is a form of non-comedic
delivery in which humour
is presented without a change in emotion or facial expression
, usually speaking
in a monotone manner. Deadpan is a type of dry humor.
The term "deadpan" first emerged as an adjective
in the 1920s, as a compound word
combining "dead" and "pan" (a slang
term for the face). It was first recorded as a noun
in Vanity Fair
in 1927; a dead pan was thus 'a face or facial expression displaying no emotion, animation, or humour'. The verb
deadpan 'to speak, act, or utter in a deadpan manner; to maintain a dead pan' arose by the early 1940s, apparently as a journalistic coinage rather than a theatrical one. It must be noted that today its use is especially common in humour from the UK, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand. It is also very appreciated in France, by the influence of the "esprit" (dry-humour mostly). Many popular American sitcoms also used deadpan expressions, most notably Arrested Development
. Dry humour is often confused with highbrow
humour. Although these forms of humour are often dry, the term dry humour actually only refers to the method of delivery, not necessarily the content.
A subtype of deadpan is deadpan violence.
Deadpan violence is used to describe a sentence, group of sentences, phrase or action that involves someone threatening violence in an unemotional, detached way. This may be done to create a comic effect, by being out of place and in an unrealistic context.
A classic example of deadpan violence as humour occurs in one of the variations on Monty Python's skit "Cheese Shop". After a long and civil discussion, Mousebender tells the cheese merchant "I'm going to ask you that question ['Do you have any cheese?'] once more, and if you say 'no' I'm going to shoot you through the head. Now, do you have any cheese at all?" The merchant responds with a "no" and Mousebender shoots him through the head.
Another example is in the 1993 film Falling Down, in which D-Fens (played by Michael Douglas) is insulted by a man who has been waiting to use his phone booth. Without much show of anger D-Fens responds, "People have been waiting to use the phone? Well, you know what", to which he removes a submachine gun and fires upon the phone booth, destroying it, then saying, "I think it's out of order."
- "Quentin Tarantino's black comedy and deadpan violence is used in Jackie Brown.
- "Deadpan violence, stark atmosphere, and characters worthy of a pulp Faulkner."
- Examples in television can be found in the dialogue of Brian Griffin (Family Guy) and many other creations, being something of a staple of the British cult comedy series Red Dwarf.
Notable deadpan comedians
- Morgan Murphy, American stand-up comedian and writer.
- Dave Allen, an Irish stand-up.
- Michael Ian Black, David Wain, and Michael Showalter are the trio in the stand up act known as Stella.
- Todd Barry, American stand-up comedian.
- Garry Shandling, American stand-up and actor of the Larry Sanders Show.
- Jimmy Carr, English stand-up comedian.
- Jemaine Clement, New Zealand comedian, actor, musician.
- Les Dawson, late English comedian; noted for his lugubrious delivery
- Jack Dee, English stand-up comedian.
- John Shuttleworth A character created by Graham Fellows, who incorporates deadpan humour into his music routines.
- Stewart Francis, Canadian stand-up comedian, writer and actor.
- Zach Galifianakis, American stand-up comedian and actor.
- Jim Gaffigan, American stand-up comedian.
- Elliot Goblet, Australian comedian Jack Levi's stand-up persona
- Mitch Hedberg, American stand-up comedian.
- Dave Hughes, Australian stand-up comedian.
- Jonathan Katz, American comedian, actor and voice actor.
- Stewart Lee, English stand-up comedian, writer and director.
- David Letterman, American comedian and Late Night Show host.
- Ted Chippington, English stand-up comedian.
- Norm Macdonald, Canadian stand-up comedian, writer and actor.
- Demetri Martin, American comedian, actor, and writer.
- Bret McKenzie, New Zealand comedian, actor, musician.
- Paul Merton, English comedian and actor, of Have I Got News For You. However, he has broken this style quite a few times.
- Dan Mintz, American comedian and writer.
- John Moloney - English comedian.
- Paul Mooney, American comedian and writer
- Dylan Moran, Irish stand-up comedian.
- Dave Mordal, American comedian, contestant on Last Comic Standing.
- Bob Newhart, American stand-up comedian, TV and film actor, and voice actor
- Jackie Vernon caricatured the typically boring slide-projector presentation of vacation photos.
- Steven Wright, American stand-up comedian.
- Tim Heidecker & Eric Wareheim, stand up comedians/ Stars of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!
- Tom Green in The Tom Green Show.
- Seth Rogen Canadian comedian and writer.
- Buster Keaton, known as "Great Stone Face," became famous for never cracking a smile in any of his films. Strictly speaking, his was not a deadpan approach, since his face was actually very expressive. He subtly portrayed bemusement, anger, fear, and other emotions, but never smiled in a single one of his classic silents. In Go West, a cowboy forces him to smile, which he does by using his fingers to pull up the sides of his mouth. The result is a ghastly parody of a smile. Keaton also mugged, cried, laughed, and otherwise carried on in several of his earliest silent two-reelers with Fatty Arbuckle. His first smile in sound movie occurred in San Diego, I Love You (1944).
- Stan Laurel, of the double act Laurel and Hardy.
- Tommy Lee Jones, American actor whose style is ever present in the Men In Black films.
- Bill Murray. Most of his work entails him delivering overtly humorous lines with a genuine look of disinterest or indifference on his face, particularly in later works such as Lost in Translation, Broken Flowers and The Lost City.
- Leslie Nielsen progressed from being a dramatic actor in films such as The Poseidon Adventure to a comedic actor due in large part to his seriousness in delivering nonsensical lines in movies such as Airplane! ("Surely you can't be serious!" "I am serious. And don't call me Shirley.") and The Naked Gun series.
- Peter Sellers, most famously for his role as the United States President (as well as Dr. Strangelove, and Captain Mandrake) in Stanley Kubrick's Dr. Strangelove and his portrayal of bumbling French police inspector Jacques Clouseau.
- Ben Stein, who was originally a university professor, found a new career as a comedy actor by exploiting the stereotype of the dull academic.
- Christopher Walken is best known for his deadpan affect and off-key pauses, which is most notable in films such as Pulp Fiction and True Romance.
- Chevy Chase, known for his roles as Ty Webb in Caddyshack and Clark Griswold in National Lampoon's Vacation
- Zooey Deschanel, known for comedic deadpan roles in Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy and Failure to Launch.
- Stephen Colbert is an American comedian, satirist, actor and writer, known for his deadpan comedic delivery.
- Colin Mochrie is famous for his deadpan humor in such TV series as Whose Line Is It Anyway?.
- Chelsea Handler in E's "Chelsea Lately"
- Andrew Levy in Fox News's "Red Eye w/ Greg Gutfeld"
- Jack Benny and Johnny Carson were famous for their "takes," blank stares toward the camera in response (or nonresponse) to something funny that had just happened.
- Peter Cook, pioneering British comedian of stage, screen, and script.
- Clive Anderson, UK television presenter, former host of UK version of Whose Line is it Anyway
- Kenny Mayne, SportsCenter anchor.
- The Office, BBC comedy co-written, co-directed by, and starring Ricky Gervais and the NBC American remake starring Steve Carell, thrives on deadpan humor
- Rick Mercer, in This Hour has 22 Minutes and Talking to Americans (by making outlandish claims about Canada).
- John Cleese, in Monty Python's Flying Circus.
- Graham Chapman, also in Monty Python's Flying Circus.
- Sacha Baron Cohen, in Da Ali G Show.
- Bob Newhart is known for his deadpan delivery and his slight stammer, as featured on The Bob Newhart Show and Newhart, and in classic standup routines.
- Christopher Morris The alter ego of Chris Morris portrayed on Brass Eye, a satirical news investigation show in which the most hysterical headlines and stories are told completely seriously
- Pat Paulsen spoke in a blank monotone with heavy eyelids, usually opening with, "Good evening, I'm really excited to be here."
- Anne Robinson, British Weakest Link host known for acerbic comedic remarks.
- Mo Rocca
- Topher Grace, known for his role as Eric Forman on the sitcom That '70s Show.
- Michael Ian Black
- Jemaine Clement and Bret McKenzie of HBO's "Flight of the Conchords (TV series)" heavily incorporate straightfaced expressions in response to jokes into their comedic and musical routines on the show.
- David Duchovny is famous for his deadpan humor it can be seen in such TV series as Californication (TV series).
- Lee Mack English stand-up comedian and actor.
- Leigh Hart a.k.a That Guy, most famous for New Zealand television show Moon TV, employs a comedic style that can be accurately described as deadpan humour.
- Tom Green on MTVs The Tom Green Show.
- Daria Morgendorffer, protagonist of the MTV cartoon Daria.
- Estelle Getty, best known for performing on the TV series The Golden Girls.
- Martin Starr, best known for the character of Bill Haverchuck on the TV series Freaks and Geeks.
- Shizuka Dômeki in "xxxHolic".
- Brock Samson in "The Venture Bros.".
- Alfred Pennyworth in Batman (Pre-90's)
- Matthew Perry as Chandler in Friends.
- Chloe O'Brian in 24.
- Edmund Blackadder, played by British comedian Rowan Atkinson.
- Kenshiro from Fist of the North Star, whose catchphrase, "You're already dead" is ironic because of his deadly technique that can make fighters literally explode.
- Tim Canterbury, played by Martin Freeman, in The Office
- Father Ted Crilly, lead character in popular Irish sitcom Father Ted, played by Dermot Morgan
- Jim Halpert, played by John Krasinski, on "The Office"
- Daria Morgendorffer and Jane Lane, from Daria
- Mac in Green Wing
- Enid from Ghost World
- Droopy, the low-key animated movie character created by Tex Avery.
- Holly, the ship's computer in Red Dwarf, played by Norman Lovett and later by Hattie Hayridge.
- Brent Leroy, played by Brent Butt, in the television series Corner Gas.
- FBI agent Fox Mulder, as portrayed by David Duchovny, in the television series The X-Files.
- Niles, the butler from The Nanny, played by Daniel Davis.
- Rick Spleen, played by Jack Dee, in Lead Balloon
- Brian, from Family Guy.
- Sesshomaru, from InuYasha.
- Jade Curtiss, from Tales of the Abyss.
- George Feeny, from Boy Meets World, played by William Daniels.
- Mokka from Magical Starsign
- Carlton the Doorman, off-camera persona from the TV show Rhoda.
- Michael Bluth, played by Jason Bateman from Arrested Development.
- Willow Rosenberg, played by Alyson Hannigan, in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, when she becomes herself's vampire doppelgänger or when she becomes an evil witch.
- Yukishiro Tomoe in the manga-version of Rurouni Kenshin
- Kwame in Captain Planet and the Planeteers
- The Janitor from the NBC series Scrubs
- Takashi Takeda/Jumbo, from Yotsuba&!.
- GLaDOS from the video game Portal
- Logan Echolls in 'Veronica Mars'.
- Almost the entire cast of Gilmore Girls.
- Almost the entire Cast of Home Movies.
- Huey Freeman from the comic and TV series, "The Boondocks".
- Frylock from Aqua Teen Hunger Force.
- Ulquiorra Schiffer from Bleach.
- Hoban "Wash" Washburne from Firefly and Serenity
- Mark Twain is Mark Twain as saying: "The humorous story is told gravely; the teller does his best to conceal the fact that he even dimly suspects that there is anything funny about it."
- Melora Creager, founder of cello-rock band Rasputina uses a form of deadpan when describing the songs she is about to sing. One song she described as a tip on bringing back the idea of cannabalism as a source of survival for the human race, also for bringing back western culture which is "...in the process of collapsing..."
- Humphrey Lyttelton, jazz musician and radio personality, as chairman of I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue was famous for his utterly deadpan delivery of even the funniest jokes
- Karl Pilkington, Sony Award winning radio personality, who rose to fame as a presenter on The Ricky Gervais Show, and created a podcast that entered the Guinness Book of World Records for its huge number of downloads.
- Sam Kekovich, an ex-VFL player who campaigns for citizens to eat lamb on Australia Day
- John Hodgman, humorist known mostly for his performances alongside Justin Long in a series of Apple ads as well as his appearances on The Daily Show, is recognized as a deadpan comedian.
- Typically the cast of modern sitcoms such as Seinfeld, Friends, The Big Bang Theory, That 70's Show, Two and a Half Men, The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, Cheers, Frasier and 8 Simple Rules. For the role of Charlie Harper portrayed by Charlie Sheen, of Two and a Half Men, previously played serious and dramatic roles before branching onto comedy, most notably the film Platoon.
- Gordon Strachan, Renowned for his deadpan humour during Interviews. Quotes attributed to Strachan have become legendary among football supporters.