subject from golf to parenting are published every year. While they're not exactly Tom Sawyer, they don't pretend to be anything more than books that provide a few laughs and brighten people's days. With the ease of self-publishing these days, you can easily write and sell your own books both online and after your stand-up shows to make extra cash.
In addition to his successful comedy column for the Miami Herald, Dave Barry has written dozens of best-selling books and screenplays. He even had a sitcom called Dave's World based on his column that ran on CBS from 1993 to 1997.
In the days before inexpensive, quality printing, vanity presses — where you paid to have your book published — left a lot of disillusioned would-be authors with a garage full of books they couldn't sell. But with services such as Lulu (
Writing for Kids
The children's market is one of the most profitable and most overlooked markets for comedy. Even if you put aside all the children's books that are published every year and just focus on actual performances for kids, the possibilities are endless. Writing and performing shows for kids is just as satisfying and difficult as it is performing for adults (if not more so). You can take your show to private parties, schools, childcare facilities, and theaters.
Is writing for kids as important as writing for adults?
Absolutely! Are kids less important than adults? If you treat the job like it's beneath you, you probably won't write anything significant. But if you put your whole self into writing for kids and write with passion, you might be a hit. Look at it this way: Who do you think has had more impact on the world — Jackie Collins or Dr. Seuss?
If you're wondering what has happened to the great American sitcom, you don't have to look very far. Just flip to Nickelodeon or the Disney Channel, and you'll find almost as many sitcoms as there are on the networks for grown-ups. And they can be just as successful when you factor in merchandising to a very loyal fan base (think Hannah Montana). If you want to write in the traditional sitcom format, kid's television might be for you.