Are You Funny? This Stay-at-Home Comedian Makes $1 Million a Year

A light up sign says comedy with a red chair and microphone next to it.
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I was going to incorporate myself as a comedian, but I was afraid I would become a laughing stock.

That line probably helps explain why I’m writing for a living instead of standing on a stage making people laugh. I also hate being the center of attention if there are more than a few people present. If you share my stage fright, but still think you’re funny enough to make money as a comedian, what can you do?

Why not become a millionaire comedic superstar from the comfort and anonymity of your own bedroom or basement? Or at least make a few bucks from some minor fame?

All you need to get started (apart from being hilarious) is some basic video recording equipment, a YouTube channel and a blog or website. That’s right; you can become a stay-at-home online comedian.

Can You Make Money as a Comedian Without Leaving Your House?

Yes. People do it all the time by putting their funny videos on YouTube. And the profit potential from these video performances might surprise you. The Wall Street Journal estimates comedian Ray William Johnson made $1 million in a single year from his YouTube videos.

For his show, “Equals Three,” he commented on whatever viral videos caught his attention. Although Johnson recently retired from it after five years, he’s had another comedian take over, doing similar routines for the channel. The view counts for the latest videos suggest he still makes good profits.

I’ve reported on how to make money on YouTube before. The basic process is simple enough to explain: You upload videos, promote them (and hope they get found in Google and YouTube search results), and monetize them with Google AdSense. You get paid for clicks on the ads, or sometimes just for each time they’re viewed.

Making Money on YouTube Isn’t Easy

It’s simple in theory, but it isn’t exactly easy. The average revenue per 1,000 views is just $6.33, so you need a lot of people to watch your videos before you can make a living from them. At that rate (and your revenue rate might be lower), a million people watching your videos translates into about $6,300. If just 100 of your Facebook friends watch it, you can expect to make about 63 cents.

Then there is the work involved. In addition to being a comedian, you’ll have to be a marketer. Telling all your social media friends and contacts about your latest videos is a start, but you’ll also want to learn how to optimize your videos so they can be found by people doing Google or YouTube searches.

You’ll probably be the camera operator too. Fortunately you don’t need expensive equipment. More than one video tutorial explains how to make amateur video look professional, but it does take a lot of work.

Are You Funny Enough?

Sure, your mom thinks you’re hilarious, but will the rest of the world? You can ask your friends, but they might be too nice to tell you the truth — or they might prefer to let you fail on a larger stage rather than shoot you down now. You need more honest evaluations.

Put your humor to the test. Stand in front of your camera, say and/or do something funny, load up the resulting video, and pay attention to the comments you get from viewers. On your video page, just below the tally of “views,” there are “thumbs up” and “thumbs down” icons viewers can click to indicate whether they like or dislike the video. See if you get more positive votes than negative ones, but keep in mind that if your humor is offensive to some you might get a few “thumbs down” even if you are hilarious.

For ideas on what kind of humor does well, check out videos of stand-up comedy routines done by well-known comedians. The laughter and comments are clues to what you might try. And keep in mind that while you can’t copy their jokes, you can learn style and timing from the professionals.

How Much Can You Make?

It’s possible you won’t make a single dollar from your online comedy. It depends on factors like how funny you are, how well you promote your work and whether the right person stumbles upon your videos and puts them in front of a thousand Facebook friends, starting a viral trend. Certainly, it isn’t likely you’ll make a million dollars per year like Ray William Johnson. But it might be fun to make even 1% of that doing comedy videos as a side business.

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To see the potential, check out comedy channels on YouTube. You’ll notice there are many comedians you haven’t heard of. When you click through to each channel, note how many views they have and estimate the potential income using the figure of $6.33 per 1,000 views (or just round it down to $5.00 for simplicity). You might be surprised by how many have millions of views for their channels or even for individual videos.

For example, Tyler Oakley has a couple dozen videos that have topped a million views. Or consider the channel called, “Dan Is Not on Fire. The comedian’s bio (with grammar corrected) simply says, “Hello I’m Dan I make videos about how awkward I am and people laugh at me.” The tally for all of his videos is approaching 300 million views!

To fully profit from your funniness and still stay at home, starting a blog is a good idea, both as a platform for selling your products and as a place for followers to get to know you better. Ray William Johnson sold T-shirts to supplement his video income. The New York Times reports that some stand-up comedians sell video downloads of their stage routines, and there’s no reason you couldn’t do the same as a stay-at-home comedian.

MP3 audio downloads are another possibility, or you could start a weekly or monthly podcast. If you happen to be a good comedy writer, you might also write and sell funny books. You can publish on Amazon Kindle at no cost, and promote your ebooks on your blog and YouTube channel.

Here’s a list of some of the ways you can cash in on your ability to make people laugh:

  • Put videos on YouTube
  • Sell videos on your blog
  • Sell personalized funny videos on Fiverr
  • Sell MP3 downloads
  • Sell T-shirts, coffee mugs and other funny items
  • Monetize your blog with Google AdSense
  • Write for greeting card companies
  • Write and sell books or ebooks
  • Put videos on alternatives to YouTube to promote your blog or books
  • Leave the house and get on a real stage

There you have it — and all but the last option above allow you to stay at home while you make money making people laugh.