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Public Speaking Course: 

Deadpan Expression

Recently at a meeting of the National Capital Area Speakers Association a public speaker was giving a presentation using a different style of humor. This form of humor is taught in my public speaking course.

He began his speech very slowly, with a serious expression,  while keeping a low tone of voice. I remember thinking, 'man this is going to be a long day.' Then, while keeping a straight face, a funny line came out of his mouth. He was talking about thinkers, doers etc, and had said, "A thinker is a person..... who is thinking about something." The whole room cracked up laughing. The technique he used is called a 'deadpan' expression.

Using a deadpan expression is when you combine a serious demeanor with a funny line. The line typically gets a bigger laugh than if it had been said with a lighthearted expression or smile. The contrast and surprise is what  begins the laughter, and knowing how to create this expression should be mastered while during  your public speaking course.

A 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."

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