Recently I went to a meeting of the National Capital Area Speakers Association.
The presenter was not what you would call traditionally funny, but still
got laughs from the crowd. He used an irregular form of humor taught
in a public speaking course.
He began speaking very seriously, . . . presented slowly, . . . and
kept a low tone of voice. I thought to myself, 'this is going to be
long day.' Then, without cracking a smile, a totally out of character
line came out of his mouth. He was going over his material which
talked about thinkers, doers etc, and said, "A thinker is a person
is thinking about something." The whole room cracked up. This is
called using a 'deadpan' expression.
Deadpan expression is the technique of combining a serious
demeanor with a funny line. The line typically gets a bigger laugh than
the same line delivered with a lighthearted expression or smile. The
contrast and surprise is what starts the laughter, and knowing how tocreate this expression should be mastered while in your
The most recent and famous example of this is the comedian Steven
Wright who NEVER breaks character to smile. He says lines like,
"My dog is confused. I named him STAY. . . Then I say come STAY."
A more animated and cartoonish version of this is Rodney
Dangerfield who pretends to be serious about his goofy life. He says,
an earth sign and my wife is a water sign ... ...Together we make
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