Veteran Ghanaian comedian and satirist, Kwaku Sintim-Misa (KSM), has warned comedians that even though their job is to make people laugh, the business itself is not a laughing matter.
KSM took to social media to pen his words of advice to upcoming comedians after Khemical said that most Ghanaian comedians are broke.
KSM said that most comedians all over the world are broke, as it is a very tough business and only a few make it to the very top.
He had some words of advice for Ghanaian comedians on how to make ends meet until they ‘make it’, including having another job and doing comedy aside.
Read his insightful piece below…
THE BUSINESS OF COMEDY
“No laughing matter”
I read Khemical’s statement on citifmonline about how GH Comedians are broke. Well folks, you will be surprised to KNOW that its not only GH comedians that are broke.Some of the “brokest”and seriously hassling comedians are in the US!
In Gh, one of the strong platforms for comedians to test their material is Laugh-line. The equivalent of that in New York, is called “THE IMPROV”
To get on the Improv platform in New York, budding comedians have to get to the venue as early as 3 AM to line up. Yes even in the winter. They stay in the line till 9am. On a normal day, there could be as many as 200 people in the line before 6am. By the time the doors open at 9 am, there could be as many as 500 talented comedians. The about five hundred people will whittle down to a shortlist of 12 people.
If you are lucky enough to be in the final twelve, you will be invited to come back to the venue in the evening at 7 pm. At that point, you will be put on a stage and given 5 minutes to display your comedy skills before a very vibrant live audience full of hecklers. if you are lucky to mount that stage,and take one look at the crazy audience, that is when it dawns on you that the business of comedy “is no laughing matter”.
Many comedians go through this routine several times before they get selected to be featured as guest performers. “Many fall by the wayside”. When you hassle enough to be elevated to the status of a guest performer at the IMPROV, they only pay you get is a drink of your choice and a couple of free doughnuts on the house. NO MONEY: “Comedians abre”!!!
The amazing thing is how every comedian aspires to be a guest performer at the IMPROV. Even as a guest performer, the CV value is VERY HIGH. . Guest performers at the IMPROV walk with their shoulders high. I know, I have been one before. YEARS AGO!!!!
But don’t get me wrong, when you hang in the business LONG ENOUGH and you keep thrilling the audiences consistently you will get to the next level of ELEVATION where your name is put on the Marquee or LED screens. When that happens the cash SLOWLY begins to roll in. YOU ARE BECOMING A BRAND. From that point onwards a good agent or manager will drive your career further. That is the path most of the well known comedians took.”
I am saying this to let the hardworking GH comedians always keep in mind that business of comedy “IS NO LAUGHING MATTER” Charlie – eno be easy kraaa!!! Especially in Ghana where the market is not vibrant and support structures are non-existent.
This situation makes it very hard to pursue comedy professionally in GH. By that I mean DEPENDING on ONLY STAND-UP comedy for your livelihood. Nah, YOU WILL BE BROKE.
In the US they have an expression: “DON’T QUIT YOUR DAY JOB.” This is the advice that goes out specifically to creative artistes. It simply means that you must have a fall back job that generates regular income and while you have that going, you can practice comedy as a “professional hobby”. If you hang in long enough to the point where the income from the comedy is so good that you can afford to do only comedy fine. If not, DON’T QUIT YOUR DAY JOB.
A classic example I know in GH is OB. He is a medical Doctor and a practicing comedian. He has his DAY JOB! As much as he loves comedy and as great as he is, it is not his main income source. HE WILL NOT QUIT HIS DAY JOB. Even in Nigeria, I will not be surprised to know that some of their comedians who come here to perform have their DAY JOBS.
In the future, I will be sharing with you some of the “tricks of the trade”. In the meantime keep in mind that the BUSINESS comedy IS NO LAUGHING MATTER!!!!?
And please DON’T QUIT YOUR DAY JOB!!!!