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Everything You Need To Know About A Dry Sense of Humor

Deadpan humor - dry humor

A dry sense of humor is one of those instances when the term "dry" refers to something that is truly lifeless and non-productive. They say dry wood catches fire better, but they are not as good for fire as wood that is thoroughly wetted with gasoline.

Dry jokes are not only dry but they are often too hard to understand. But here am still trying to scratch the surface, whether or not, you are getting more confused is what I cannot say for now. But I can assure you that at the end of this post, almost all your curiosity about the dry jokes or dry sense of humor will be satisfied.

Dry jokes, also known as deadpan humor or dry sense of humor are a type of jokes or humor that are made or given by someone in such an impassive and expressionless way that some people do not find them funny. As a matter of fact, you people may even find them offensive, as though it was made to spite you.

"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

Steven Wright is an American stand-up comedian, actor, writer, and film producer who was referred to as the king of deadpan or dry jokes on Reddit. I just borrowed his dry joke shown above, from Reddit.

But here are a few other examples of his dry jokes;

  • When everything is coming your way, you're in the wrong lane.
  • Join the army, meet interesting people, kill them.
  • I almost broke both my arms trying to hold open a revolving door for a woman.
  • 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.
  • I spilled spot remover on my dog and now he's gone.
  • I've written several children's books... not on purpose.
  • I called the wrong number today. I said, "Hello, is Joey there?" A woman answered and she said, "yes, he is". And I said, "can I speak to him please?". She said, "no, he can't talk right now, he's only two months old." I said, "alright, I can wait".

Well! From my definition above, I described dry jokes or deadpan jokes as jokes made in an expressionless way, the supposed comedian does not make accompanying gestures to make the jokes feel more real and alive. You are in the theatre and events hall or you are watching it on YouTube, and this guy is just making dry, boring jokes, but then you still see a few people laughing at them. Watch the 3 minutes video of dry Jokes by Geralt in The Witcher's movie below:

Dry jokes are not limited to a video comedy or live view session. Like you can see in the dry joke examples I borrowed from Steven Wright above, you can also notice dry jokes when they are written on paper or screen. But really, what makes them dry jokes?

What Makes Dry Jokes/ Deadpan Humor Dry?

"When everything is coming your way, you're in the wrong lane"? Am I supposed to laugh at this or what?

Dry jokes are dry because they have the natural tendency not to make you laugh at first hearing. You need some deeper understanding of the jokes before they can evoke your laughter. Hence, only a few people actually laugh at them, while the rest are busy thinking of how bland the jokes are. Another group of persons may even find the jokes offensive and/or abusive.

But look at the joke up there, what if we relate it to a driving lane? When other vehicles are coming your way, you are actually on the wrong lane, aren't you? At least, most of our countries are not using the left-hand drive system, where vehicles drive on the right lane while the steering wheel is on the left.

I hope my attempt to explain a dry joke to you doesn't create another dry joke? Pardon me, I wasn't trying to make a joke.

Ready for another thing that makes dry jokes dry?

How about trying to make funny jokes to someone who is frustrated, and you mistakenly say "Hey, come on! The solution to frustration is to eat rotten apples with scrambled eggs"?

I just saw the smile on your face at this little joke I just invented. I guess I am doing a fairly good job here. If you smiled at it, it could mean that you are not so frustrated at the moment. But imagine how the obviously frustrated fella would feel about the joke when he hears me telling it to him.

The mood of the listener also affects how jokes are received.

One last thing that makes dry jokes,

Some dry jokes are just too complex to understand by many people. You find that those who understand them find them funny and most other people who do not understand them to find them bland or even offensive. What am I trying to say here?

The use of very technical words, highly intellectual dictions that do not sound so funny to the hearing, may come off as dry jokes when used to make jokes. For example, I being a medical doctor says "the antidote to transient mental disturbances secondary to circumstantial preludes is the ingestion of petrified apples with heat-denatured hen ova".
Let me ask, did you smile at that? Are you supposed to smile at that joke? But in a real sense, that is the exact same thing as the rotten apples and scrambled eggs joke I made above. You see the technical words I used in this translation, right?

This has made many people believe that dry jokes are mostly made or delivered by highly intelligent people, who make these jokes with the expectation that average people like us should be able to understand them. But most of the time, we don't. Sometimes, they can often get offensive to us, the listeners.

Where Do You Find Dry Jokes?

Dry jokes are everywhere. Without any statistical proof, I can say that almost everyone has made at least one dry joke at some point in their lives. Picture yourself, making a joke you are already laughing at, and no one even makes a smile for it. 

Maybe there are some organized comedy sessions where a time will be dedicated to only dry jokes, like this long PopTech dry jokes video below I found on YouTube;

But you don't have to meet a formal gathering like that before you see dry jokes being displayed. Dry jokes or deadpan humor are everywhere around you.

You too have delivered some at some point.

Are people saying your jokes are not funny? Do they find your jokes offensive sometimes? If yes to these, these are good signs you have a dry sense of humor. Maybe you are intentional about it, or maybe not, but apart from the factors I described above - listener not in the mood, listener not able to understand your technical jargon, or you no showing any emotions or gestures that should arouse them further, a few other factors related to your personality can affect how jokes come out from you.

  • You have a strong personality

    Read here to know more about strong personality. If you are someone with a strong personality, your jokes about a situation may come off as mere blank statements or commentary about a current situation. You may have implied the joke in a not-so-funny manner or the situations/context may not just be right.

    Strong personalities are often very hopeful about situations. Whereas a strong personality individual may make jokes about a serious situation to make it look less disturbing to everyone, other non-strong personality individuals may find these jokes unnecessary.

  • You are so witty and intelligent

    Wittiness has been somehow linked with dry jokes. A witty person may say things or feeds jokes into every situation, every new term they come across. Sometimes, a witty person may use some knowledge from school to make jokes, while you, being in the same class with him simply want to forget school and those bookish words, at least for that moment.

Are there ever deadpan comedians?

When you are asked, "what is dry humor or what is a dry sense of humor"? What first pops into your head?

The phrase dry humor or dry sense of humor carries with it some negative or supposedly condescending feeling. Why would you tell me that my jokes are dry? This dry directly implies that the jokes are lifeless. 

Some people also think that people who make deadpan jokes are arrogant by nature, to make jokes that make people look stupid and unintelligent. But it is important to know that deadpan comedians exist and are making a living out of it, and they are simply exploiting the art of deadpan humor to make their jokes have that effect of superiority on the audience.

How To Know You Are A Deadpan Humorist/Dry Joke Comedian

  • You use very simple words and phrases commonly understood by laypeople. These may come off as too simple to not evoke any humor in some of your listeners.
  • You show minimal or no facial expressions, body language, props, or any other tool to get the point of the joke across.
  • You can state absurd or unreasonable facts in a blatantly honest, bland, and plain manner that it becomes hard for the listeners not to laugh.
  • You can maintain a very monotonous or unflinching demeanor throughout.
  • You mostly use sarcasm and cynicism in your jokes, that is, your jokes have a sense of irony in them.

What Should You Do When Your Dry Jokes Offends Someone?

If your deadpan jokes come off as offensive to someone, it is your responsibility to quickly cushion these effects or provide a safe landing for that person. Most stand-up comedians adopt this method after delivering a dry/deadpan joke. Anything outside this, the person may hold on to the offense indefinitely and may never be thrilled by your jokes anymore.

But in another case, if you have already been identified as a deadpan humorist, you may not be required to please anyone or try to fix them when they get offended at your jokes. Everyone would simply accept that that is who you are; I mean, you are a deadpan humorist or dry joke comedian.

Wanna develop your deadpan humor?

Are you a comedian and you want to develop your deadpan humor? Or you are that regular guy who just wants to find more ways to thrill his companions? Let's explore some ways you can develop dead humor below.

How To Develop Deadpan Humor and Make Dry Jokes

First, it is important to state that anyone can develop dry humor, although, for some, it comes naturally. Mastering deadpan humor may take some time and effort, but if you really want to develop the deadpan humor aspect of yourself, here are some things you should pay special attention to;

1. Be observant of the world around you: Good observational skills are crucial in dry comedy. Carefully observe people, their idiosyncrasies, and their situations. You need to be a good thinker to be able to come up with dry jokes, even though some people may not understand them when you present them. When they finally do, they would find themselves laughing their ribs out.

2. Master the art of wordplay: Playing with common and easy-to-understand words has great importance. These words may be common words or even more technical words, but when you play with them the right way, any compatible audience would receive your jokes appropriately. Aim to attract people with your wit. 

3. Read widely: Adopt the habit of reading widely, and more especially, read the works of great humorists like Robert Benchley. Reading can open you up to new humor ideas and help you cultivate a sense of humor that inspires others.

4. Limit the dryness to the jokes: Be normally expressive in real situations. Do not take life outside the stage as seriously as you did on stage. This way, your audience knows you are only making a joke. They laugh at your dry humor and it becomes only dry to those who should not listen to you in the first place.

5. Use sarcasm as your weapon of choice: Learning sarcasm has to do with twisting words to the opposite of what you mean. If people already identify you as sarcastic, you should use that to your advantage in your jokes. Otherwise, you can begin to learn how to apply sarcasm. Once they notice that you are always being sarcastic during a performance, they will learn to take most things you say with a pinch of salt as mere jokes they should laugh over and forget.

6. Be calculative and consider yourself an amateur psychologist: It is important you learn to interpret people's thoughts to a great extent by their actions. So that you can easily convert these to jokes they can easily relate with. Also, this broadens your repertoire of jokes as you will never run out of jokes while on set.

7. Learn to maintain an unshaken attitude while speaking: You must learn not to be too worried about what people say when you deliver your deadpan humor. Their reactions at first may signal to you that your joke was probably offensive but do not let this get to you. If they say that you are firm and that you are not seeking anyone's approval, they will accept you as the deadpan humorist that you are.

8. Know your audience: Deadpan jokes are funny and not funny, depending on the audience. When used with an appropriate audience, they hit harder, but with the wrong audience, no one gets along. They may even anger more people than you bargained for.

9. Accept that not everyone will understand you: At times, some people will think that your jokes are slightly tasteless, but that is just because they are not on the same page as you are. As a deadpan comedian, you do not set out to hurt anyone’s feelings, but you should really enjoy seeing how far you can push the envelope with comedy. Sometimes, people will take that the wrong way but you need to accept this possibility.

10. Turn awkward situations into a goldmine: When someone does something awkward or says something stupid, learn to quickly sarcastically comment on their action to entertain your larger audience. That individual may find it offensive initially, but soon they too will find that you are really hilarious.

More Examples of Dry Humor

  • I’ve never been married, but I tell people I’m divorced so they won’t think something is wrong with me. - Elayne Boosler
  • 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
  • The most important thing I would learn in school was that almost everything I would learn in school would be utterly useless. When I was fifteen I knew the principal industries of the Ruhr Valley, the underlying causes of World War One, and what Peig Sayers had for her dinner every day…What I wanted to know when I was fifteen was the best way to chat up girls. That is what I still want to know. - Joseph O’Connor (from The Secret World of the Irish Male) 


In my exposition about dry humor in this post, I gave you the definition, characteristics, examples and how to develop it, and more. But I didn't directly write it as a step-by-step learning tool for comedians who would like to develop their dry humor, but there are some great tips that can help you do just that from this post.

Like I said before, developing your dry humor takes time and practice and if you want to be a professional dry humorist, in addition to these steps above, you should also consider watching comedy shows, reading books by other dry humorists, using puns, and having a humor buddy.

Prosper Yole

I am a lifestyle blogger, I write useful articles on successful life tips and hacks. Posts bearing Prosper Yole as author are either written by the blog author himself or by our various other contributors. Thank you for reading through. I look forward to having you more often. Please subscribe to my blog and follow me on Twitter @ProsperYoleOfficial

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