Deadpan Funny

Consider the brilliant humorist Philomena Cunk. She takes the time-honored and recognizable BBC documentary style, complete with panoramic shots and diverse locations, and turns it on its head for very funny purposes:

Cunk on Britain

A story or a poem can be deadpan funny, too! Adapting a time-worn narration style, a la BBC doc style, and tweaking it ever so slightly, or blending an unusual subject matter with the medium, can lead to very funny things.

The funniest piece I think I ever wrote (uh-oh, this is a set up!) incorporated dense technical details from the Star Wars universe. This was a fun piece to write, and an even funner piece to read at events because people were not expecting such a preponderance of technicality. It was an easy story to write in a deadpan way because of all these details:

“With a cargo capacity of 65 kg, 2 days of consumables, and acceleration at 20 MGLT per second, the TIE fighter was the premier airborne attack system in the Galactic Empire’s already impressive arsenal. It was not good for getting cuddly with a boy, though, and this is what she took exception to. Just when things were getting warm, the Light Ion Cannons would go off, or the 2 Chin Mounted SFS L-s1 Lasers would start pulsing, and the boy would understandably become uncomfortable, edge away.”

Read more here: The Girl Who Had a Tie-fighter for a Nose by Jonathan Cardew

💡Deadpan PROMPT💡

Find a manual or website with tons of technical details and incorporate them into a story. Stay true to the original in some way (i.e. the deadpan) but combine the facts with a narrative that might not really fit the context. In writing “deadpan,” you want your audience to doubt whether this is actually funny or not.