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?

  • 1
    I usually use the term "run-up". Jul 13 '12 at 12:22
  • 15
    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). Jul 13 '12 at 17:34
  • @ChrisCudmore bravo.
    – Joel Anair
    Nov 4 '14 at 18:23
  • I think "rising action" would be suitable. It's a literary reference and ties into "risible". Of course, that's me projecting where there is established terminology.
    – Paul Rowe
    Dec 9 '15 at 18:03

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, in contrast to a one-liner. To the setup and punchline may also be added tags, additional punchlines using the same setup, and toppers, additional punchlines which use the entire earlier joke as a setup.

  • 68
    Here's a joke about UDP... Jul 13 '12 at 14:09
  • 19
    @PatrickMcDonald A handshake for you, good sir
    – Jimmy
    Jul 13 '12 at 15:53
  • 53
    The best part about UDP jokes is that nobody cares if you get them.
    – Cameron
    Jul 13 '12 at 16:49
  • 3
    A punchline by itself might be inherently funny if the joke is based on the lack of context (i.e. an orphaned punchline)
    – Gareth
    Jul 15 '12 at 9:38
  • 5
    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 '14 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.

  • 14
    I believe 'feedline' is only used of a setup delivered by a different person than the punchline. Jul 13 '12 at 17:18

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