the (honest) stand up comedy dictionary

A lot of “normal” people don’t know there’s a whole different language comedians use to talk about stand up comedy.. .which has led to the creation of “stand up dictionaries” in an attempt to explain our lives to humorless plebeians.

But this isn’t one of those fluffy-ass dictionaries for non-comics! This dictionary is for advanced, fluent stand up comedians! With the real, honest definitions – what the words really mean. This ain’t your grandma’s stand up dictionary (unless your grandma was a comic!).

Unfortunately, if you’re not a comedian, this glossary is about as useful as bringing a pocket French dictionary to France. So it might help a little bit. But you’re definitely still going to look stupid. Hey, it’s a start! Actually, it’s the perfect piece to read if, like my mother, you don’t particularly care for comedy but you have “a horse in the race.” With some practice, maybe your poor grasp on our lexicon won’t completely stick out like a sore incomplete idiom.

I know this isn’t an alphabetical list. And, yes, technically that’s what a dictionary is supposed to be. But the alphabet is overrated! Screw the alphabet! Who uses anything besides emojis anymore? screen-shot-2016-10-14-at-11-08-05-am That’s why I organized these words for maximal vocabularic retention (i.e. however I feel like it). I’m not sure if “vocabularic” is a real word, but it should be.

So. Below is the very first, very un-alphabetical edition of The (Honest) Stand Up Comedy Dictionary.


JOKE /jōk/


  1. what you tell on stage
  2. what you never tell off stage because it just doesn’t work that way, no matter how many times someone says, “Come on don’t be lame, just tell one! Just for me!”


  1. what you do that your parents are ashamed of

“We’re proud of you, son! .. .Just joking!”


PREMISE /ˈpreməs/


  1. what you thought was a joke until you said it on stage and it wasn’t funny

“.. .goddammit this isn’t funny at all! It’s just a premise isn’t it?”


BIT /bit/


  1. a joke, inside joke, or gag – either on stage or off

“Is this a bit? I can’t tell.”


NO BITS /nō bitz/


  1. serious/seriously

No bits guys, we need to get down to business. Can you please be no bits for once in your darn lives!”


SET /set/


  1. the jokes you tell on stage
    1. synonym: your “performance”
  2. the success of which your mood is 100% governed by

“This random pregnant woman said I had a good set; my life has meaning now. .. .Do you think she’s into me?”




  1. what people who don’t know anything about stand up say when they mean “set”
    1. synonyms: skit, sketch

“Good luck on your little skit or sketch or whatever.. .you know, your shtick!”


FACEBOOK /ˈfāsbo͝ok/


  1. where you degrade yourself with as many self-deprecating jokes as possible and devolve into a “like”-craving machine
  2. a social network

“Okay, well fuck you guys. That’s funny! That joke got a hundred likes on Facebook!”


BOOKED /get bo͝okt/


  1. to be scheduled to perform on a show
  2. to have bragging rights
  3. to make a Facebook post telling everyone how much you get booked

“Yeah I got booked on five shows this week, so I don’t even know why I’m still talking to you open-micers.”


OPEN-MICER /ˈōpən mīkər/


  1. a comic who doesn’t yet get booked regularly on shows and spins his/her trade on the open mic circuit
  2. vermin, a derogatory term

“Oh ew. Yuck.”


OPEN MIC /ˈōpən mīk/


  1. where souls go to die
    1. synonym: Hell
  2. where people don’t laugh at you unless they’re your friend
  3. where you get better at comedy

Cool non-comedy friend: “Hey wanna hang out later tonight and be normal?”

You: “No thanks, I have to go be sad for five hours at some open mics.”


HEADLINER /ˈhedˌlīnər/


  1. the comic who does the most time
  2. top dog

“Hey headliner, want to smoke with me?”




  1. the comic who does time in between the opener and the headliner
  2. middle dog

“Yo feature, let’s go smoke.”


OPENER /ˈōp(ə)nər/


  1. the comic who opens up the show, does the least amount of time, and introduces each comic
    1. synonym: host
  2. the person responsible for warming up the crowd
  3. bottom dog

“Let’s not smoke with the opener. He’s lame.”


CLUB /kləb/


  1. where you do comedy and people actually want to be seeing you do comedy
    1. antonym: a fun place with music and dancing

“Ha! Dance club?! You’re funny.. .I don’t even know how to dance!”


THE ROOM /T͟Hə ro͝om/


  1. wherever you’re performing
  2. the audience in the room where you are performing
  3. a convenient thing to blame if you have a bad set, especially if you’re delusional

“This room sucks. I’m amazing.”




  1. any time you’re performing for any “real” people (not comics), even if it’s only like two people

“Thanks Mom and Dad for booking me on your show.. .this room is great! Even if it is the living room.”




  1. a show where you have to bring a certain number of your paying friends in order to get stage time
    1. origins: comedy clubs scheming to make more money
  2. selling your soul to get a decent tape

“Wow, you have absolutely zero credits as a comic. You should do my bringer!”




  1. standing outside a comedy venue and yelling at people to come inside and watch the show
    1. origins: yes, you are being compared to a dog
  2. another way to sell your soul for stage time

“Did you bark to get on this show or did you get booked like a real comic?”


CROWD WORK /kroud wərk/


  1. talking to the audience and making it funny (or more often, not)

“Hey everybody, how’s it going? Crowd work: done.”


TAG /tag/


  1. an extra joke you add onto the end of your joke to keep the laugh going
  2. a funny idea another comic gives you that you either resent or respect them for, depending on how good at comedy they are

“I’m gonna act interested to hear your tag for my joke, but I actually hate your guts.”


  1. to offer a tag

“I can tag your joke for you, if you wanna hear it? If not, I’m still gonna say it anyway.”


HECKLE /ˈhek(ə)l/


  1. to be a dick
  2. to interrupt a show because you’re a dick
  3. just generally being a dick who is probably drunk
    1. synonym: to be a dick

“Yo, I’m a drunk dick and I’m heckling you!”


RIFF /rif/


  1. to do unprepared improvised material, often remarking on the room, audience, or another comic’s set
  2. trying to say something funny on the spot and it not working

“Great riff, man.” (sarcastic)


KILL /kil/


  1. to have a particularly good set; to be really funny
    1. origins: comedians being really awkward about the topic of death
  2. how you describe the set you just did if you wanna sound like a douche
  3. something (besides masterbating) that comedians like to joke about doing to themselves

“Wow this set is so bad, I’m gonna go kill myself! HAAAAAAAA!”


BOMB /bɒm/


  1. to have a particularly bad set


  1. the inspiration behind many horrible “terrorist” puns by middle-eastern-looking comedians

“I sure hope I do well tonight because when an Iranian guy bombs, everyone dies!!!!!!!!!”


HACKY /ˈhæki/


  1. unoriginal; used to describe a joke
  2. a type of sack

“That ‘bombing’ joke was so hacky I’d rather play hacky sack than listen to your jokes. And I HATE hacky sack.”


THE LIGHT /T͟Hə līt/


  1. what lets you know your time on stage is almost up
  2. usually the host’s phone, flailed wildly in the back of a dark room
  3. an easy way to fuck with your friends on stage

Some comic in the back of the room: “Are you giving him the light already? He just got on stage!”

Guy waving the light: “I know, I’m fucking with him – I don’t even host this show!”


This post was written by Stu Melton, a NYC comedian and creator of ACN. You can find him on twitter @tellsjokes.

The featured image was created by NYC comedian and artist Steve Girard. Right now he’s working on a movie, called Floaters Dot Com, about turning people into free trial discs. You can follow him on Instagram @gevestirard and twitter @OrpahWinferd.

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