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Deadpan is a form of comic delivery in which humor is presented without a change in emotion or body language, usually speaking in a casual, monotone or very serious, matter-of-fact voice and expressing an unflappably calm, archly insincere or artificially grave demeanor.


The term "deadpan" first emerged as an adjective or adverb 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 humor'. The verb deadpan 'to speak, act, or utter in a deadpan manner; to maintain a dead pan' rose in the early 40s, it stems from journalism rather than theatre. Today its use is especially common in humor from the United Statesmarker, United Kingdommarker, Irelandmarker, Canadamarker, Australia and New Zealandmarker. It is also very much appreciated in Francemarker, South Africa and Finlandmarker.

Many popular American sitcoms also use deadpan expressions, most notably Arrested Development and Seinfeld. Dry humor is often confused with highbrow or egghead humor. Although these forms of humor are often dry, the term dry humor actually only refers to the method of delivery, not necessarily the content.

Deadpan violence

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 or reacting to violence in an unemotional, detached way that comes across as jaded and blasé. 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 humor 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 the main character William Foster (played by Michael Douglas) is insulted by a man who has been waiting to use the phone booth previously occupied by Foster. He voices his irritation at Foster's prolonged use of the booth by saying "People have been waiting to use the phone." Foster responds to this by saying "Well, you know what?", and using a submachine gun to destroy the phone, added "I think it's out of order."

Usage examples

  • Quentin Tarantino's black comedy and deadpan violence is used in Jackie Brown.[62183]
  • Deadpan violence, stark atmosphere, and characters worthy of a pulp Faulkner.[62184]
  • The 2003 book by Max Brooks "The Zombie Survival Guide."
  • The "Zombie Kid Likes Turtles" video on youtube, starring a young boy who delivers the line "I like turtles" in a deadpan manner.

Notable deadpan comedians

Stand-up comedians



Fictional characters


See also

External links

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