How does one refer to the first part of a joke?
The follow up is often referred to as a punchline but I'm unsure how to refer to the first part. Is it a 'joke' or does a 'joke' include the punchline?
The first part of the joke is the setup, a general question or observation which offers an opportunity to give the punchline in response.
The joke is the setup and punchline combined, as either on its own is not inherently funny.
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Set-up is what professional comics/writers call it. Here in the UK some also call it a