Skip to Content

Dry Humor: Deadpan at Its Finest

Dry Humor: Deadpan at Its Finest

At some point, the comedy gods decided there were six main styles of humor that a person could display. Who were these people that made this decision and why six? Who knows.

But the six main types were considered slapstick, satire, observational, surreal, dark, and dry humor (also known as deadpan). 


What Is Dry Humor?

The definition of dry humor is a form of comedic delivery in which something humorous is said or done by a person while not exhibiting a change in emotion or facial expression. It is also referred to as deadpan by many.

In this article we are choosing to focus on dry humor and why it is called dry humor in the first place. 

If you think about food that you may order in a restaurant and had to describe it as dry, you would probably be stating that it was without much flavour and showed very little excitement. This is essentially what dry humor is to a degree as well. 

Dry humor can be expressed without showing much emotion. This is why deadpan is a great way to describe dry humor. It is as if the person stating the humorous comment does not let their face betray just how funny it is.

They might as well be talking about the weather judging by the lack of emotion on their face. The person may have a stony expression, but it does not stop the wit behind their remark. 


Not Everyone Gets Dry Humor

There are those people who struggle to find the wit behind dry humor. It certainly does not seem to be for everyone.

It can go over someone’s head if they are not paying close enough attention.

While slapstick humor is very evident and basically hits the audience over the noggin with a blatant physical attempt to make them laugh, dry humor is more for the deep thinkers of the world and the subtleness can elude many.


Enough Talking! Give Me Examples

There is nothing worse than trying to listen to an intellectual explain humor. The best solution is to present the material and see if it is funny to you. Here are some examples of dry humor and why they are considered an adequate representation of dry humor in the first place. 


Example #1

If you want to see a living, breathing example of dry humor, the comedian Steven Wright has been performing his dry humor acts for decades.

His deadpan delivery belies the fact that what he is stating is quite clever and astute. He has had several great one-liners over the years that have been quite memorable. 

I was sad because I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet. So I said, “Got any shoes you’re not using?”

Pure genius. You probably mistakenly believed this person was going to make a deep philosophical comment about how we are all more fortunate than we usually recognize. Guess again. Not with dry humor.

Sponges grow in the ocean. That just kills me. I wonder how much deeper the ocean would be if that didn’t happen.
There was a power outage at a department store yesterday. Twenty people were trapped on the escalators.

Once again, just a deadpan delivery on how common sense can escape many of us. In this case, the escalators stopped working and the people stood around waiting for the power to be fixed instead of just walking up or down the stairs. 

I intend to live forever—so far, so good.
Someone told me half of all car accidents happen within a mile of your house. So I moved.

Aren’t we all buried in useless statistics nowadays? Wright takes the statistic and turns it on its head. 

When I was a little kid we had a sandbox. It was a quicksand box. I was an only child… eventually.

As you can see, all of these one-liners scream dry humor.

If you didn’t know the person who said these was a comedian, you may have thought it was just an old neighbour that was making small talk over the backyard fence to another senior citizen.

All of these lines were delivered with a deadpan expression by Wright without a trace of a smile. For those who are fans of this type of humor, it makes the jokes even better. 


Example #2

The television show The Office was one of the highest-rated shows in the United States for years and even its reruns are earning good ratings to this day.

If you would like to see plenty of examples of dry humor, merely stream a few episodes. Here are some of the more witty lines delivered with a deadpan expression by the character Michael Scott played by Steve Carell.

“I’m not superstitious, but I am a little stitious.”

A simple play on words delivered without expression when discussing whether he believes in the paranormal. 

“I’m an early bird and I’m a night owl so I’m wise and I have worms.”
“Would I rather be feared or loved? Easy. Both. I want people to be afraid of how much they love me.”

Dry humor is often expressed well through children as many times, what they are saying is often hilarious, but they can mean it in a very serious way with a straight expression on their little mug.

Michael Scott always was able to produce this childlike quality with many of his comments. 

“I fell in love with these kids. And I didn’t want to see them fall victim to the system.

So I made ’em a promise. I told them if they graduated from high school, I would pay for their college education.

I have made some empty promises in my life but, hands down that was the most generous.”

Michael Scott failed to hold steady to a life-changing promise that he made to these students, but he was still wowed by his own generosity… even though he wasn’t able to make good on it. 


Dry humor and Other Types of humor Can Mix

As you can see by some of these examples, when discussing humor, it does not have to be one type or another. The kinds of humor possible can sort of blend in with one another now and then.

For instance, Steven Wright’s comment about the man with no feet was dry humor, but it was also dark humor at the same time. 

Funny is funny. Sometimes you just can’t put it into a certain category. You just have to laugh.