What is Dry Humor and How Can you Tell Someone Has It

Dry Humor, which is also referred to as dry-wit humor or deadpan humor, is described as the deliberate and unhurried display of emotional neutrality or even no emotion as a kind of comedy delivery to contrast with the absurdity of the subject matter suitably. This kind of delivery must be blunt, laconic, ironic, and apparently unintentional.

You can tell that someone has deadpan humor by observing the person’s demeanor, especially how they respond to people and situations. The world has produced some renowned dry humorists whose jokes set their audience rolling with uncontrollable laughter. Some of the legends in this field include Steven Wright, Nick Thune, Elayne Boosler, Trevor Noah, and many others.

What Is Dry Humor?

Dry humor can be described in several ways. It can be expressed as that special form of comedy where the comedian states very funny things with so much seriousness and calm expression – no atom of a smile, no funny faces, and no laughter. Deadpan humor is said to have deadpan meaning, and the cracker of the joke comes with matter-of-fact air and tone and is usually impassive.

It can also be described as a nonchalant or casual presentation of an alternative. This kind of humor often comes with a positive point of view or perspective, so intrinsically humorous, giving an uncommon or unique perspective to a situation that is often negative and making it seem less negative.

The joke may come in the form of an ordinary statement about an occurrence, current situation, or a burning issue, but what makes it funny is the shrewd manner the statement is made; this may also make it hard to understand from the onset.

With that said, we must acknowledge the fact that dry hour is situation or context-dependent

How To Develop A Dry Sense Of Humor?

Usually, a dry sense of humor is something that is supposed to come naturally, but those who desire to develop it can still have a go and be successful. Once you have decided to turn yourself into a deadpan comedian, then working on your use of language, expressions, and emotions become key.

With that said, we must acknowledge the fact that dry humor usually takes a lot of effort and plenty of time to develop. The internet is suffused with millions of tricks and tips deadpan comedy hopefuls can follow. We have outlined the most important ones below.

Constantly Observe Your World

It is always easy to assume that people who have a dry sense of humor work their magic spontaneously all the time. However, research has proved that extensive observation is one of the important ingredients in the journey of becoming a deadpan comedian.

Becoming an expert in dry humor requires you to be constantly aware of your environment. An aspiring deadpan comedian must observe people, their situations, and their idiosyncrasies; this usually helps in creating witty comments.

Another arm of observation is taking a good and honest look at yourself, as personal experience is considered to be another fertile ground for developing excellent jokes. A humorist’s personal experience is likely to give him some insights into things that others are totally ignorant of but will find humorous when they hear it from him. The first impression you have about a situation can be a great kill, and listening to your inner voice is likely to give you an unending source of inspiration.

Use Sarcasm As Your Weapon Of Choice

If you have ever been called sarcastic, then you need not be told to take advantage of it. Sarcasm means the twisting of words and comments in the opposite direction to provoke some literary effect or humor.

Dry humor experts must acclimatize to the fact that cynicism is a part of their persona and be proud of it. It is not that you always want to disrupt things, but you are well aware that people can be incapable and unreliable; thus, your guard needs to be up 24/7.

With time, people will start warming up to you and your sarcasm. Once they understand that you are naturally sarcastic, then you can conveniently develop it into deadpan comedy. You are simply super cynical, and you like it that way.

Subtlety is an Art

The core of deadpan comedy is the natural ability always to keep things subtle. But how does one keep things subtle when performing comedy?

It is important that you don’t make it blatantly obvious that it is just a joke. When your audience is not immediately aware that you are trying to tell a joke, it will take a few seconds for the message to register.

If you want to notice this particular trick in action, try to observe how long it takes the audience to understand and laugh at the joke of a deadpan comedian. It usually dawns on them after some moments, and the crowd will burst out with laughter.

Particularly, it is that lack of transparency that makes dry humor elicit laughs with a little delay, however, the outreach is likely to be far deeper. A good deadpan comedy never sinks in immediately, which is why many appreciate and enjoy it. Taking a while to process the content of a joke adds to its effect.

Mastering The Art Of Wordplay

Becoming a word nerd is another effective way most dry humor experts do the magic. Deadpan comedy is heavily dependent on an excellent understanding or grasp of the language. To be successful at wordplay, one must know a lot of words as well as the best way to twist them to elicit laughter.

Finding a semi-diplomatic way to uncover an embarrassing truth is an indispensable recipe for the success of dry humor. Aim to charm the audience with your wit by playing with common words that are very easy to understand. When rightly used, these kinds of words trigger a great response from people. Avoid words that are too complex while making deadpan comedy. Your dry humor potential can be nurtured by successful acts like Steven Wright, Tig Notaro, Rita Rudner, Dimitri Martin, and many others.

Always Dig up the Truth

Humor is akin to truth as both of them work hand in hand. The reason dry jokes tend to make people laugh is simply that illusions are removed, and reality is bared but in a subtly playful manner. When humor reeks of plain truth and is delivered in a bold way, people can feel a bit uneasy, but this may not always be in a bad way.

In some scenarios, your audience may get totally confused and won’t know which way to go – laughing with the deadpan comedian or laughing at him. It makes you tick when you push them outside their comfort zones, and the feeling you get will make you want to have another go.

There is this common workplace scenario that is apt for dry humor – spending thousands of dollars to improve productivity by sending employees to a team-building retreat may not be necessary if the firm can invest in software upgrades that are less expensive by far. The latter could be more productive. Telling this kind of deadpan joke in your workplace is sure to crack your colleagues up.

Put Yourself in the Shoe of an Amateur Psychologist

From people’s actions, Psychologists learn what may be going on in their minds. This ability is crucial for deadpan comedians; this way, they will be experts in interpreting the reactions of people and present dry humor that perfectly matches the situation.

Having that natural ability to read people like a book when they cannot reciprocate the action allows you to figure them out; this is exactly what makes a comedian savvy to people’s motives pretty quickly.

Read Widely

If you are the type that loves to read extensively, then you will find it easier to cultivate the kind of sense of humor that will inspire people. Reading puts a lot of great ideas at your disposal, and it is up to you to choose the right time to activate them.

We must never underplay creativity when delivering dry humor, and we all know that creativity is improved when you read a lot. Reading the works of veteran comedians like Steven Wright, Robert Benchley, and others will give you all the ideas you will ever need.

Never Worry About What People May Say

Successful deadpan comedians must know exactly who they are and what they stand for. Understand that you didn’t come to seek the approval of anybody. While performing, always maintain an unshakable attitude.

Your feathers must not be easily ruffled or flustered; your approach to life ought to be pretty laid-back, and you must allow your chilled-out vibe to filter into your wittiness. When you don’t allow little things to bug you, life is always much sweeter.

People may even view you as robotic when delivering jokes, but this happens because of the straight face you present to them. The best way for the humor to pour out of a comedian is in a relaxed manner; no emotions should be displayed.

It is possible that you may not be immediately understood by the audience; they may even find the content of your joke annoying at first. However, at this point, you need to maintain an unwavering demeanor and watch them quickly make the expected switch to the joke side; laughter usually follows.

At the end of the day, whatever people may be thinking of you is totally up to them. You only need to focus on your journey to becoming the best at what you do.

Choose the Right Moment

When it comes to dry humor, timing is crucial, this is because it is among the most difficult genres of humor to master. The joke must be delivered seamlessly, and the comedian should never act like they are kidding around and wasting valuable time.

Finding the right moment equally involves scanning the audience to know which people (especially dignitaries and government officials) might find your jokes in bad taste and withhold them. You don’t really need that type of headache.

However, the subtlety of dry humor and its tendency to fly over people’s heads may come to your rescue in such situations. In this scenario, the people you are trying to avoid may not even understand what you are driving at, but the majority of the audience will be rolling with uncontrollable laughter. The trick is to learn the best way to use situations to your advantage.

Accept That The Fact That Everyone Will Not Get You

There are times that some part of your audience may see your jokes as slightly tasteless, do not despair, as you and them may not be on the same page. A good deadpan comedian shouldn’t just set out to trample on people’s feelings, however, sometimes, you can decide to see how far or how further you can push with dry humor.

Constantly relying on audience feedback may dampen your interests and vibes. Everybody must not understand your dry jokes; that is the fact.

Contain Those Emotions

While delivering dry humor, make it a point to contain your emotions; this is because it is meant to be a subdued presentation. Never chuckle or crack a big smile at your own jokes.

One of the things that make dry humor appealing is that it tickles people’s intellect while the comedian maintains a respectable appearance. The dazzle may not even matter much.

Turn Terrible Situations Into A Goldmine

When you witness people fail spectacularly, the onus is on you to make an awkward comment or say something very stupid to give fast wisecracks about the situation.

This can be delivered in the form of your personal experience or that of other people. Those that are apt at converting awkward experiences into gold mines will always have an overflowing repertoire for their dry jokes.

Always Leverage Your Wit and Intelligence

To some people, deadpan comedy is unsophisticated and simplistic; what they don’t know is that a lot of brain power comes to play when constructing a decent joke. The type that is not easily recognizable with a somewhat obscure structure.

Armed with intelligence, a good deadpan comedian can create jokes from unfunny situations. Comedians always find ways to talk themselves out of tricky situations, and over time, they build refined wittiness that will make it possible for them to outsmart nearly anyone and every situation they come across

Intelligence is a compulsory requirement for deadpan comedians. Dry humor experts use their intelligence in identifying apt opportunities around them and capitalize on them. Once you succeed in mastering both the timing and delivery, your clever wit and superb sense of humor will endear you to millions. Trevor Noah is a good example of a deadpan comedian that creates witty comments through careful observation of the world around him, and he is constantly up to date with global news and information.

Another good observer is Jerry Seinfeld; his standup primarily consists of observations of life situations. What he is saying may sound dull to some people; however, his jokes are often irresistible.

The Humor should End During the Performance

The entire life of a dry humor expert need not be made into comedy; this may likely make people see you as uninteresting and unserious. When it comes to real-life situations, you should try and be normally expressive and less sarcastic. This way, people will see your dry jokes as truly special, valuable, and funny when you get to deliver them.

Know Your Audience

When you know your audience, you will be in a good position to understand the type of things they are likely to be familiar with, especially recent events and happenings around the globe. When you have a good grasp of this, you will now be at liberty to spice it up and create great deadpan humor for their enjoyment.

For instance, if your audience majorly consists of scientists, no one needs to tell you that they will be up-to-date with the latest scientific events and innovations across the globe. Lawyers would be easily cracked up with the follies of the legal system, while business people are likely to find rascality in the wheeling-dealing world of business funny.

Recap of Tips On How To Develop a Dry Sense of Humor 

  • Constantly Observe Your World
  • Use Sarcasm As Your Weapon Of Choice
  • Subtlety is an Art
  • Mastering The Art Of Wordplay
  • Always Dig up the Truth
  • Put Yourself in the Shoe of an Amateur Psychologist
  • Read Widely
  • Never Worry About What People May Say
  • Choose the Right Moment
  • Accept That The Fact That Everyone Will Not Get You
  • Contain Those Emotions
  • Turn Terrible Situations Into A Goldmine
  • The Humor should End During the Performance
  • Always Leverage Your Wit and Intelligence
  • Know your audience

Examples of Deadpan Humor

  • “I broke a mirror in my house and I’m supposed to get seven years of bad luck, but my lawyer thinks he can get me five” – Steven Wright
  • “I’ve never been married, but I tell people I’m divorced so they won’t think something is wrong with me”. – Elayne Boosler
  • “I’d kill for a Nobel Peace Prize”.
  • “I almost broke both my arms trying to hold open a revolving door for a woman”.
  • “Our bombs are smarter than the average high school student. At least they can find Kuwait”. – Whitney Brown
  • “A cop stopped me for speeding. He said, ‘Why were you going so fast?’ I said, ‘See this thing my foot is on? It’s called an accelerator. When you push down on it, it sends more gas to the engine. The whole car just takes right off. And see this thing? This steers it”. – Steven Wright.
  • “So, I got off the plane and I forgot to take off my seatbelt and I’m dragging the plane through the terminal… The wings are knocking people over…” Steven Wright
  • “A true friend stabs you in the front” – Oscar Wilde
  • “Experience is simply the name we give our mistakes” – Oscar Wilde
  • “I can resist anything except temptation” – Oscar Wilde
  • “Declaring bankruptcy requires more than shouting it out to the world” – Oscar Wilde.

How To Know Someone With a Dry Sense of Humor

Anybody that possesses the characteristics listed below will likely make a great deadpan humorist.

  • People with dry humor are known to favor common words and phrases; the type often used by laypeople.
  • They usually use as little facial expression as possible to hit the point home. They rely on other communication tools like props, body language, and many more.
  • They have the ability to state ludicrous and hopeless facts in a blatantly candid manner; this usually makes it difficult for your audience to hold their laughter. They also have the knack for stating simple ideas and facts in an awfully plain way.
  • A dry humor expert would likely say a joke as a statement and patiently wait for it to dawn on others.
  • A deadpan humorist would never give out a hint that he is trying to be funny; you won’t even see a single smirk – that expressionless kind of humor is exactly what we call dry humor.
  • You will notice that a deadpan humorist maintains an unwavering and monotonous demeanor throughout your interactions with them.
  • They always leverage cynicism and sarcasm and deliver jokes with a sense of irony.
  • Even when people consider their sense of humor to be rude and arrogant (perhaps because they fail to understand), it does not douse their enthusiasm one bit.

How People Respond to Dry Humor

Dry jokes are actually, as the name implies, “Dry”; they may not actually elicit laughter in some people. Some might smile a bit or even giggle at deadpan humor, but those who have a good grasp of the dry humorist’s meaning would laugh out loud.

This is just a testament to the fact that dry humor may be hard to understand. The reason for this lack of immediate understanding is that the comedians use a lot of sarcasm, and their faces are completely devoid of any form of emotion that will tell people that it was just a joke.

When it comes to understanding deadpan humor, intelligence is not only important on the part of the humorist, it is equally a prerequisite for the audience, who must understand the witty interpretation or wordplay for it to make meaning and elicit laughter.

Dry humor experts have the knack for making people feel that they are actually irritated or angered but will still deliver the joke anyway. More often than not, the audience finds themselves obligated to laugh or giggle at the joke in a bid to make the humorist less moody or happier. However, the funniest part of it is that the listeners will be totally unaware that he wants to deliver his joke that way.

Characteristics Of People With A Dry Sense Of Humor

  • They have a strong personality
  • Dry humor experts come complete with antagonistic personality
  • A deadpan comedian must always have a funny outlook

Dry humorists are not the only people that have turned their talent into a career. In a country like Nigeria, you would likely find numerous deadpan humorists who may never identify with the comedy industry, but they have a natural ability to elicit laughter in people around them. This category of dry humorists do it unknowingly and free of charge.


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