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Stand-up comedy is a comic style in which a comedian performs in front of a live audience, usually speaking directly to them. The performer is commonly known as a comic, stand-up comic, stand-up comedian or simply a stand-up. In stand-up comedy the comedian usually recites a fast-paced succession of humorous stories, short jokes called "bits", and one-liners, which constitute what is typically called a monologue, routine or act. Some stand-up comedians use props, music or magic tricks to enhance their acts. Stand-up comedy is often performed in comedy clubs, bars, nightclubs, neo-burlesques, colleges, and theaters. Outside of live performance, stand-up is often distributed commercially via television, DVD, and the internet.
In stand-up comedy, feedback of the audience is instant and crucial for the comedian's act. Audiences expect a stand-up comic to provide a steady stream of laughs, and a performer is always under great pressure to deliver. This pressure can be thrilling, but also threatening. Comedic actor Will Ferrell has called stand-up comedy "hard, lonely, and vicious"
While a stand-up comedy show may involve only one comedian, most shows feature a "headline" format, or a "showcase" format. A headline format typically features an opening act known as a host or master of ceremonies (MC) who usually warms up the crowd, interacts with the audience members, makes announcements, and introduces the other performers. This is followed by one or two "middle" or "featured" acts, who perform shorter 15-20 minute sets, followed by a headliner who performs for longer, usually over 45 minutes.
The "showcase" format consists of several acts who perform for roughly equal lengths of time, typical in smaller clubs such as the Comedy Cellar, or Jongleurs, or at large events where the billing of several names allows for a larger venue than the individual comedians could draw. A showcase format may still feature an MC.
Many smaller venues hold "open mic" events, where anyone can take the stage and perform for the audience, offering a way for amateur performers to hone their craft and possibly break into the profession, or for established professionals to work on their material.
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