Once more we come across an art career that does not have a definitive education path. To become a stand-up comedian you really don’t need any particular type of education. You could even not go to college at all and become very successful in the career.
This being said, most comedians and industry specialists will recommend taking at least a comedy class. Comedy clubs and colleges both offer classes in a variety of comedy-related topics, such as improv, writing jokes, stage presence, and generic acting classes. Participating in one of these could help you develop skills and build on talent you already have, meet other comics to start networking, and of course, give you more confidence.
You also have the option of studying whatever you want, be it business, sciences, history, or art. This has two benefits. First of all, breaking into the business of stand-up comedy doesn’t usually happen overnight, so you’ll be able to get a day job for the first few years and have a steady income. On the the other hand, learning something, anything, will give you a better insight into the world and you may get more material for your jokes.
Finally, you can study acting. This is a great alternative, since it’ll give you the skills you’ll need on stage and in writing, introduce you to the arts world within your community, and help you build a network. Meanwhile, you’ll get the college experience, if that’s something that you’d like to do, and you’ll have a degree upon graduation, which can come in handy in case your career doesn’t take off as quickly as you’d like.
SOME TOP OPTIONS FOR ACTING DEGREES IN THE US
The following are some of the best recognized acting schools in the U.S., but remember that there are many more options, such as community colleges and in-state universities, especially if you are not looking to specifically pursue acting as a career.
- Yale School of Drama
This prestigious school is focused on graduate level studies in a variety of drama-related specializations. While they only offer master’s and doctorate level studies, you also have the option of completing a 3-year program for a Certificate of Drama, without having previous undergraduate studies completed. Current tuition is $27,250 per year.
- The Juilliard School
Another immensely recognized performing arts school, Juilliard, offers BFA, MFA, and diploma level studies in acting. The school has an interesting approach, by mixing undergrads and post-graduate students within their drama classes, while also teaching social context and writing. Tuition is $38,190 per year.
- Carnegie Mellon University School of Drama
Located in Pittsburgh, CMU offers BFAs in acting and musical theatre. Both programs are four years and have the option of obtaining interdisciplinary education with other courses offered at the university. Theatre students learn speech, movement, stage presence, and writing as part of the curriculum. Tuition is $48,030 per year.
- Tisch School of the Arts
Part of the New York University, the Tisch School of the Arts offers drama and performance studies programs for undergraduate students. Besides the obvious advantage in location, Tisch also has open non-credit courses, which could be beneficial for those not looking to complete a degree. Tuition here stands at $24,136 per year.
- University of North Carolina School of the Arts
UNCSA, located in Winston-Salem, offers classical training to its drama students, focusing on technical aspects of acting more than anything. For in-state students tuition is much lower than at the other schools, currently standing at $8,363, while out-of-state undergrads pay $23,847 per year.
GETTING MY FOOT IN THE DOOR
There is a lot of advice out there on how to begin your career as a stand-up comedian. What everyone agrees on, however, is that it’s not usually an overnight transformation but takes lots of stage time and perseverance.
First of all, you need to create your repertoire and have a script with jokes ready for a performance. The next step is to begin performing. It might be scary at first, you may be afraid of not getting many laughs (or worse, not get any), but this is the learning experience that you will need, whether you’ve taken courses in comedy and acting or not.
Most experts say that getting that stage time is the single most important thing you can do to become the best version of a comedian you can be. You will be able to test your jokes and network simultaneously. One of the best ways to start out is through open mics. Not only will you get the practice, you will also have the chance to see other comedians and learn from them.
How quickly you’ll be able to land paid gigs really depends on how good you are as a comic, but more than that, it depends on your networking skills and a little bit on luck. You need to meet people at any open mic or comedian gathering you go to. This is the circle that is already interested in comedy, and there might be people who can give you work.
Another recommendation that our experts have made is having a website once you have some experience and testimonials to show. If you come up in a Google search, it is possible that you can get gigs that way as well.
Before you even begin though, decide whether you are pursuing comedy as a full-time job or if you’d like to practice it on the side. Either one could be a great choice, but you need to know which one is right for you and aspire towards that.