What exactly is "dry humor?"

I’ve heard this term now and then but havn’t really grasped the concept. One friend described the movie Punch Drunk Love as a movie with much “dry humor.” I agreed having no idea what he meant.

My first guess was that it was a form of comedy that wasn’t “laugh-out-loud” funny. But then I was thinking, “Maybe dry humor isn’t really funny at all?” I’m really confused about the whole idea.

Can someone please give me a good definition? Thanks

dry = rye?

I always thought of a rye sense of humor being “thinking man’s humor”. That is, it’s not laugh-out-loud funny, and it takes a little bit of thinking to “get”. I remember one friend of mine had a rye sense of humor and he always referred to laughter as a chortle, he despised the guffaw. :slight_smile:

Unless that was a bit of really, really dry humor, CC was probably thinking of wry humor, which is a totally different thing from rye or dry.

Dry humor is humor that doesn’t shout at itself. No puns or stupid cracks or obvious jokes. Unless you’re listening properly you may not get a bit of dry humor until a beat or two later when your brain finally processes what was said.

Dry humor online absolutely requires smileys or death threats may ensue.


Wry Humour

I’ve been accused of having a dry sense of humor. I don’t intentionally try to elicit laughs, but I make observations and conclusions about what I see and hear. And people find those comments humorous. Oh, one thing about dry humor – you either get it or you don’t. I think that there’s a fine line between having a dry sense of humor and being a bore.

Rye humour? Is that what you start spouting after a bottle of whiskey? (Psst - it’s wry)

Dry humor and wry humor are somewhat similar but not exactly the same.

From Merriam-Webster:

Although both kinds of humor can be ironic, I think the key thing about dry humor is that it is delivered in a straight-faced, flat, and unemotional manner. The emphasis on wry humor is more on its ironical nature; it verges on black humor.

I think a lot of Douglas Adams’ hitchhiker books are dry… in the humor sense. :smiley:

When I think of “dry humor”, I immediate think of two people:

Bob Newhart

Alan Alda (especially as Hawkeye)

YMMV, of course.

You’re correct about Newhart but I disagree with you about Hawkeye Pierce, who I always thought was trying to channel Groucho Marx.

The best at dry humor is Stephen (Steven?) Wright.

Dry humor is Bill Murray in Lost in Translation. Completely dead-pan and never “trying” to be funny. He doesn’t care if his audience gets the humor. If you don’t laugh, he’s liable to simply write you off as an idiot.

Wry humor is John Cusack in High Fidelity (and pretty much everything else). Still often dead-pan, but more likely with that cute little pained half-grin or those eyebrows flexed (we call them his “wrybrows”, actually.) He knows he’s being funny, and he wants to make sure you know he’s being funny. If you don’t laugh, he’ll be hurt.

Definitely Steven Wright for dry humor.

Dry humor is pretty much the opposite of slapstick. It is by its very nature subtle and is often esoteric, which is why it is often thought of as “intelligent” or “intellectual” humor. In other words, you may have to think about it for a while. In fact, I think it would be accurate to describe it as humor in disguise. Those who do not “get” dry humor are often unaware that something “funny” has happened.

The best example I can think of for “dry humor” is The Princess Bride.

Once you’ve got a few threats under your belt you start working without a net.

I guess I should clarify, that IMHO, Alan Alda displayed a few types of humor as Hawkeye, one of which was dry. Agreed that he would go “wet”, and go Groucho quite often, however I always took his delivery of humor in serious situations as “dry”. (for example, when in OR, working a serious patient. Not saying it’s correct by definition, just MHO)
[Stephen Wright]
The other day I was playing poker with Tarot cards. I got a full house and four people died.

Strange. I always thought of them as slapstick… in the humor sense. Seems to me he’s about the worst possible example you could use this side of Dave Barry.

Calvin Trillin is a good exmple of a humorist who uses, variously, a dry or a wry sense of humor. And in his Tummy Trilogy of books about American food, even a rye sense of humor.

The first thing that comes to my mind upon the mention of dry humor is English comedy. Paradoxically, there’s not a dry eye in the crowd after watching an English TV comedy show.

wry, that is … doh :smack:

So, does this make me homophonic? :smiley:

Only someone who doesn’t really ‘get’ Adams would say that… well, kinda kidding there. :smiley:

Admittedly, yes, there’s a lot of zaniness and even slapstick in HG, (though it seems funny describing a book as ‘slapstick’ to me, though bits like our first look at the heart of gold probably qualify… metaphysical slapstick I suppose.) But as you appreciate more about the guide, you start to realize that a lot of the jokes are very understated and terse – or at least I think so. I mean… ‘they hung in the sky in the same way that bricks don’t.’ THAT’S dry wit in my opinion.

The way Adams reads his own work, or read his own work I guess I should say, contributes to that a lot.

The English sense of humor covers a lot of territory. At one end is slapstick comedy like Benny Hill and Rowan Atkinson and at the opposite end is stuff like Patrick Macnee’s dry wit as John Steed in the Avengers.

Dry humor requires wit, both in the creation and in the understanding of it. Pretty much everyone gets slapstick.

I think the television series Yes Minister and Yes Prime Minister were great examples of dry humour.