June 20, 2012

Kellye Howard Interviews Ali Clayton & Calvin Evans

Kellye Howard
Comedy as a whole can be the most amazing career choice one has ever made. To say to ones self, I am going to get in front of all these people to make them forget about all their problems while I exaggerate the humor within my own is an applaud worthy act…for some, I guess. As a comedienne myself, I’ve had my months when I was BALLING, had shows lined up and rolling in the bucks; I’ve also had months when I was robbing Peter to pay Paul as my overly righteous mother would say. In those less fortunate months, I should have just gotten a job, right? Wrong? I don’t think there is an easy way to answer that question. Many artists feel like if you work a “Regular” job, you don’t strive as hard to be successful at your creative career. Others say, “hey, I’m investing in my future by making this coffee and sweeping these floors for these unnecessarily rich people”.

I have my own opinion about the subject, but was 100% positive that it would be bias, so I asked a few other comedians what they thought about comedy and work.

Here I have Ali Clayton, a female comedienne originally from North Carolina currently living in Chicago and working a “regular” job as well as doing pretty good as a steadily working comedienne. I asked her about work and comedy and here’s what she had to say:

Q: How long have you been doing stand-up Comedy?
A: I've been doing stand-up for 3 1/2 years

Q: Have you always had a job while trying to make it as a stand-up comedian?
A: When I first moved to Chicago in 2009 it took me a while to find a job. Anytime that I haven't been working I've been looking for work.

Q: Are your employers as understanding as you need them to be?
A: My Boss is incredible. I've been working as a caretaker for an adult with Autism for the past two and a half years and I love it. My boss is very supportive she lets me off for shows and auditions. She gave me a second job at the elementary school where she’s the principle. I work with Special needs 3rd grade -5th grade and I don't have any real qualifications to be doing that but I really love it. I'm very lucky.

Ali Clayton
Q: At this level in your career, if you lost your job today, could you survive off of stand-up comedy? Or would you even try?
A: As of right now I'm just not making enough doing comedy to pay all the bills. I think it's probably easier for some comics that are from Chicago because they can live with there family and save money and I don't have that option. My ultimate goal is to be able to pay all my bills just by telling jokes and acting and I have a lot of determination so I'll think it will happen hopefully with in the next few years.

Q: Has your job become a crutch for you?
A: Yes I pay all my bills from my day job.

Q: How does your job benefit your career as a comedian? How does it hurt it?
A: I think it benefits me cause comedy is all about life experiences. But it hinders me because it's hard to stay out all night at open mics then get up at 6am to go to work. I don't have as much free time to write. But over all I feel really lucky to be doing a job I love where I get to help people.

After speaking with Ali, I was curious to know what a comedian thought about NOT having a job. Here I have college graduate Calvin Evans. Educated, and not utilizing his degree…in order to follow his dreams of being a stand up comedian. He says:

Calvin Evans, Photography by Mike Jue
Q: How long have you been a stand-up comedian?
A: I've been doing stand up comedy for 6 years; full time I've been doing stand up for 2 years.

Q: Do you work a day job to support you or are you a full-time stand-up comedian?
A: I don't have job, comedy is my sole source of income.

Q: How hard is it to manage a normal lifestyle on a comedy salary?
A: It's very difficult because you can't always account for money on a monthly basis. Even if I have a paid gig its always a chance it could get cancelled or a hiccup could arise during the time of payment. Being a full time comedian has forced me to be better at money management and also saving money. I only spend when I have to and I'm a very frugal shopper.

Q: Are you sometimes tempted to get a job and how would that effect your focus as a comedian?
A: When I left my full time salaried position for the Boys & Girls Club of America I promised myself that I would put my all into comedy and never monopolize my available doing something I'm not passionate about. I sometimes think about it but I quickly relinquish the thought. I love waking up at any hour and devoting my time to whatever comedy/entertainment related project I may be working on without the pressure of having to be at work.

Q: Do you think having a job would help with cost associated with your comedy dreams but not take away the drive of “making it”?
A: Absolutely. Steady income is a valuable asset in this business. We incurred tons business related expenses such as travel, promotional material to name a few but I know at some point you have to leave that job and take a leap of faith. I've already committed and I can't look back. If push comes to shove I'll do what's necessary.

Q: Do you consider comedians who do work a regular job, not full-time “real” comedians or do you applaud their hustle?
A: I consider a "real" comedian to be anybody that takes the craft of stand up comedy seriously and works nightly to hone their skills. I know Bernie Mac worked several jobs while pursuing comedy to support his family and I applaud his tenaciously. Fortunately I only have myself to care for so I can go without some things. Comedy is "heart+hustle" and to juggle that with anything else is commendable.

Well there you have it folks. Two totally different spectrum's of the comedy vs. work scale. As a full-time comedienne with no other sources of income, I felt it was important to help comedians considering comedy as a sole income to understand the ups and the downs of a real comedians life. Both the interviewees are known comedians working hard at there dreams, so my advice to you is:

Good luck at however you make your money…Hey, I’m not asking, so don’t tell me!

Follow the above comedians on Twitter at

Ali Clayton: @aliclayton86
Calvin Evans: @Comedy_yo
Myself, Kellye Howard: @kellyehoward

Contributing Writer
Kellye Howard