Turning Followers into Dollars: Social Media and Stand-up Comedy

By Jon Marcus | November 27, 2013


Social media has sparked a comedic revolution. Comedians today have more power and freedom than ever before. Louie decided to self-release specials on his website for $5. Marc Maron works out of his garage. Rob Delaney has a career. These comedians have done a great job of turning followers into tickets sales and production deals all while maintaining creative control over their chosen platforms.

While at one time comedians were limited to late night television spots for exposure, comedians today gain and maintain their following by interacting with fans online. This forced intimacy between the comedians and fans pushes comedians to produce more, better material, faster, and to constantly evolve in order to stay noticed or get noticed. The comedy fan’s appetite for content is insatiable and social media allows comics to feed this appetite with humor.

The comedians who are best at social media seem to have a few things in common. First off, they use their chosen platform as an extension of the stage. They have real jokes, they have a voice, and they’ve figured out how to deliver their material. Second, years of figuring out how audiences react allow them to be successful at knowing what to do and what not to do. There really is no substitute for experience in the comedy game.

While social media gives a lot to the fans both in terms of material and engagement, it’s even more important for the comedian, who often use twitter or facebook to maintain brand awareness and provide information to fans, such as what they’re doing and creating, where they’re touring, and what they’re releasing- which all together raise a comedian’s profile.

For newer, up-and-coming comedians trying to raise their profile, social media can act as a tool to grow a fan base. Here are my five tips for up-and-coming comedians trying to build followers on twitter:
1. Be funny. If you’re not funny, your dad was right- it was a mistake to drop out of law school. None of this matters if you’re not funny.
2. Retweet and interact with other comedians. Since the dawn of time, comedians’ best tool has been their networking ability. Interracting with more established comics can raise your comedic profile. Retweets = more profile views = more followers = greater sense of self worth.
3. Don’t overpromote. Everyone hates that guy.
4. Create something that goes viral. (Pro-tip: the Internet really likes cats.)
5. Don’t listen to me. Do whatever you want. I have 110 followers on twitter and most of them are bots. In today’s comedy industry, there is no straight or obvious path to success. Find out what works for you and run with it.

So, what do we think? Is social media good for comedy? I’d say so. It gives everyone a chance at exposure, and if you produce good content, the Internet will perpetuate your work. Because it’s that much easier to have your material seen, social media forces everyone to be better and raises the quality of the creative community as a whole.

A comedian’s online presence is his lifeblood. The guys from Workaholics, Bo Burnham and Donald Glover were all found from their YouTube videos. I imagine it won’t be long before a “Vine Comedian” turns six seconds into a sitcom or a guy named Jon writing a blog entry from his parents’ basement gets paid to write blog entries from his parents’ basement. If Dane Cook can have a number one comedy album because of his presence on MySpace, there’s no telling what good comedians can do with social media.



Jon Marcus is working on his attention to detial. Continue the conversation with him on twitter @itsjonmarcus.