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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?

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I usually use the term "run-up". –  James Webster Jul 13 '12 at 12:22
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Related: in a comedy team, the run-up or set-up delivered by a straight-man is called a straightline (which, incidentally, is the shortest distance between two puns). –  Chris Cudmore Jul 13 '12 at 17:34

2 Answers 2

up vote 107 down vote accepted

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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Here's a joke about UDP... –  Patrick McDonald Jul 13 '12 at 14:09
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@PatrickMcDonald A handshake for you, good sir –  Jimmy Jul 13 '12 at 15:53
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The best part about UDP jokes is that nobody cares if you get them. –  Cameron Jul 13 '12 at 16:49
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@PatrickMcDonald I see you joined just to make that comment. I joined just to vote for it! –  Brian Mortenson Jul 14 '12 at 3:25
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I love how this proves that EVERYONE gets sidetracked (from real work at overflow or superuser) by the 'somewhat related but definitely from a different stack exchange site' side panel. Don't get me wrong, though; I love how the next generation of coders will have a substantial appreciation of english and UX!!! –  lol Feb 19 at 21:15

Set-up is what professional comics/writers call it. Here in the UK some also call it a feedline as opposed to punchline.

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I believe 'feedline' is only used of a setup delivered by a different person than the punchline. –  DJClayworth Jul 13 '12 at 17:18

protected by tchrist Jul 6 at 23:48

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