"Dry" humor is not just any old type of humor. It's not violent, not off-color, not macabre or dark.
Basically, dry humor is that deadpan style of humor. It's the not-very-funny joke your uncle the cost analysis accountant tells. It's Bob Newhart, Steven Wright, or Jason Bateman in Arrested Development.
It is not, for the love of GOD, people, the Black Knight scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. I swear, if anyone says Monty Python is "dry humor" is going to get a smack.
Here are some other types of comedy you may have heard and are just tossing around, willy-nilly.
- Farce: Exaggerated comedy. Characters in a farce get themselves in an unlikely or improbable situation that takes a lot of footwork and fast talking to get out of. The play "The Foreigner" is an example of a farce, as are many of the Jeeves & Wooster stories by P.G. Wodehouse.
- Dark: Humor about the gross, violent, and otherwise depressing things in life; also called Black Comedy. People who work in emergency response — police, fire fighters, EMTs — have great dark humor. When I was in Risk Communication at the Indiana State Department of Health, my boss once said during a nuclear attack simulation that all of our planning was pointless, since we would all be "shadows on the wall." We all cracked up at the grotesque image. That's dark humor. (Think M*A*S*H.) "Gallows humor" is similar to dark humor, but the victim is the source of the comedy.
- Screwball: Humor based on a misunderstanding, such as mistaken identities, taking an overhead piece of conversation out of context, etc. Screwball comedies usually involve sex or marriage as well. Three's Company is a classic example of a screwball comedy. It's also my least favorite type of comedy.
- Slapstick: Physical humor. Lots of pratfalls, falling, being hit on the head, etc. The term actually comes from the prop that actors used to hit each other with. It made a loud noise, but was hardly felt. Charlie Chaplin, the Three Stooges, and Chevy Chase did slapstick comedy.
- Parody: People often confuse this with satire, but the two are completely different. Parody mocks or makes fun of an original work. Saturday Night Live often parodies movies and TV shows. Those funny movie titles you come up with based on original movie titles ("Shaving Ryan's Privates") are parodies. They also stop being funny after about the fifth or sixth one.
- Satire: Satire is basically making fun of or ridiculing human follies and shortcomings, hopefully in the hopes of causing improvement. So the next time your spouse accuses you of making fun of his or her weight, just say, "I'm not making fun of you, I'm satirizing you so that you will be motivated to improve yourself. Pig." Satire is often meant to be funny, but that's not the purpose of it, which explains Al Franken's radio show on Air America.
Photo of Yue Minjun's "A-Mazing Laughter": TimBarton
Photo of the happy horse: Bill Gracey
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