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I hate to say it… but it depends.
The cost to book a comedian depends on a lot of different factors actually. There is no one price fits all answer, unfortunately. However, by the end of this post, you should be better equipped to pay the right amount of money for a great comedian! As a stand-up comedian myself, these are things that I wish past bookers knew before reaching out to me for shows. Ultimately, know your budget, know your event, and do some research on who you book. If possible always ask to see a stand up clip of them performing before booking.
Ultimately, there are two categories of factors you need to take into consideration when deciding how much you should pay a comedian.
A) Quality Of The Event
B) Quality Of Comedian
I use the term quality here to describe the characteristics of your event, not as a magnitude of how well it is run.
If your event is a private show that is closed to the public and tickets aren’t available, AND, the comedian will have to travel out from where they’re based AND, have to stay in a hotel, while providing their own speaker and microphone system, AND you expect then perform clean material on a special subject…
Then the event is going to cost more.
In comparison to a show in the town the comedian lives in, at an established venue where the comedian gets a percentage of ticket sales (or drinks), and they get to run their “club material”.
You have to understand that as a traveling performer, expenses can stack up for a comedian. If they’re going to have to travel, you’re going to need to not just add in the cost of travel, but also how much time it will take them to travel. Time is money, and I can assure you that comedians would rather be spending their travel time writing jokes or working other shows.
Likewise, if travel is significant you might need to line up a place for the comedian to stay. While I’ve done many independent shows where I’ve gladly crashed on the host’s couch, if you’re booking a comic for anything nicer than that, you should probably factor in this expense too. Travel costs add up for comedians.
The same can be said with other things the comedian has to bring. If you, the show booker, don’t have a quality sound system, just ask the comedian. Most comedians either own a sound system or know a place where they can rent them. Comedians charge a different fee for this depending on the quality of their setup and how far/hard it is to transport. I’ve seen comics charge an additional $50 for this but have seen them go up to $200.
Finally, how niche is your event? If it’s an event where you just want a laugh and there are few content restrictions for the comedian, then most comedians will do the show for less. However, if you’re specifically looking for a comedian to roast somebody specifically, or you want a rated G comedian who only tells religious jokes, that will cost you more. It takes a lot of time for comedians to write jokes and writing within certain restrictions can be a major strain on some acts.
You pay for what you get.
If a comedian costs a lot there is usually a reason why. A good comedian is an amazing, memorable experience, that your guests will talk about for years after an event.
If you REALLY want to pay a comedian $25 to do a 10 minute set at your workplace holiday party. You can probably find a “comedian” at an open mic in your town that is willing to do that. I have heard stories of people who have tried this, and I can assure you none of these horror stories have ended well.
The way I see it there are 4 tiers of stand up comedian when it comes to pricing*
1) Open Mic Comic
2) Part Time
3) Full-Time/Road Comic
4) National Headliner
With each tier, the price goes up, but so does the quality, credits, and the comedians demand. If a comedian has multiple show options on a night, then they’re most likely going to go with which option pays them the most. A quick method I use to calculate the budget of a show is how many people the venue can seat times the cost of a ticket for a show in your city. How do I figure the cost of ticket, well in a simplified method I use the quality of the comedian model above.
1) Open Mic Comic – $5
2) Part-Time – $10
3) Full-Time/Road Comic – $20
4) National Headliner – $40
If you’re doing a show where you want a high-quality regional act for your 100 person room, you could book a “part-time” comedian.
100 x $10 = $1000
This is how I always give rough estimates for my shows. That is, before factoring in a plethora of other features many of which I mentioned in the above section.
Sometimes comedians will charge more for smaller shows, because they’re getting less exposure, and they’d rather cut a deal for an opportunity to play a larger crowd. The guest size model isn’t perfect, but it is a start for negotiations.
It is important to note model this isn’t even including the amount of time you want a comedian to run, and whether they bring an opener. If you’re looking for under 25 minutes of material this price might go down, if you’re looking at over 25 minutes this price can go up, depending on the setting.
Some stand up comedians charge by how many minutes you want them to perform. This can range from $5 a minute to past $100 per minute. This may sound like a lot, but if you think about personalized live entertainment for a crowd of +200 people $100 minute really isn’t that much.
$15 x 45 minutes = $675
*Clearly this is a simplification
Great, you now have a better understanding of how much to book a comedian for, but you may not know how to reach out or book a local comedian. Luckily I already wrote a blog on that subject too! (wow, crazy)
If you want to book me, you can scroll up and click on my contact for more info, and if you don’t want to book me 🙁
You can still contact me, I might be able to guide you in the right direction to find a comedian in your area, that is a better fit for your event!