Comic Speak: Understanding Stand Up and Improv Lingo

Becoming a stand-up comedian isn’t just knowing a few good jokes, it’s about learning to develop a skin as thick as a Rhino so that you can deal with the hecklers and the nights where you bomb rather than go down a storm.

It is also about learning a whole new language that will help you construct a brilliant act and know what a fellow comedian or agent is talking about when they ask if you have ever had a flop sweat or whether you use scaling to construct the perfect set.

Humor is a great way of coping with life events and just about everything that life throws at you. Ira Riklis is a good example of that, with his blog that shares some excellent jokes, with not a hint of political correctness in sight, on some of them anyway!

Getting to grips with the lingo

One of the first terms that you definitely need to get to grips with is the ad-lib. Most audiences are disaster-perverts to coin a phrase, in other words, they love to see something or someone go wrong and then see how they react in the face of adversity.

That is why you need to develop an ability to come up with a funny line or observation that wasn’t in your original script. Ad-libbing when it is done well, can add the air of unpredictability to your routine and help you to go down a storm, but straying away from your prepared material can take you into dangerous territory if you are not careful.

The best phrase that you want to hear from someone after you have been on stage is “you killed it”. Thankfully, it doesn’t mean you died or bombed as it is often called, but it does mean that to kill with your act, is to do so well that even the guy in the audience who had made his mind up not to laugh, ends up laughing as hard as everyone else in the audience.

Stay away from the light

When someone at the back of the audience gives you the light, you will soon get to know that this is often a pre-arranged discreet signal that your allotted time on stage is coming to an end and you need to wrap things up.

If you get the light well before you finish all the material in your act, this is probably not a good sign!

Type of jokes

There are plenty of terms used by comedians to describe the type of jokes they are doing and how it is constructed and delivered.

A 1st story is when the scenario imagined in the mind of your audience is based on the setup of your joke. The 2nd story refers to the imagined scenario based on the punch line and when you act out, this is a quick scene with multiple POV’s (point of views) enacted during your show.

You could also do behavioral jokes, which are constructed around various nonverbal aspects of our character and can provide you with a lot of material that doesn’t really have a punch-line to finish with, but gets plenty of laughs along the way, if you construct and deliver the material in the right way.

You could also use some blue material, but as this refers to jokes which use graphic sexual overtones, toilet humor and plenty of swear words, you better make sure this is the type of act the venue and the audience wanted, or it could be an awkward evening.

Working the crowd

Comedians often talk about riffing or crowd work. Engaging in some verbal bantering with the crowd and picking out someone in particular is known as crowd work and riffing is basically the same thing but just a different name for it.


A heckler is a member of the audience who takes it upon themselves to talk and interrupt your routine by saying something that is normally insulting or derogatory.

If you are going to cut it as a stand-up comedian, you will have to be well trained in putting these often brain-dead dullards to the sword with a verbal riposte that gets a laugh and puts them firmly in their place at the same time.

Another thing to remember as you embark on building a career in stand-up, is that you have to ignore the critics. A good review will be a nice boost to your ego but the real currency of success is a full diary and the sold-out sign across the poster with your name on it.

Ira Riklis understands the power of humor. Also a keen blogger, he loves to brighten everyone’s day by sharing his comic side. Look for his uplifting posts on a variety of today’s top websites and blog sites.