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    Dry Humor: A Guide to Understanding Deadpan Comedy
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Dry Humor: A Guide to Understanding Deadpan Comedy

A good sense of humor is worth its weight in gold. However, there is no universal ‘humor.’ Rather, it is a base term for a broad spectrum of humor types. Some are better for social situations than others. Dry humor is one of those that can be a blessing and a curse depending on your audience. So, let’s look at a dry sense of humor and the best way to break it out.

Dry Humor

Dry humor is one of those things that you either get or don’t. As such, it can easily lead to all manner of awkward foot-in-mouth situations.

They say that with power comes great responsibility. Well, the ability to make people laugh is a great power, and if you’re a purveyor of dry humor, it is most certainly your responsibility to make sure you understand how to wield it.

Dry Humor Isn’t for Everybody

Much like a dark sense of humor, dry humor jokes are not for everybody. It is very easy to misjudge your audience, crack open a few dry humor jokes, and suddenly find yourself in hot water. Unfortunately, it’s a very easy mistake to make and near impossible to save.

Luckily, you’re here, and we’re going to talk about dry humor and help you understand what it is and how you can use it responsibly.

Before we move on, you do need to accept that a dry sense of humor will offend some people and it is going to confuse others. You can’t please everybody. So learn this and accept it before you read on because it’s a sad fact for us maestros of the deadpan delivery.

What is Dry Humor?

What is Dry Humor

It’s a good idea to understand your subject matter before analyzing it too deeply.

What exactly is dry humor?

Does it mean you never make people laugh hard enough to cry? Can you only tell jokes when landlocked or on a blazing summer day?

Thank God no!

A dry sense of humor, otherwise known as deadpan humor, is a manner of making jokes in a way that seems entirely serious.

How would you define dry humor?

Dry humor is creating comedy using a sarcastic wit and as little emotion as possible to convert thoughts and comments on various topics.

In general, I like to think that the more serious (or horrific for a darker twist) the topic, the more emotionless you need to be with your delivery.

Sarcasm is the Lowest Form of Wit

People who don’t understand a dry sense of humor will often come out with this line. Don’t worry. It’s not true; just a way for them to justify your humor. If you have a dry humor or spend time with a sarcastic person who is dry, then you will know how sarcasm seems to ooze out of their every pore. It laces their words and is a massive part of what makes their humor funny.

What is Sarcasm?

It’s essential to validate that not dry humor is sarcastic, but not all sarcasm is dry humor. There is a difference. Otherwise, we wouldn’t need a separate definition.

Sarcasm is more about using words opposite to the situation for comedic effect. Deadpan humor takes elements of sarcasm such as the delivery, sincere tone of voice, and somber facial expressions; however, it has a broader language range.

It’s also important to remember that a dry sense of humor is humorous, while sarcasm can be used in many ways.

4 Deadpan Comedians to Study

As we said earlier, you need to learn how to wield a dry sense of humor. It’s no good running into a conversation half-cocked and making a fool of yourself, or even worse, offending people with a bad misread.

The following four comedians are experts in dry comedy. If you want to learn how to channel your sense of humor correctly, these are the people you should be studying.

Jimmy Carr

Jimmy Carr
via SkyNews

Jimmy Carr is a British stand-up comedian famous for his deadpan expression and incredibly dry sense of humor. Jimmy Carr is renowned for his short jokes and ability to stand with blank facial expressions while his audience laughs uncontrollably.

He is the master of the stoic one-liner and is a deadpan comedian many should study if they want to learn how to control their jokes.

Best Jimmy Carr Dry Humor Jokes

“When you eat a lot of spicy food, you can lose your taste. When I was in India last summer, I was listening to a lot of Michael Bolton.”

“I realized I was dyslexic when I went to a toga party dressed as a goat.”

“Throwing acid is wrong. In some people’s eyes.”

Jack Dee

Jack Dee
via Cumbria.Guru

Another master of dry humor is fellow Brit Jack Dee. A comedian who pioneered deadpan comedy in the days of loud and brash comics, you could do a lot worse than watching old Jack Dee footage to fully understand the deft way you can apply your dry sense of humor.

If humor was graded the same way wine was, then Jack Dee would be a champagne every way you look at it.

During the 1990s, he had a weekly show on the BBC called Jack Dee’s Happy Hour … it ran for thirty minutes. That should already give an idea of the style of humor you should be building.

Best Examples of Deadan Humor From Jack Dee

“I hate people who think it’s clever to take drugs… like custom officers.”

“In my local newspaper, they had this advert: ‘please look after your neighbors in the cold weather.’ I live next door to this 84-year-old woman, and do you know, not once has she come round to see if I’m all right. The lazy cow hasn’t even taken her milk in for a fortnight.”

“My local’s rough as anything. I went to the pub quiz the other night – the first question was, “What the f**k are you looking at?”

Steven Wright

Steve Wright
via AOMTheatre

Another comic who spearheaded the deadpan comedy movement is Steven Wright. The American comic was famous for his clever use of paraprosdokians and anti-humor, along with a straight face and monotone delivery.

Wright is such a deadpan comedy champion that he was the first-ever inductee into the Boston Comedy Hall of Fame.

Did you know that Wright even won an Oscar in 1989!

Best Dry Humor Jokes From Steven Wright

“Change is inevitable….except from vending machines.”

“I can remember the first time I had to go to sleep. Mom said, “Steven, time to go to sleep.” I said, “But I don’t know how.” She said, “It’s real easy. Just go down to the end of tired and hang a left.” So I went down to the end of tired, and just out of curiosity, I hung a right. My mother was there, and she said, “I thought I told you to go to sleep.””

“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?””

Jo Brand

Jo Brand
via The Times

English deadpan comedian Jo Brand is a shining example of dry humor. Her sharp wit and sardonic delivery fully encapsulate everything needed to use dry humor to your advantage.

Brand’s delivery is very methodical. Her voice almost bored, as if tired of hearing her own voice. She delivers her punchlines with a sharp fierceness that leaves even those that understand her humor questioning where the line between comedy and tragedy lies.

Perhaps spending ten years as a psychiatric nurse before turning to stand-up comedy left a mark on her soul.

Perfect Dry Humor Examples from Jo Brand

“How do you know it’s time to wash the dishes? Look inside your pants. If you find a penis in there, it’s not time.”

On baking a cake: “Cream six ounces of butter and caster sugar. Break three eggs and fold into the mixture, add six ounces of flour, spoon into cake tins and cook at gas mark five. After 25 minutes, remove from the oven, pour on three glasses of brandy and add some cream. Add some more cream. Add some more cream. Serve with custard, ice cream, and no friends.”

“I was not a particularly small child. I was the one who always got picked to play Bethlehem in the school nativity.”

Delivery Is Everything When Going Dead Pan

Control Your Facial Expressions and Body Language

To be a successful funny guy (or gal) takes understanding when to unleash a joke. You need to know when to deliver your joke and how. This is never more important than with a dry sense of humor.

By reading the examples given above, you can surely see the similarity between their styles and the flow of their jokes. The short sharp punch and the long ramble with the twist at the end.

There are punchlines in dry humor, but it’s about more than that. It’s about how you deliver them. You need to keep a straight facial expression. The more bored you can look at your own humor, the better.

A dry sense of humor is an art form in its own right, and it will take practice to get it right. However, with the right dedication, and appreciation for the humor you are drawn to, it can be a very powerful social tool.

Dry Humor Means Mastering the Nonchalant

The Irony of the Dry Humor Meaning

The final thing you need to understand when discussing dry humor is timing. If you have a dry sense of humor, you can’t seem too eager to tell a joke. You need to become the master of the nonchalant.

Your jokes should come as statements of fact that hit at a moment when least expected. Make sure your delivery is done in such a way that you seem almost uninterested.

Throw your lines out there and move on. Don’t look your audience in the eye and smile. No, stare at them with an expressionless face. Allow the weight of your words to settle. It is this combination that makes people laugh. Most people will be drawn to laugh even harder simply because your poker face makes them feel like they shouldn’t be laughing.

Once you master your stage presence and your deadpan delivery, you could crack up a room in just two words.

Don’t believe us …

Dwarf shortage!

Final Thoughts on Mastering the Dry Sense of Humor

There you have it—a guide to everything it takes to understand dry humor. Don’t worry. It isn’t for everybody. Sure, most people will laugh at a good joke, but not everybody will be able to deliver dry jokes properly.

Do you consider yourself a dry humour aficionado? Then, hit us with your best dry joke in the comments. We’d love to hear them.


  1. Margaret Court. My agent tells me to wear brighter lipstick but what if I’m not funny and it’s coming out of these big ol lips???