1 (800) 961-5636 [email protected]

Stand-Up Comedy Glossary of Terms and Phrases: This stand-up comedy glossary of terms and phrases is my shot at compiling many of the relevant terms. It’s open ended as there are many more terms and phrases which need defining and documenting. If you have suggestions, feel free to send them with their definition to: [email protected] Entries will be considered and, if not duplicates, included as appropriate. If included, it may be attributed to you as the person who submitted the defined word or phrase. Enjoy!


Stand-Up Comedy Glossary of Terms and Phrases Numeric Definitions

1st Story scene imagined in the minds of the audience based upon the setup of a joke.

2nd Story scene imagined in the minds of the audience based upon the punch of a joke.

4 Cs of comedy work abbreviation for clubs, colleges, cruise ships, and corporations.

Stand-Up Comedy Glossary of Terms and Phrases Alphabetic Definitions

“A” material funniest jokes in routines or funniest routines in shows.

ABCs of Material values for rating jokes within routines, or routines within shows.

act out a scene within stand-up comedy routines where the comedian portrays all the parts; see scene work. (Term coined by Judy Carter.)

ad-lib spontaneously creating jokes within scripted routines or shows.

alternative interpretation un-expected, yet compatible meaning of a connector other than the target assumption; see reinterpretation. (As related to joke structure term coined by Greg Dean.)

alternative interpretations list of unexpected meanings of a connector, different from the expected meaning of the target assumption, one of which will become a joke’s reinterpretation. (As related to joke structure term coined by Greg Dean.)

ambiguity open to more than one interpretation. In joke structure, an ambiguity, usually in setups, becomes a connector when used to structure a joke. 

assumption belief that something exists or is true without proof or evidence. 

assumptions based on a piece of communication, 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 the piece of communication means.

applau a single clap by only one person in a crowd. (Term coined by the juggler Michael Davis.)

applause break when an audience claps for a joke or routine during a show.

attitude expression of only one negative opinion or judgment toward the subject of all performed jokes and routines. 

avails dates sent to bookers to indicate when the comedian can work comedy gigs.

availability dates see avails.


“B” material second-best jokes in a routine, or routines within a show.

bad green room personality comedians who are troublesome, unpleasant, or hard to get along with off stage or in the green room.

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

beat, take a pause or break during a performance.

bit section of stand-up comedy shows or routines; a short routine or a section of a routine.

blue material jokes using graphic sexual overtones, scatological (toilet) references, and swear words; not appropriate for network television shows.

bomb perform comedy shows that get no or few laughs; see die, eat it, flop, suck, dog it

booker person who hires and pays comedians to work.

booked hired for a comedy gig or job.

booking act of hiring comedians for shows.

bringer room or club that require the comedians to bring audience members to get stage time.

bringer room venue that require the comedians to bring audience members to get stage time.

bringer show see bringer

bumped moved later in shows or showcase club’s line-up, sometimes to the point of not getting to perform.


“C” material weakest jokes in routines, or routines in shows.

call in a show giving the minimum effort to a performance.

callback a joke which refers to another joke performed earlier in the show, presented in a different context.

capper antiquated term for the final laugh in a series of jokes on the same subject that ends the routine with the biggest laugh.

catchphrase common phrases delivered in an extraordinary manner that becomes the trademark of a comedian. 

character POV perceptual position within a scene or show, achieved when the performer pretends to be someone or something else. (Term coined by Greg Dean.)

clean material traditionally a show with no curse words, appropriate for network television shows.

closer comedians with shows strong enough to top the evening’s previous comedians.

closing line final joke of stand-up comedy shows designed to get a huge laugh while the comedian exits the stage.

comedian makes people laugh using an amusing character.

comedian’s comedian a comedian that other comedians most admire.

comedy timing tempo, rhythm developed between the comedian and the audience while expressing humor. 

comic makes people laugh by telling jokes.

comic timing see comedy timing; timing.

comic’s clichés phrases and idiosyncrasies overused by all hack comics. (Term coined by Greg Dean.)

comic’s comic see comedian’s comedian.

common knowledge information generally shared by most people; information available within an immediate environment.

connector joke structure mechanism at the center of all comedy, humor, and jokes; one thing with at least two interpretations or meanings.

cotton mouth feeling of crustiness inside the mouth brought on by nerves while performing; see dry mouth.

cord see mic cord.

crickets after the delivery of a failed joke when the audience is so quiet one could hear crickets.

crowd work verbally bantering with the audience.

crush, to an amazingly funny show.


delivery style of presenting comedy material.

die, to see bomb, flop, eat it…

double up performing in two comedy rooms or clubs in one night.

downstage center usual location on a stage where the mic and stand are placed.

DSC see downstage center.

drop in when famous comedians enter a comedy club and immediately get on stage.

drop outs when comedians cancel their appearance in a club or comedy line-up.

dry mouth see cottonmouth.

dying see bomb, die, flop…


eat it see bomb, flop, die, etc.

edgy material comedy material on the comedic side of the hurt line but doesn’t cross over into drama. (Definition by Greg Dean.)

emcee Master or Mistress of Ceremonies; the person who introduces performers; stupid way of spelling MC; see MC.

expectation 1. based on the piece of communication when enough assumptions are compiled to create a mental story so the people believe they know what the communication means, then their projection of this story will continue along the same line of thought. 2. Accepting anything as it has been in the past or a status quo. 


fall flat jokes or routines that get few or no laughs.

feature second comedian in the standard three-comedian stand-up comedy show line-up; see middle.

fill in with little notice to replace a comedian who has dropped out of a comedy show’s line-up.

flop see bomb, die, flop, eat it, etc.

flop sweat overabundance of perspiration one experiences due to a panic reaction to bombing.


gag file joke file.

gag joke.

gelotophobia fear of being laughed at; not the fear of Italian ice cream.

gig show business job.

green room place for comedians to gather before and after comedy shows which is rarely green.

guest set or spot courtesy five-to-ten-minute spot offered by comedy clubs so accomplished comedians can audition in a live performance.


hack British word for hackneyed; overused and thus cliché and trite.

hacky overused topics or premises; comic’s clichés.

hammock to technique of placing weaker material or improvisation between two strong jokes or routines.

headliner third and last comedian considered the star of a standard stand-up comedy show; see closer.

heckler audience member who talks and interrupts a comedy show, often by exchanging insults with the comedian; a social disease.

host see emcee and MC.

hurt line subjective psychological tipping point when comedy turns into drama. (Definition by Greg Dean.)


impressions acting out and impersonating recognizable celebrities.

improv see improvisation.

improvisation spontaneous creation of entire comedy bits; ongoing comedic bantering with audience members.

inside joke referring to humor based on information or common knowledge only known by a select group of people.


joke single unit of humor; device for expressing humor that employs two sections linked by the mechanism the Connector: 1 thing with 2 interpretations. Section One / setup establishes or contains a target assumption, the expected meaning of the Connector which creates a false expectation. Section Two / punch communicates a reinterpretation, an unexpected interpretation of the Connector that makes the setup’s expected interpretation wrong. (Definition by Greg Dean.)

joke diagram visual aid used by Greg Dean to illustrate his model of joke structure. (Term coined by Greg Dean.)

joke file jokes organized and stored on index cards or in a computer program.

Joke Map first part of Greg Dean’s Joke Prospector Writing System, which starts with a topic, creates a punch-premise, setup-premise, and concludes with writing a series of joke setups. 

Joke Mine second part of the Greg Dean’s Joke Prospector Writing System which begins with setups from the Joke Map and explains the process of using the joke mechanisms of target assumption, a connector, and reinterpretation to write punches for those setups.

joke premise see premise.

Joke Prospector joke writing system invented by Greg Dean consisting of the two-part combination of the Joke Map and the Joke Mine.

joke structure model that demonstrates how the setup and punch are linked by the mechanisms of 1st story, target assumption, connector, reinterpretation, and 2nd story for expressing humor. (Term coined by Greg Dean.)

jokey term used to describe obvious or cliche jokes. 


kick comedy butt or ass show where the audience laughs loud and often; see kill, crush…

kill when a comedian has done an excellent performance.

killed performed an excellent stand-up comedy show.

kill a laugh 1) talking or taking an action that causes the audience to stop laughing or not laugh. 


laser beam topic, premise, routine, or joke that sets off a controversy.

laughs per minute measurement for counting the number of laughs in routines or shows; see LPMs.

light, the signal to comedians performing when their stage time is up.

light, get the when comedians get the signal that it’s time to end their show and get off stage.

line-up list of the comedians slated to perform.

lottery open mic where the line-up is created by pulling names out of a hat or bucket.

LPMs laughs per minute.


MC Master or Mistress of Ceremonies; a person who introduces performers; see emcee, host.

middle second comedian in the standard three-comedian stand-up comedy show line-up.

mic abbreviation for microphone.

mic stand height-adjustable device for holding the microphone.

mic cord the electrical cable attached to the microphone with a plug and to the sound equipment.

mic jack plug used to attach the electrical cable to the microphone and to the sound equipment.

mic technique proper ways of holding and moving the microphone, stand, and cord.

microphone long for mic.

monologue speech for one person: in comedy, a stand-up comedy routine for a solo comedian.


narrator POV perceptual position achieved when being an observer or nonparticipant of an experience. (Term coined by Greg Dean.)

Neurolinguistic Programming behavioral model and set of explicit skills and techniques founded by John Grinder and Richard Bandler. Defined as the study and mapping of the structure of the mind.

NLP Neurolinguistic Programming.


on the road continually working outside of one’s city of residence.

one-liner a style of joke using a setup and a punch.

one-liner timing after a punch, when a laugh peaks, then pausing for the count of 2, 3, 4 before starting the next setup.

one-nighter job that only lasts one night.

open mic room or club where anyone can get on stage and do a few minutes of stand-up comedy.

open micer person who frequently does open mics.

open spot unfilled slot in a comedy show line-up.

opener first of three comedians in a traditional comedy club line-up.

opening line first joke of stand-up comedy routines or shows.


PA personal appearance

PA agent or manager person in charge of booking and arranging personal appearance work for comedians.

paid regular comedian who frequently performs at comedy clubs and receives compensation for each show.

paraprosdokian a figure of speech in which the latter part of a sentence or phrase is surprising or unexpected in a way that causes the reader or listener to reframe or reinterpret the first part.

pause stop talking during a performance to enhance the timing of jokes; stop talking after a punch to allow time for the audience to laugh.

POV point of view. e.g. As the foundational elements of stand-up comedy storytelling with scene work: Narrator POV, Self POV, and Character POV. (Term coined by Greg Dean.) 

POVs points of view.

POV shifts while telling a story, one performer moving from one POV to another POV as a means of acting out scenes. (Term coined by Greg Dean.)

premise statement with a negative opinion about a subject from which to write jokes or routines.

prop comics funny people who perform their jokes by using props. e.g. Gallagher or Carrot Top.

punch section two of a joke that contains a reinterpretation that shatters the setup’s target assumption.

punch line old term for a punch; punches are not always lines.

punch-premise step in the Joke Map stating a negative opinion about a specific subject associated with the topic. (Term coined by Greg Dean.)

punch up writing more jokes and tags for an already written routine.



red light final and strongest signal telling comedians to end their show immediately.

regulars comedians who appear frequently at a particular nightclub.

Rehearsal Process, Greg Dean’s method to turning jokes or routines into scenes, and then acting out those scenes using Narrator, Self, and Character POVs with the result of remembering in pictures, sounds, and feelings so the performer can tell the story of the material, rather than memorize the words which must be recalled in self-talk. (Term coined by Greg Dean.)

reinterpretation mechanism in the punch that reveals an unexpected interpretation of the connector that makes wrong the target assumption’s expected interpretation. (As a mechanism of joke structure term coined by Greg Dean.)

reinterpretations several alternative interpretations of the connector, other than the target assumption.

reveal within the punch, the pivotal word, phrase, or action that communicates the reinterpretation; most effect when placed at the ends of the punch. (Term coined by Greg Dean.)

rhythm of three see rule of three.

rim shot two hits on a drum and one on the rim of a cymbal to indicate the punchline of an obvious joke.

rip or rip into or ripping attack, insult, or verbally tear into an audience member or comic who has heckled or otherwise deserves the abuse.

road work jobs when comedians must travel outside of their residential city.

road comic professional comedians who travel outside their residential city to make a living doing stand-up comedy gigs.

road agent or manager person in charge of booking and arranging road work for comedians.

roast use jokes to insult and embarrass a specific person, often as a means of honoring them.

roll, on a delivering a string of jokes so the audience continues laughing for an extended period.

routine series of jokes all on the same topic, premise or a funny story.

routine premise see premise.

rule of three jokes with a setup that have two items from the same category, usually positive and a punch with a third item, usually negative, that is compatible with the setup’s two items, yet different. e.g. 1, 2, C.

running gag a recurring joke within the same show.


sandwich see hammock.

scene work quick scene enacted during a comedian’s show; see act out.

segue antiquated device using a transitional sentence or phrase to lead from one joke or routine to another.

Self POV perceptual position achieved when performing as one’s self while participating in an experience. (Term coined by Greg Dean.)

self talk way of talking to one’s self; inner voice.

set stand-up comedy show of any length.

set list bullet point reminders of the order of the jokes or routines to be done in a show.

setup section one of a joke that establishes or contains a target assumption to create an expectation.

setup-premise step in the Joke Map stating the opposite opinion, to that of the punch-premise, from which setups are written. (Term coined by Greg Dean.)

show list See set list.

showcase perform for the purposes of getting experience or being seen by potential bookers.

showcase clubs venues using a line-up of ten or more comedians in a row as the format for their shows.

shtick Yiddish for a comic scene or piece of business; often implying the use of a gimmick or physical comedy.

sight gag physical joke meant to be watched.

signups open mics that require performers to sign up in advance, then later a lottery determines the line-up of that night’s show.

smooth on and smooth off phrase describing the best way to get on stage and off stage to ensure the show goes well. (Phrase coined by Jerry Seinfeld.)

stage time 1. duration, in minutes, a comedian spends in front of an audience making them laugh. 2. amount of time a comedian has spent performing to get experience.

Step by Step to Stand-Up Comedy book written by Greg Dean about the craft of comedy.

step on a laugh talking during or taking an action that diminishes or kills the current laughter.  

stool only traditional furniture on a stand-up comedy stage.

stretch when an MC goes on stage and entertains the audience until some technical or logistical problem is solved.

surprise intended result of a punch.


tag or tag line additional punch immediately following a punch that does not require a new setup.

take, a comedic facial reaction. e.g. Jack Benny.

talking head comics who memorize their jokes and deliver them with no emotion or physical movement.

talk over a laugh speaking while the audience is laughing. See step on a laugh, kill a laugh.

target shortened term for target assumption.

target assumption joke structure mechanism usually in the joke’s setup that establishes the expected meaning of the connector. (Term coined by Greg Dean.)

triple up perform in three comedy rooms or clubs in one night.

throw away to place little performing emphasis on a point usually considered important.

time slot location a comedian occupies within a comedy club lineup.

timing see comedy timing or comic timing.

topic based on something wrong, a single category from which an entire routine or show is written.

topical jokes comedy material based on current events.

topper antiquated term referring to a joke playing off a previous joke; see tag.

traditional comedy clubs venues that employ an MC or opener, feature or middle, and headliner comedians as the format for their shows.


unpaid regular comedian who frequently performs at a showcase comedy club but does not get paid for performing because they are doing it to get experience.


variety performer comedians who do comedy along with a variety skill, such as juggling, guitar, magic, ventriloquism, etc.


walking ovation obligatory applause while the audience runs out of the room or club.

week gigs comedy jobs performed on Thursday through Sunday.

weekend gigs comedy jobs performed on Friday, Saturday, and sometimes Sunday.




Greg Dean’s Stand-Up Comedy Glossary of Terms and Phrases has been developed over his 4 decades of teaching stand up comedy. Many people who want to know about stand-up comedy classes are searching for a resource related to stand-up comedy and being a comedian. We hope that you will visit this page and use the info in this Stand-Up Comedy Glossary of Terms and Phrases as often as you need and also refer it to your friends and associates!

Greg Dean’s Stand Up Comedy Classes

Greg teaches his stand up comedy techniques in two classes.  The first is called “How to Build a Stand Up Comedy Routine” and is the beginning class (also called the “101 class”) and the “Advanced Joke Writing & Performing Class” (also known as the “201 class”).  He also offers an ongoing jokewriting group for stand up comedians who want to work on their material.

Even though these classes are named a beginning and advanced,  they are actually classes that stand up comedians of any number of years of experience can and do take.  They are beginning and advanced in the Greg Dean system.

Greg teaches his classes live in Santa Monica as well as live on zoom.  If you are in the greater Los Angeles area, you can sign up for his classes at the Santa Monica Playhouse. Otherwise, you can sign up for a zoom class.  Check the Events Calendar to see when the next available classes are being held.  Events Calendar

In addition to his live classes in Santa Monica and on zoom, Greg also teaches joke writing via his on demand platform.  One of his most popular classes is “Joke Writing Made Simple”.  This class can be done in your own time, and at your own pace.  You can find out more about this class here: https://stand-upcomedy.com/product/joke-writing-made-simple/

Many of the definitions found in this stand-up comedy glossary of terms and phrases are taught in more detail in his stand up comedy classes.


Follow Us on Social Media?  


Email: [email protected]

Watch Our Free Webinar

How to Build a Stand Up Comedy Routine

You’ll Get Exposed to Joke Structure and Several Other Stand Up Comedy Techniques that Could Make Your Stand Up Comedy Routines Better!


Best Selling Stand Up Comedy Author

Greg Dean is also a published author with several books that teach his famous stand up comedy techniques.  HIs book, Step by Step to stand up comedy is a best seller on Amazon.
Step by Step to Stand Up Comedy by Greg Dean