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How I Got My Dream Job: Ngaio Bealum, Stand-Up Comic/Cannabis Activist/Pot-repreneur

Sacramento-based standup comic and cannabis reform activist Ngaio Bealum began making waves in the pot industry over 20 years ago, through a combination of entertainment, activism, and pot-repreneurism. As the focus of our latest How I Got My Dream Job profile, Bealum took the time to sit down with PayScale to share insights from a career sprinkled with an illustrious list of occupational credits, including stand-up comic, columnist, movie star, musician, and juggler, to name only a handful. Or, as Bealum puts it more succinctly, "I get paid to smoke weed."

Sacramento-based standup comic and cannabis reform activist Ngaio Bealum began making waves in the pot industry over 20 years ago, through a combination of entertainment, activism, and pot-repreneurism. As the focus of our latest How I Got My Dream Job profile, Bealum took the time to sit down with PayScale to share insights from a career sprinkled with an illustrious list of occupational credits, including stand-up comic, columnist, movie star, musician, and juggler, to name only a handful. Or, as Bealum puts it more succinctly, “I get paid to smoke weed.”

Ngaoi Bealum Headshot

(Photo courtesy of Ngaio Bealum)

Name: Ngaio Bealum

Do You Know What You're Worth?

Age: “Old as my tongue, and a little older than my teeth.” – Jonathan Swift 

Hometown: San Francisco, CA 

Current Location: Sacramento, CA

Job Title: Um, Slack of All Trades? I am mostly a standup comic, but I’m also a marijuana advice columnist and an event producer. Plus I have a line of cannabis flowers. And I write for Alternet and The Guardian and stuff. Oh, and I am the Culture Editor at marijuanapolitics.com. And sometimes I sing in a big band

PayScale: What makes it your dream job?

Bealum: Basically: I get paid to smoke weed. I have been an advocate for cannabis law reform for more than 20 years, and I have been to just about every cannabis event on the West Coast, and a few in Amsterdam. I was a judge at the High Times Cannabis Cup in Denver this year! I also love to travel. I get to travel around and talk about weed. I also get to hang out with other people that love the cannabis plant. We are a very diverse and … interesting group of people. It has been a great journey. 

Ben Franklin once said: “Do well by doing good.” Cannabis law reform can affect positive change for a variety of social justice issues, as well as provide a brand new legitimate source of jobs, industry, and tax revenue. It’s fascinating to watch how different types of legalization in states like Washington and Colorado are creating opportunities in different industries. To be able to make a living while helping the world be a better place is a great gig. 

PayScale: Is there any one person, place, or moment you’d cite as an inspiration for your career?

Bealum: Robert “Butterfly Man” Nelson was a street performer at Pier 39 in San Francisco way back in the day. When I was a new performer, he gave me the guidance and advice to make me believe I could have a career as an entertainer. He passed away a few years ago. He was also really, really funny. 

PayScale: What’s an average day on the job look like for you?

Bealum: It’s all emails and phone calls these days. I try to write every day, but I fail miserably at it. Thank whatever deities you hold near for deadlines, or else I would never get anything done. I generally have a list of tasks that must be accomplished before I can smoke a bowl, and a list of things that must be accomplished after I smoke a bowl. I may be exaggerating a little. 

PayScale: How did you end up here? What interesting or unexpected jobs have helped prepared you along the way?

Bealum: I started street performing at 19 years old and doing stand up comedy at 20, so I never really had any weird gigs. I taught comedy traffic school for a while, and I was a community liaison at a West Hollywood cannabis dispensary, but mostly I have either told jokes or written about cannabis. I used to be the Editor of West Coast Cannabis Magazine for a few years. That was cool. 

PayScale: What is unique about what you do?  

Bealum: Good question. I suppose it’s my humor. I can get a point across and not make the other side mad. I know a club owner or two who don’t like cannabis, but they book me for shows because they like the way I present the case for cannabis legalization. I am a firm believer in Edutainment.

VIDEO: Ngaio paying a visit to the Doug Benson show, “Getting Doug with High.”

PayScale: What’s an average day on the job look like for you? 

Bealum: Get up, send emails, make phone calls, pretend to write while doing all the social media promotions necessary these days, eat, send more emails, write an article or something, eat, drive to the gig, do the show, get paid, bulls**t in the parking lot, go home, sleep.

PayScale: Are there any challenges about your job that may surprise people?  

Bealum: There is a lot of driving and sitting in airports. Also, cannabis activists come from all walks of life and have many different political views beyond cannabis law reform. It can be a challenge to maintain diplomacy. 

PayScale: Describe a moment when the hard work has really paid off.  

Bealum: There have been a few.  Did I mention that I have a new line of small-batch, hand-selected cannabis flowers? That is a dream come true. Sometimes.

PayScale: Best word(s) to describe how you work.

Bealum: A little bit all the time. 

PayScale: What’s your workspace setup like?

Bealum: Laptop and cellphone. I am on the road. 

PayScale: Tool or device you couldn’t live without?

Bealum: Smartphone. Fingernails. 

PayScale: What’s your best time-saving shortcut?

Bealum: I wish I knew. Please have your readers share their methods. 

PayScale: Did you go to college? If so, how did school prepare you for what you’re doing now? How did it not?

Bealum: I majored in Music and Theater at San Francisco State University, so I had a pretty good performance background. I probably should have taken a few more business courses. 

PayScale: What’s next on the horizon for you? 

Bealum: I am looking forward to cannabis legalization being unstoppable in 2016. I am also going to throw a few upscale fancy-pants cannabis tasting events on the West Coast. 

PayScale: What would you tell someone who wanted to follow the same path as you?

Bealum: There’s an old saying by the Japanese poet/haiku master Matsuo Bash?: “Do not seek to follow in the footsteps of the wise; seek what they sought.”

Keep up with Ngaio online via www.marijuanapolitics.com and @ngaio420.

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