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Want to Understand Comedian-Speak? Try This Handy Glossary

Posted: 02/04/2014 11:06 am

Sometimes comedians will be talking with one another and, to an outsider, it may seem like they're speaking their own language. That is why I offer this simple glossary for everyone who has ever wondered just what "Comedian-Speak" is all about.

The Light. Comedians are often given a "light" from the back of the comedy club to let them know that their time onstage is almost up. Someone shines a flashlight at the comedian, which is usually unseen by the audience. Example: "I've gotta go. I just got the light."

Blue. A comedian who uses foul language and adult content. In certain clubs, this is any comedian who says the infamous "F" word more than never. Also applies to what 90 per cent of all working comedians do not think they are. Example: "I got fired for being too blue, but I've never thought my bit about sex with a pregnant donkey was dirty."

Guitar Comic. Comedian who uses a guitar as part of his act, often performing parody songs or original funny songs. Often hated by comedians who consider themselves "purists." Beloved by same purists when it's online and by anyone from SNL.

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 in the room at the time. See also: Gallagher and Carrot Top.

"That's My Time." Phrase comedians have been using since the mid-'80s. The comic lets the audience know that their time is up. For some reason, every third comedian still says this phrase, instead of just saying "Thank you." It's their way of letting the audience know they actually have more material, just not enough time in which to say it.

"Has Travelled All Over The World." Has performed in the USA and Canada and honeymooned in Jamaica. Told a joke on a ski trip in Vermont and now uses it on his resume.

Hack. A comedian whose material is full of tired, old, hackneyed material. Some jokes have been done to death by dozens of comedians, such as any mention of the Professor on Gilligan's Island and his inability to fix the boat. Also used to express any comedian that is more successful than another. Recent industry trends indicate that everything ever written by anyone else ever is now officially Hack.

"Is also an actor." Is currently seeking new management.

"A Comic's Comic." Other comedians love this comic. Many times it also means that audiences will find the comedian offensive, awkward, or just plain unfunny. Example: "That kid made all the jokes about his daughter's abortion..? The one booed offstage? He's a real comic's comic." See also: "Talking to the Back of the Room" and "Edgy."

"Crowd-Pleaser." Audiences will love him, but comedians will hate him. This is a comedian who audiences find pleasing, hilarious, and often very universal. Comedians will often find this insulting. See Also: "Hack."

"Critically-Acclaimed." A comedian who is broke.

Closer. The final bit a comedian does before leaving the stage. Typically, it's his biggest joke and receives the biggest laugh. It's often his signature bit. Example: "That guy had the most amazing closer. He told a joke about his mother's penis." May also refer to comedian's preferred shift at his other job at Pizza Hut.

"A Thinking-Man's Comic." Has vague references to books that were translated from their original Swahili and into Braille. You wouldn't understand. It's over your head. Why'd you come to this club anyway? Just go home and watch The Kardashians, simpleton.

"The 'Bad Boy' of Comedy." Wears a leather jacket. Drinks a bottled beer onstage. Calls women "chicks." Does not own a motorcycle. Still thinks a leather jacket is a sign of rebellion.

"A Clean, Original Act." Usually more of the former than the latter. Makes a fortune working on cruise ships.

Pandering. Used to express any comedian whose material is just to elicit applause. Example: "Women are smarter than men. Am I right, ladies?" Also used to describe a comedian who did better than you did on a particular show. See also: "Hack" and "Crowd Pleaser."

"Has opened for many top acts and A-list celebrities." You've never heard of him before.

"Works clubs and colleges all over the country." Has never been on TV.

"The Kansas Gazette calls him 'One of the Funniest Comedians Alive'..." He lives in Kansas.

The Arms. Old bit that hails all the way back to Vaudeville. Comedian tucks his arms behind his back while an audience member places her arms under the comedian's armpits. The comedian then uses her arms as he improvises several scenarios, such as driving or masturbating. Example: "That comedian did 'the arms' onstage last night as his closer." See also: "Hack" and "Pandering."

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

"A fresh, new talent." Has been around for over 10 years.

Talking to the Back of the Room. A comedian who cares more about making other comedians laugh than he does entertaining the audience. Sometimes those comics simply laugh because they love to watch other comedians fail. They're usually doing this at the rear of the club. Ex: "That guy just talked to the back of the room all night."

"A Tight 30." What a comedian says he's going to do right before going onstage and rambling for 45 minutes.

Richard Pryor. Comedy legend whom every comedian claims as a major influence. Comedians always say they try to be just like him. See also: "George Carlin."

Sinbad. Actual inspiration most comedians are like. See also: "Gallagher."

Podcast. See: Marc Maron. See also: Everyone else.

"Going into the Crowd."When a comedian stops doing his pre-written material and begins talking to members of the audience. Sometimes this is improvised, but sometimes it is made to simply look as if it is improvised. Example: "The MC tried going into the crowd after doing that bit about his dad's vagina." See also "The Arms."

Edgy. Might possibly offend a majority of the audience. Revels in jokes about abortion, religion being stupid, murdering children, and mean-spirited acts of violence. See also: "A Comic's Comic," "Talking to the Back of the Room." See never: Sinbad.

"Has Been Seen on Into The Night with Rick Dees." Appeared on TV show even Rick Dees doesn't remember.

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

"Was recently in the movie Spider-Man 2." Stood in a crowd of 1,000 people and pointed skyward.

"Recently." Length of time used to describe a comedian's appearance on TV or in a movie many years ago.

"One of the hardest working comedians out there today." Works at Applebee's, too.

This is merely the beginning of what is actually and endless (and constantly growing) glossary of terms. 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 taking about.

Ward Anderson is a crowd-pleasing hack who has been known to pander to audiences everywhere as one half of the talk radio program "Ward and Al," which can be heard weekdays on SiriusXM satellite radio. His first novel will be released in May 2014.

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