Dry Humor refers to the type of comedy that deliberately lacking emotion or enthusiasm in its comedic delivery. It is usually blunt and occasionally ironic. It is also referred to as “Deadpan”.
How To Master Dry Humor
1. Know The Comedians
If you want to master dry humor, then you need to begin by familiarising yourself with well know performers who are famous for their deadpan delivery. Watch them, study them, watch their interviews and learn about them. Try to figure out what makes them so good at it and try to emulate it.
It becomes easier to master dry humor when you understand it and understand the people who have already perfected it.
Here are some entertainers known for their deadpan comedy and their excellent delivery:
Fred Armisen, Beatrice Arthur, Rowan Atkinson, Dan Aykroyd, Richard Ayoade, Jason Bateman, H. Jon Benjamin, Steve Carell, Jimmy Carr, Michael Cera, Chevy Chase, John Cleese, Stephen Colbert, Jane Curtin, Larry David, Ellen DeGeneres, Zooey Deschanel, Jim Gaffigan, Zach Galifianakis, Steve Harvey, Buster Keaton, Craig Kilborn, Shazia Mirza, Bill Murray, Kumail Nanjiani, Nick Offerman, Aubrey Plaza, Sarah Silverman, Jon Stewart, Christopher Walken and Kristen Wiig.
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2. Know The Different Styles
There are many different styles and delivery of dry humour, however, a lot of sitcoms and actors rely on deadpan expressions.
Most of the actors deliver their usually scathing punchline with a perfect expression of neutrality – an example of this can be noted in Captain Raymond Holt’s (Andre Baugher) delivery in the hit sitcom ‘Brooklyn Nine-Nine’.
An example can be seen in the clip below:
Another style common in dry humor is subtlety. Dry Humor succeeds because it is never over the top. A subtle and gentle segway into the punch line is enough to get people roaring, especially when the punchline seems unintentional.
Another style of dry comedy relies on ‘insults’. A whole subsection of dry humor is sometimes considered as offensive and inconsiderate to the wrong audience; but to the right audience who are not easily offended, it can be hilarious.
While we can list different styles on and on, the final style of dry humor mentioned in this post is sarcasm. A huge subsection of dry humor relies on Sarcasm. This can be seen in Jeanette McCurdy’s role on the Nickelodeon show iCarly, which her character – Sam Puckett – relied on heavily.
3. Choose Your Style
Once you familiarize yourself with the different styles of the comedy genre, you then choose the style with which you are most comfortable with.
Have you ever heard the saying, “Jack Of All Trades, Master Of None”? The same sentimentality applies here. In order to become a master of dry humor, you should want to be excellent at one style of comedy, instead of being just ‘okay’ at all of them. If your punchline delivery is best with a stony expression just like Buster Keaton, then you should work on it. If you are better at delivering sarcastic rebuttals, then you should lean into that.
The only way to be perfect is to find your style.
As the saying goes, practice makes perfect.
After discovering which style of dry humor works best for you, you need to practice relentlessly. Practice when you can, where you can and with who you can.
You should work on your timing, on your delivery and on your material every chance you get. This is the only way to get better at anything.
When you’re just starting out, you can also revisit the works and performances of your favourite performers and practice doing similar bits as them. Keep doing this till you’re confident enough to write your own material.
5. Try Your Material On Your Friends And Family
When you finally have your material, a good place to start will be to try it out on your friends and family. Your friends and family will always be brutally honest with you, their constructive criticism will help you get better.
If you’ve already perfected your craft then their laughter and encouragement will be all the motivation you need. Be sure to catch them at the right time and when they’re in a great mood if you want positive and honest feedback.
Always remember to refrain from over-the-top delivery; that is, in a way, the essence of dry humor.