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Glossary of Stand-Up Comedy Terms & Phrases

This Glossary of stand-up comedy terms and phrases is a collection of relevant industry nomenclature. It’s open ended as there are more which need defining and documenting and new ones yet to be created. If you have a suggestion, feel free to email it to us with the definition. Entries will be considered and included as appropriate. If included, it may be attributed to you as the person who submitted the word or phrase.

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1st Story

(1) The scene imagined in audience's minds based upon receiving a joke's Setup. (2) One of the five joke structure mechanisms that connect Setup and Punchline. See Joke Prospector Writing System, joke writing, and joke structure.

2nd Story

(1) The scene imagined in audience's minds based upon receiving a joke's Punchline. (2) One of the five joke structure mechanisms that connect Setup and Punchline. See joke structure, Joke Prospector Writing System, and joke writing.

3 POVs

In Greg Dean’s model of the three performance roles, points of view (POVs), used in stand-up comedy storytelling: Narrator POV, Self POV, and Character POV. See Anatomy of Funny Storytelling. storytelling, storytelling with scenes, and storytelling joke structure.

3-5 and 10

Three most common lengths of routines or shows, in minutes, comedians need to have prepared and ready to perform upon request. See routines.

4 Cs

Abbreviation for Clubs, Colleges, Cruise ships, and Corporations which are the four venues where stand-up comedians can get work. See gigs.

4th wall

(1) Convention that imagines a wall existing between performers and their audience. (2) As related to stand-up comedy, when comedians enacts a scene, Self POVs and Character POVs live in that environment unaware there's an audience. See scene work and Anatomy of Funny Storytelling.

5 joke mechanisms

In Greg Dean's model of joke structure, there are 5 mechanisms which connect the Setup and Punchline: 1st Story, Target Assumption, Connector, Reinterpretation, and 2nd Story. See joke structure.

A material

In the ABCs of comedy material rating system, A is the funniest jokes in routines or funniest routines in shows. See ABCs.

ABCs

Rating systems that gives values to jokes within routines, or routines within shows with A being the best. See A material, B material, and C material.

act out

A scene within stand-up comedy routines where the comedian portrays all the roles of Narrator POV, Self POV, and Character POV. See scene work. and Anatomy of Funny Storytelling. (Term coined by Judy Carter.)

ad-lib

Spontaneously stating jokes within a scripted routine or show. See improv.

alternative interpretation

(1) A different way of explaining something. (2) As related to Greg Dean's Joke Prospector Writing System, it is an un-expected, yet compatible meaning of a Connector other than the Target Assumption or expected meaning. See Connector, Reinterpretation, and joke structure.

alternative interpretations

As related to Greg Dean's Joke Prospector Writing System, a list of un-expected meanings of a Connector, different from the expected meaning of the Target Assumption, one of which will become a joke’s Reinterpretation. See Joke Mine.

ambiguity

(1) Anything open to more than one interpretation. (2) In joke structure, an ambiguity, usually in setups, is anything that can have more than one meaning or interpretation, which becomes the mechanism, the Connector, when used to write a joke. See Connector and joke structure.

Anatomy of Funny Storytelling

Greg Dean’s model of the three performance roles, points of view (POVs), used in stand-up comedy storytelling: Narrator POV, Self POV, and Character POV. When performing, comedians are always in at least one of these POVs. See Character POV, Narrator POV, Self POV, and storytelling joke structure.

applau

In a crowded venue when only one person makes a single clap, then stops. (Term coined by Michael Davis Juggler.)

applause break

When an audience spontaneously claps in approval for a joke or routine during a show.

assumption

Belief that something exists or is true without proof or evidence.

assumptions

Based on a piece of communication, Setup or Punchline, the mental means in which people compile information to fill in ambiguous or incomplete information to build a scenario in their minds until they believe they know what that piece of communication means. See 1st Story, 2nd Story.

attitude

(1) a fixed way of thinking or feeling about someone or something. (2) As related to the stand up comedy, the expression of only one negative opinion, judgment, or emotion repeatedly used toward a variety of subjects in jokes and routines.

availability dates

Calendar sent to bookers to indicate when the comedian can accept comedy gigs. See avails.

avails

Shorter lingo for availability dates. See availability dates

B material

In the ABCs of comedy material rating system, B is the second-best jokes in a routine, or second-best routines within a show. See ABCs.

BCAs

The most effective order for placing jokes within routines or routines within a shows. i.e. “B” material first, “C” material in the middle, and “A” material to close the routine or show.

bit

A section of stand-up comedy routines or shows or a short routine. See routine.

blue material

Jokes, routines, or shows using graphic sexual, scatological, and swear words; not appropriate for network television.

bomb

To perform comedy shows that get few or no laughs. See die, dog it, crickets, eat it, flop, suck, tank…

booked

Hired for a comedy gig or job.

booker

Person who hires and pays comedians to work. See PA agents and managers.

booking

(1) The act of hiring comedians for shows. (2) The jobs comedians have booked. See PA agents and managers.

bringer

Rooms or comedy clubs that require comedians to bring audience members to get stage time.

bringer rooms

Venues that require comedians to bring audience members to get stage time. See bringer.

bringer show

Stand-up comedy shows where the comedians must bring audience members to get stage time.

bumped

Comedian being pushed to later time slot within the shows lineup, often by known comedians asking for unscheduled stage time.

C material

In the ABCs of comedy material rating system, C is the weakest joke in a routine, or weakest routine within a show. See ABCs.

call-in a show

When a comedian gives the minimum effort to a performance. See phone in.

callback

Repeating the punchline from a previously performed joke later in the routine. See running gag.

capper

Antiquated term for the final joke in routines and shows to end with the biggest laugh. See closing joke.

catchphrase

Common phrase repeatedly delivered with unusual or extraordinary emphasis that becomes a comedian's verbal trademark. i.e. "I don't get no respect." - Rodney Dangerfield

Character POV

One of three perceptual position or roles within Greg Dean's Anatomy of Funny Storytelling achieved when comedians act out scenes and portray someone or something else. See act out, Anatomy of Funny Storytelling, Narrator POV, Self POV, and scene work.

clapter

Joke designed to get an audience to applaud and agree, rather than laugh. The term is most often used in a negative sense. (Submitted by Scott Meltzer.)

clean material

The jokes in stand-up comedy shows with no curse words or inappropriate subjects that is suitable for network television programs. See blue material.

closer

(1) Comedians with shows strong enough to top the evening’s previous comedians. (2) A comedian’s final joke or routine. See closing line.

closing line

Final joke of stand-up comedy shows designed to get a huge laugh while the comedian exits the stage. See closer.

comedian

(1) Someone who seeks to entertain people by making them laugh. (2) Someone who uses character to get laughs. See comic.

comedian’s comedian

Comedians other comedians most admire or emulate. See comic's comic.

comedienne

Female comedian. See comedian and comic.

comedy timing

Tempo, rhythm, and emphasis of material being performed by comedians for audiences. See comic timing and timing.

comic

(1) Someone who seeks to entertain people by making them laugh. (2) Someone who uses jokes to get laughs. See comedian.

comic timing

Tempo, rhythm, and emphasis of material being performed by comedians for audiences. See comedy timing and timing.

comic’s clichés

Phrases and physical idiosyncrasies so common and overused which betray a lack of original thought used by all hack comics. i.e. Greeting: "How you all doing tonight?" See hack.

comic’s comic

Comics other comics most admire and emulate. See comic.

common knowledge

(1) Information generally shared by most people. (2) information available within an immediate environment. (3) As related to stand-up comedy, the information within jokes the audience must be familiar to get the jokes. See inside joke.

Connector

Joke structure mechanism at the center of all comedy, humor, and jokes defined as 1 thing with at least 2 interpretations. See ambiguity. (As related to Greg Dean's Joke Structure and Joke Prospector Writing System this is one of the five mechanisms between the setup and punchline which explain how jokes work.) Fully explained in Greg Dean's books "Step by Step to Stand-Up Comedy" and "How to Write Jokes" available on Amazon.com

cord

The electrical cable which is attached to the microphone with a jack and plugs into the venue sound equipment. See microphone and mic cord.

cotton mouth

Condition in which the salivary glands in your mouth don't make enough saliva due to preforming anxiety or smoking some fantastic weed. See dry mouth and stage fright.

crickets

After the delivery of a failed joke when the audience is so quiet one could imagine hearing crickets. e.g. "At the end of my joke, there was nothing but crickets." See bomb, die, dog it, eat it, flop, suck, tank…

crowd work

When comedians ask questions of the audience then banter with the intent to find laughs. i.e. Questions: What's your name? or What do you do for a living? See comeback.

delivery

Style and timing of presenting comedy material.

double up

Performing in two comedy rooms or clubs in one night.

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