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Comedy Glossary


Sometimes, comedians will be talking with one another and – to an outsider – they seem like they’re speaking their own language. There are words and terms used amongst comedians that the average person might not pick up on in a typical conversation. Sure, some of these are easy to define once you’ve had a few minutes (a “Feature” is the middle comic, a “Headliner” is the last comic), but there are plenty that can be a bit odd to Joe AudienceMember. So, with a smile and good-natured hand extended to every non-comic out there, I offer this simply glossary for everyone who has ever wondered just what “Comedian-Speak” is all about. Enjoy!

Prop Comic: Comedian who uses props onstage, sometimes crafted by hand and sometimes merely store-bought, to convey humorous scenarios and situations. The most hated comedians in the business…except when one is the room at the time.

That’s My Time: Stupid saying comedians have been parrotting since the mid-1980s. It comes from comedians on TV, only having a limited amount of time in which to perform, letting the audience know that their time is up and they have to leave the stage. For some reason, every third comedian still says this phrase, instead of just saying “Thank you, goodnight” when wrapping it up. For one reason, many comedians think they’re supposed to say it. For another, they want the audience to know they actually have more to say, just aren’t given enough time in which to say it.

Hack: A comedian whose material is full of tired, old, hackneyed material. Some jokes have been done to death by dozens of comedians, from TV stars to no-names on the road. These jokes eventually become known as “Hack” routines, such as any mention of the Professor on Gilligan’s Island and his inability to fix the boat, or the fact that everyone had tons of clothes for a “three hour tour”.

Also, “Hack” can be (and typically is) used to express any comedian doing better than another comedian who deems himself funnier than said comedian…espcially if said comedian is more successful or better liked by the audience.

A Comic’s Comic: As in “That comedian is really a comic’s comic.” It means that comedians love this comedian. Many times, it also means that audiences will find the comedian offensive, awkward, pretentious, or just plain unfunny. (Eg: “That kid that the audience hated…the one who made all the jokes about his daughter’s abortion..? He’s a real comic’s comic.”) See also: Talking to the Back of the Room.

Crowd Pleaser: Audiences will love him, but comedians will hate him. This is a comedian who audiences find pleasing, hilarious, and often very universal in his sense of humor. Comedians will find this insulting.

Critically Acclaimed: Broke.

 The final bit a comedian does before leaving the stage. Typically, it’s his biggest joke and receives the biggest laugh, or simply leaves the crowd wanting more. Often, it’s a “signature bit” which people begin to think of when thinking of that certain comedian. (Eg: “That guy had the most amazing closer. He told a joke about his mother’s penis”).

A ‘Thinking Man’s’ Comedian: Will try to act smarter than the audience and talk down to 90 per cent of the crowd. Often will try to toss in vague literary references from 12th-grade English literature in order to prove his wit to everyone else.

The ‘Bad Boy’ of Comedy: Wears a leather jacket. Drinks a bottled beer onstage. Calls women “chicks.” Thinks sideburns are somehow a show of “edginess.” Often wants to stress that he lives in New York and is much tougher than the average person in whatever city in which he’s performing. Still thinks leather jacket is somehow a sign of rebellion.

A Clean, Original Act: Probably quite boring.

 What comedians accuse another comic of doing when the audience finds him particularly hilarious…especially if every comedian beforehand hasn’t done as well with said audience. Also used to express any comedian whose material is deemed less than original. See also: “Hack”, and “Crowd Pleaser.”

The Kansas Gazette calls him “One of the Funniest Comedians Alive”: Lives in Kansas.

A Good Friend of Mine: Someone a comedian barely knows, if at all, and possibly has never worked with before in his life. (Eg: “The next comedian coming to the stage is a very good friend of mine.”)

You may have seen him on Last Comic Standing: Chances are pretty good you didn’t.

Was recently in the movie Spider-Man 3: Stood in a crowd of 1,000 people and pointed skyward.

Next time you hear a couple of comedians standing around talking business, you can rest assured that you’ll be that much closer to knowing what it is they’re speaking about. And then you can go have yourself a good cry.



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