I've been working on writing a game, and I was wondering what were some good pointers for writing witty and funny characters while using deadpan humor? (Something like GLaDOS from the portal series).

I would love some pointers, thanks in advance.

  • Apparently I'm not the only one who doesn't know what "deadpan humor" is. You might get better answers if you Edit your question to clarify that part.
    – user
    Dec 24, 2017 at 20:17
  • 2
    Check out DVDs of Steven Wright. I believe he's the quintessential"deadpan" humor.
    – Stu W
    Dec 26, 2017 at 1:10

4 Answers 4


I am not 100% sure of what deadpan humor is. I think it is part sarcasm, and part serious. The sort of thing that could be missed especially if written. So, you need tags.

  1. Try making it part of defined character voice (i.e. only one character does this.)

  2. Try tagging their dialog occasionally as drawling.

  3. Also try having a third character react visibly to their humor.

"The dwarf star is critical. It could blow without warning," the flight officer said.

Captain Koralic walked to the navigational display. "Pull us back, one quarter impulse. I want my ship as far away from that nuclear time bomb as possible."

"Well, no point going to warp then," the science officer drawled.

The captain's yeoman stared at the science officer. No one dared talk to the captain like that.


Deadpan humor comes from oddly-phrased sentences and incongruous juxtapositions, coupled with utter seriousness and sincerity. Puddleglum from "The Silver Chair" in the Narnia series comes to mind.

You don't need voice acting or facial expressions for deadpan humor, and you also don't need sarcasm. A lot of the humor comes from the deadpan character being very serious about what they say while saying something utterly ridiculous and not knowing it themselves (or appearing not to).

Actually, what's often helps the deadpan humor is imagining, or even showing, how the people around them would react to it. (@DPT has the right idea with the reaction of the captain's yeoman.) However, it's not always necessary.

Puddleglum the Marsh-Wiggle (the thing is, he's 100% sincere about everything he's saying):

"That's the spirit, Scrubb. That's the way to talk. Put a good face on it. But we all need to be very careful about our tempers, seeing all the hard times we shall have to go through together. Won't do to quarrel, you know. At any rate, don't begin it too soon. I know these expeditions usually end that way: knifing one another, I shouldn't wonder, before all's done. But the longer we can keep off it-"

"Well, if you feel it's so hopeless," interrupted Scrubb, "I think you'd better stay behind. Pole and I can go on alone, can't we, Pole?"

"Shut up and don't be an ass, Scrubb," said Jill hastily, terrified lest the Marsh-wiggle should take him at his word.

"Don't you lose heart, Pole," said Puddleglum. "I'm coming, sure and certain. I'm not going to lose an opportunity like this. It will do me good. They all say - I mean, the other wiggles all say-that I'm too flighty; don't take life seriously enough. If they've said it once, they've said it a thousand times. 'Puddleglum,' they've said, `you're altogether too full of bobance and bounce and high spirits. You've got to learn that life isn't all fricasseed frogs and eel pie. You want something to sober you down a bit. We're only saying it for your own good, Puddleglum.' That's what they say. Now a job like this - a journey up north just as winter's beginning, looking for a Prince that probably isn't there, by way of a ruined city that no one has ever seen - will be just the thing. If that doesn't steady a chap, I don't know what will." And he rubbed his big frog-like hands together as if he were talking of going to a party or a pantomime. "And now," he added, "let's see how those eels are getting on."

Phoebe and her Unicorn

deadpan-humor friend


If it is not your natural humour you might want to find a friend who does have that type of wit and ask them what they might say in certain circumstances.

The heart of this humour is the odd phrasing and perfectly serious delivery. Incongruous to the situation, but natural to the character.

I have one scene where my MC (drugged) asks another character to shoot him if he confesses to something he didn’t do.

The reply is ‘First, I’ll render you unconscious and if you keep talking then I will shoot you’ - an absurd way to say yes.

I have that same character, addressing an FBI agent, say ‘the following is code word classified, so imagine squelching sounds throughout’ then tells him what he needs to know but cannot be told.

The more serious the situation, the stronger the wit can be. Think of normal ways to say things, then set them on edge and add a dash of sarcasm. A cutting wit can still be gentle.


Since you're writing for a game, I suppose you have more resources then simply text, be it facial animations, voice acting or this weird thing.

Be absolutely sure to use those resources to their full potential. GLaDOS was certainly a very well written villain, but her popularity has been attributed over and over to the brilliant voice acting behind her.

Taking as another example a vastly less popular game, but one I love equally, Shovel Knight uses the shaky text thing constantly, in different ways for different emotions, and I find it hilarious. I'm having trouble identifying something that could specifically be deadpan, but here's a clip.

Depending on what resources you have on your game, you should do things in different ways. Ping me in the comments with more information, if you want, and I'll try to think up something.

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