In order to make a boatload of cash as a comedian you first have to pay your dues. This means you have to write funny material and get up on stage in front of a live audience to practice it. The more often you practice, the better you become. There are no shortcuts or easy side-steps! You can't skip this first bit. This is an essential pain period and a crucial part of your comedy career.
Most people don't like to hear this truth. I can imagine you saying, "But I want the big bucks!" Well, the big money does come, but first you have to spend at least part of your time in unknown comedy clubs. Every comedian that's made it big has done this while living out of a hotel for a year or two.
Taking your show on your road does not make you rich, but it does help you perfect your craft. Being exposed to audiences from every background helps you tweak your material until it becomes perfect. Aside from helping you reach the pinnacle of your craft, your road show can also help expose you to agents, directors, and movie producers. Doing road gigs is what will help you get discovered. Once you get discovered, that's when you'll be on your way to making ridiculous sums of cash. Until then you have to keep working the comedy club circuit.
After some time if you are good, someone will spot you and offer you a gig on a late night show. Although there's little exposure, you do get a check for $2,000-5,000 for about 5 minutes' worth of comedy. The side bonus is that you get a chance to meet and impress the host who's likely a comedian himself. If you make a good impression the host may invite you to come perform again. That or he may recommend you to a TV show producer.
An interview with a TV show producer is big. It's when you get cast on a TV show that the money really starts to come in rapidly. Shows film weekly, and you get paid anywhere from $5,000-$50,000 per episode. This is where you start getting a ton of exposure. If TV viewer polls indicate that audiences like you, this will lead the producer to put you in more episodes. You'll also get a huge pay bump! The comedian Jerry Seinfeld was making 1 million dollars per Seinfeld episode at the height of its popularity.
Similar to TV shows, you can also get cast in a movie role. Chris Tucker got his big break in the movie Rush Hour. He had a primary role next to Jackie Chan, but was there to provide comedic relief. Chris did a great job and the movie was a huge success. He went on to do two more sequels for which get got paid over 40 million dollars.
However, even if you don't get a TV show or a movie contract there are other things you can do that will make you a ton of money. Just look at what comedian Louis C.K. did to make a huge sum of cash. He rented out the Beacon Theater and hired his own film crew. After giving his comedy performance, he then made the DVD version available online for $5 a pop. Selling the DVD himself at such a cheap price yielded him 1 million dollars in under a year. This means that if you are a good comedian you can buy a website and sell your own products. Most comedians sell CDs and DVDs on their websites.
If you can't do live comedy, you can still make it as a comedian online. There is a Youtuber named PewDiePie that started making funny videos on Youtube. All he does is play video games and crack jokes. He's amassed a huge following of 47+ million already. In just 3 years, he's managed to reach an income of 6 million dollars a year. He is an example of what's possible in our modern era. All you need is a web-camera and a bit of wit.
Comedy can be used as more than entertainment. If you are creative, you can put your comedy skills to good use helping people around you with their everyday problems. A comedian named Richard founded a company that offers online driving school courses. There are few things more boring than staying awake through a driving course, but Richard and his comedic troupe make learning fun. It's a valuable course that helps people retain more information. His students have an easier time learning and he makes passive income teaching millions of people all over the United States.
I've shared both the traditional and the non-traditional paths to making a ton of money by being a comedian, but as in all things – you have to put in the work. The money comes after you've perfected your craft. All in all, you have to be one seriously funny guy to get paid the big bucks.