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Fun Money: Lessons From Innovative Comedians

In the last year we've seen comedians take the spotlight not just for their material, but for their business savvy. Comedians are forging new ground and making money on podcasts, expanding their reach through new forms of media and creating innovative ways to get paid for their work. Louis CK made more than $1 million from a comedy special off downloads. Podcasts like Comedy Bang Bang and WTF are proliferating and spinning off into other platforms like TV and radio. Comedians are abandoning old models of promotion in favor of networks like Twitter and Facebook to guarantee an audience for their shows. Comedians have always had to hustle and adapt; it's part of the job. But what they're also doing is fighting off disruption to their business. That's something they share in common with people in the areas like media and technology, which are also undergoing a broad transformation. What lessons can we learn from comedians surviving and thriving in a time of change?

Additional Supporting Materials


  1. In what ways has the web enabled comedians to exert control over their audience as well as the distribution and compensation for their work?
  2. How has technology changed the relationship between comedians, fans, promoters and venue owners?
  3. Are micropayments a successful way to support a podcast, video series or comedy special? Could that be adapted to support other forms of media?
  4. How does operating across different platforms - live shows, podcasts, online video, radio, TV - contribute to a comedian's success and what does that mean for all content creators?
  5. What role does collaboration with peers - guesting on shows, podcasts or videos - play in creating awareness of a comedian and their work?



Justin Ellis, Assistant Editor, Nieman Journalism Lab

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