Stand-up comedy glossary
Terms that you might hear comics use, explained for the layman
Ambush gig: A gig where the audience didn’t expect to see stand-up comedy and probably doesn’t want to. For example, a gig that takes place in the main room of a pub. Usually a pointless enterprise. [Further information]
Bit: A bit is a joke or a series of jokes. Normally more than a one-liner, a bit typically involves setting up a premise and then getting a series of laughs from the same concept or situation.
Bringer: A gig where the promoter requires comics to bring an audience member in order to be allowed to perform, thus avoiding the need to attract an audience by doing tedious promotion work. [Further information]
Currently unpaid: If a gig opportunity is advertised as “currently unpaid” it means you won’t get paid now, or ever.
Gong show: A show where a few members of the audiences are given cards to vote off an act that they find unfunny or offensive. For the comics, the aim of the show is to get through a 5 minute set without being voted off. [Further information]
Hack: An act who relies on overly tired comedic formulas (“my son just learned to tie his laces. 28 years old he is”, “… and then I got off the bus”) or street jokes to get laughs from an unsophisticated audience. Note: There are no hack subjects, just hack jokes. And if you see me doing something you think is hack, it’s actually a sophisticated deconstruction of a trope.
Set: A series of bits (related or unrelated) that fill a comic’s alloted time.
Sound bleed: When distracting sound like music, talking, unrelated laughter, TV sports, fruit machines or drunken singing is audible at a gig from the next room. Many venues love to have a comedy night and then sabotage it by playing loud music in the main room, even if there are 30 people in the gig and 3 people in the main room. If you ask the venue to turn the sound right down, they will usually turn it down a token amount and then turn it up again later.
Street joke: A joke that circulates among the general population without clear authorship. “Why did the chicken cross the road? To get to the other side” is an example of a street joke. A comic who does street jokes as part of their set is a hack.
Tag: A thing you say after the punchline of a joke to get another laugh.
Walking: When a comedian says something that causes audience members to leave, they are said to have “walked” those audience members. For example: “I joked about cross-sex hormones for teens and walked half the audience at Love Comedy.”
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