Recently, I attended a professional public speaking meeting of the National
Capital Area Speakers Association. The presenter was not funny, but got laughs
from the crowd.
He seriously began speaking, . . . presented slowly, . . . and kept a low
tone of voice. I thought to myself, "this is going to be a 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 who is thinking about something." The
whole room cracked up. This is called "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
stimulates the laughter.
Another good example of deadpan expression was
on the 80's television sit-com series "The Cosby Show". The
scenano was Bill's mid-teenage son Theo was standing at a bathroom mirror
shaving himself. Theo asked Bill (who happened to be walking by the
bathroom), "Dad, is this too much shaving cream?" Bill responded
(in deadpan fashion), "Sure son, I always use half a can of shaving cream
on my face!"
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, "I am an earth sign and my wife is a water sign . . .
.Together we make mud." hahahaha If it fits your character when speaking in
public, try a little deadpan.