A speechless (or nearly speechless) Stoicwho can hold entire conversations without saying a word. Usually, they'll look soulfully, blink, raise an eyebrow, or make another otherwise minuscule gesture and get their point across. In fact, they're usually better at communicating nonverbally than most of us are at communicating verbally.
This can overlap with any stereotypically quiet character type: The Voiceless, The Quiet One, the Silent Snarker, or the Heroic Mime. What matters is their uncanny ability to communicate complex thoughts non-verbally.
This can be done to preserve the Badass factor of a speechless character without sacrificing his ability to communicate. Or it can be played for laughs, with other characters responding to the quiet guy's looks as if they're long, poignant soliloquies on the nature of love, life, or liberty. They may even inspire the odd Placebo Eureka Moment. More often than not, it turns into a Bilingual Dialogue with the other person just not talking.
Another aspect of this trope is that it's normally incredibly significant when these characters speak; either they have something profound to say which will give the heroes incredibly useful insight, or another character's irritant tendencies are thrown into sharp relief when they manage to push The Stoic to the breaking point and he loses his temper, or the character's silence is a joke, and whatever they have to say is the punchline thereof. No matter which it is, the fact is that the other characters always find it to be of note when the Silent Bob does deign to speak.
Very commonly a trait of the Optional Party Member, as he/she is often added at the last minute or as an extra feature in a port (or is deemed simply too much trouble to add to the script) and is given very little or no dialogue. However, what little they do say, no matter how groundbreaking or important to the plot it is, is completely ignored, because it is usually just inserted between other characters' speech in cutscenes.
This trope is named for Silent Bob, a character played by director Kevin Smith in all of The View Askewniverse movies, from Clerks to Clerks II who would only speak once or twice per movie, and instead said volumes with silence.
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The Bartles & James wine cooler campaign with Frank Bartles and Ed James (or rather, actors playing them as folksy old men.) They sat on a porch while Frank explained all about their new product, while Ed quietly tinkers with something, admires his handiwork, or sips a wine cooler. Frank monologues constantly put words in Ed's mouth ("Ed says...") — and Ed may or may not even acknowledge the camera — and ends with "..and thank you for your support."
Nagato Yuki from Suzumiya Haruhi, though it is only mentioned in the novels. Although she lacks any apparent facial expression, Kyon is somehow able to read what she is thinking from her face. It is never revealed if Kyon is actually right about his "emotion reading skill" or not.
Rule of Funny moment later on: During a Gaiden chapter of the latest Arc we get to check in on all the other characters not currently in Negi's party. Ayaka has a lively conversation with Zazie OVER THE PHONE. Yes, Zazie is her standard quiet self (she says 'bye' at the end of the call). Yes, Ayaka's details after the call are all entirely accurate. Yes, everyone in the room with Ayaka is just as confused as you are as to how this works.
Freddy from Cromartie High School never utters a word (which is why Kamiyama had to give him his name) He seems to communicate mainly through stares. Even when he "sings", he just basically stands there with a mic posing with his mouth open.
Gungrave leaves the impression that this is a result of being dead. But Brandon/Grave was a man of few words his whole life. His videogame incarnation never speaks with only one exception.
Zigzagged about in the tenth One Piece movie. Indigo will mime his ideas and thoughts, and his crewmates act like they understand him for awhile before suddenly getting irritated and yelling at him to actually speak out loud, which he promptly does. When Shiki actually does understand him, he's genuinely surprised.
Legend of Galactic Heroes: Admiral Eisenach somehow manages to command a space fleet through subtle hand gestures. When he does speak, his fellow officers are shocked, sometimes claiming they thought he was mute. The narrator even records the exact date he spoke, just as he does for other galaxy-shaking historical events.
Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Vivid has Kris, Vivio's bunny plushie Device. Unlike most other Devices, Kris isn't capable of speech. This does not stop it from communicating properly with everyone, somehow managing to convey complex ideas through a series of stares and twitches.
Gangsta has the Silent Nicolas, who does occasionally talk but vastly prefers not to as a deaf man. Instead he mostly communicates via sign language.
Saki Maruyama from Girls und Panzer, who was compeletely silent until the very last episode, where she had a single line.
Seki of Tonari no Seki-kun will grunt and make other noises as he gets into his elaborate desktop games, but he has yet to have a word of dialogue (though he is apparently capable of speaking off-camera). A rare example of a main character (and the title character at that!) who doesn't speak.
The voice of Black Bolt of The Inhumans is immensely destructive and so he must never make even the tiniest sound if he's not trying to blow something up real good. However, he's mastered body language so well that he can communicate perfectly - many people are surprised by how well they understand him. (The best at understanding him is his wife and queen Medusa, who tends to speak for him most of the time in front of anyone who has problems.)
This depends very much on the writer. Sometimes, Black Bolt is this; other times, he uses a sophisticated, complex sign language. Either way, his queen and wife is the best as understanding and translating for him.
In The Sandman and Lucifer, Duma, the Angel of Silence, communicates this way with others. It's implied he might be using a form of telepathy, or it might just be his angelic/deific companions are experts at reading him.
He does have the greatest example of a "Yes sir" in the history of literature...Without saying a line.
In the 2000AD strip Nikolai Dante, Nikolai's half-brother Viktor is believed to be mute. Not so. He completes the longest known Silent Bob in comics history by remaining speechless for fifteen years, saying his first and last words 6 episodes before the end of the saga: "Goodbye, Nikolai." The only other sounds he's made are belches and screeches when he activates his Weapons Crest, turning himself into a huge Romanov Eagle.
Silent Bob, ofcourse! Since he's played by Kevin Smith (the writer and director of the Askewniverse films), he has the fewest lines to memorize and some of the best dialogue, whether it's getting in a good joke, making with the wisdom, or saving the day. But the majority of the time, he just won't speak, which tends to frustrate Jay, as Bob is taciturn and the smart one. It never seems to occur to Jay that Bob is usually silent because Jay never shuts up and Bob can't get a word in edgewise.
Jay, possibly as a result of spending so much time around Bob, doesn't quite believe in the notion that what Bob says is profound just because he's sparing with his words; he finds Bob's speech in Chasing Amy (describing an experience of his own that mirrors Ben Affleck's situation and cautioning him against making the same mistake) largely pretentious, and Lampshades the profundity aspect of this trope.
Anyone standing next to Jay looks smart by comparison. But if he hangs out with Jay all the time, how smart could he be?
THE SIGN! ON THE BACK OF THE CAR! SAID "CRITTERS OF HOLLYWOOD"!! YOU DUMB FUCK!!!
And in Clerks II, Bob is asked for advice... and "I got nothin'."
In the Star Wars movies, R2D2 speaks in an odd binary code than only C3P0 can truly interpret. Still, other characters - and even the viewers - often have no problem figuring out what he's trying to say (or at least his intent).
Harpo in the Marx Brothers. It helps that he can communicate with props from the Hammerspace inside his coat, like the car horn he carries around. And he whistles a lot.
It's possible but unconfirmed that he can be heard in Monkey Business, which opens with the brothers singing "Sweet Adeline" while hiding inside barrels on a ship. Notably, that's how the first mate can tell there are four stowaways despite not seeing them - Sweet Adeline is a song for a quartet.
The "Bull" in the Film of the BookWhere the Wild Things Are doesn't talk for most of the movie, merely standing stoically to the side, unnerving and intimidating most of the other characters. When he finally does speak, he turns out to be kindhearted and sensitive.
Jason Voorhees from Friday the 13th. This is quite popular in slasher movies, as Michael Myers from Halloween has it too. Michael does at one point say something, "Die".
Mini-Me from the Austin Powers films. You might think he's The Voiceless (mostly he just makes the occasional squeal), but when performing Just the Two of Us, he speaks a single line "You and I", in an absurdly deep voice.
In Black Company there's Silent. He has some kind of vow of silence, which he breaks but once naming the lady and thus sealing her magic power.
The Count of Monte Cristo features an old man who is almost completely paralyzed. He communicates with his granddaughter with a system of blinks, and is often described as having a particular expression that gets his point across. It turns out that he's something of a Retired Badass to boot.
In The Three Musketeers, Athos has shades of this. He's even trained his manservant to respond to entirely nonverbal cues and gestures.
The Auditors of the Discworld are a variation of this. Since speaking is a sign of individuality, which they abhor because it is so disorderly, instead they change reality to make it as if they had already spoken. Except they haven't. Trying to figure this out starts to cause noticeable mental strain for any living being they deal with.
Also in Discworld, the Librarian of Unseen University is a wizard who was turned into an orangutan by a magical accident. He communicates only by shrugs and the word 'ook' (and the occasional 'eek'), but the other wizards 'have just got into the habit of understanding him'.
In The Malloreon, Toth is a subversion. He's a mute, and throughout the series he communicates with Durnik through obscure gestures that none of the other characters understand but which Durnik has no problem translating into complex ideas. It turns out Toth's people share a Group Consciousness, and his gestures are a cover for him implanting what he wants to convey directly into Durnik's mind, in a manner that's vaguely described but apparently distinct from the normal mind-to-mind communication some of the other characters are capable of.
In one of the HaloExpanded Universe novels, Halo: Ghosts of Onyx, there's a character named Lucy, who is a SPARTAN-III of Beta Company. One of the only two survivors of the operation that saw the entirety of Beta Company wiped out except for her and one other male SPARTAN, she has been unable to speak since then, which is chalked up to post-traumatic stress. In Halo: Glasslands she finally speaks, after punching Dr. Halsey in the face.
Morn from Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Subversion: he is never shown talking, but other characters frequently comment on how gregarious, funny, charming, etc. he is.
One early episode actually shows Morn screaming, as part of a violent mob—but he has no audible lines; it's just crowd noise.
Expanded Universe material goes on to establish that, once he gets talking, the trick is getting him to shut up.
The Silent Bob is actually a Hat for one of the races in in Star Trek; exemplified by Grand Negus Zek's personal valet Maihar'du who has taken a vow of silence to anyone other than his lord. This is seen as quite common for the Hupyrian species.
Effy from Skins; her tongue might have loosened a bit in the second season (after her lines in the first involved, basically, one cut-off monologue and a scream), but expressive tics and eyebrow twitches are still a major part of her communication strategy.
Before the above, Disney was already doing this with Lanny in Lizzie McGuire. Mr. and Mrs. McGuire are amazed when Matt has a phone conversation with Lanny, who is always shown as being mute—yet Matt and Melina understand him perfectly.
An All in the Family episode features a hippie couple, the girl of whom never speaks with her boyfriend explaining that she only talks with her eyes. Archie is predictably skeptical: "Open wide and let's hear the Gettysburg Address!" Even Mike and Gloria become frustrated with them, with Gloria yelling at the girl to shut up while the guy is in the middle of explaining yet another thing she's supposedly saying.
In an episode of Black Books, Manny and Bernard individually go to a counselor who simply listens to them talk through their problems until they come to a breakthrough all by themselves.
Marilyn Whirlwind from Northern Exposure is the extremely laconic foil to the high-strung Dr. Fleischman.
Giorgy from the SCTV "Hey Giorgy" sketch was a Silent Bob, even using a variation of the Coolidge line "You lose...Comrade!" (see Real Life below)
Darryl and Darryl from Newhart, except in the series finale.
The Butler in The Prisoner never uttered a sound, and was rather stoic, though he could be startled from time to time.
Meg White is the Silent Bob of that pair. Of course, when she does speak, it's pure sex in audio form.
Ron Simmons of WWE, leading up to his singular and simple catchphrase: "Damn!"
During the late 1990s, Edge, Christian and Gangrel. When they were known as The Brood. Though they all became more chatty over time, during their early days, they never spoke a single word.
WWE Diva Jazz rarely ever spoke. Part because she usually had Teddy Long as her mouthpiece, part because she had a scowl that said more than words could.
Lucky in Waiting for Godot is silent through most of the play, until he is asked to 'think', when he issues forth a three page speech of fractured philosophical gibberish.
In the musical Once Upon a Mattress, the King has been cursed with muteness. As a result, all his "lines" are delivered by miming. He even features in two songs!
But when he does get the chance to speak, boy, does he ever relish in it (the kindest you could say about his wife is that she's a domineering, insufferable shrew. The most accurate you could say about his wife is not fit for public conversation).
Bark the Polarbear, a long-forgotten character from the video games, was reintroduced in the Sonic the Hedgehog comic book as a Silent Bob, teamed up with the psychotic and easily amused Bean the Duck. Bark is by far the more reasonable of the two, though he's yet to have had a single speech bubble.
Mario is possibly the epitome of this trope in Paper Mario. All He has to do is open his mouth for three seconds to say a whole sentence.
It gets to ridiculous extremes in Super Mario RPG where Mario can not only bounce all over the place and flail his arms about to tell his side of the story, he can shapeshift into other characters as he explains the situation.
In Mother 3, the protagonist is always silent bob. Once they retire the title, they can speak again, and sometimes cutscenes will go back to an earlier conversation and reveal what the now vocal character said.
An NPC, Leder, never utters a single word and people acknowledge it. When Leder DOES speak, he reveals an Awful Truth to Lucas about the history of the island, revealing how everyone on the island was brainwashed to prevent a second catastrophe from happening.
Golden Sun player characters are traditionally limited to pantomime and nodding/shaking yes or no to questions (which always seem to end in "But Thou Must")... but only when you're playing as them. In the first game, Felix is very aloof toward the player characters but a devoted protector to the hostages, and Isaac is The Silent Bob. In The Lost Age, Felix is The Silent Bob, and Isaac's new speaking role reveals that he gets abrasive under pressure.
Golden Sun: Dark Dawn continues the trend, but plays with it a bit more. Matthew ("Mut" in the Japanese versions) is far more expressive than his predecessors thanks partly to the new emoticon reactions, and in the American version he even has a rather specific reaction to encountering Arcanus in the final dungeon. However, the dialogue his friends have around him mentions that he is this in-universe, to the point of being reluctant to introduce himself when asked.
That's Matthew. He doesn't talk much.
The Suikoden series, with the exception of III, has all of it's heroes as Heroic Mimes, their only emotion readable by expressions on their faces. While the first two games are limited by PSX graphics, they do show surprise and confusion. Suikoden V, however, gives the main character a wide variety of expressions and conveys his emotions with his only dialogue being player choices.
Volt is this in Tales of Symphonia, speaking only in Visible Silence and not even making noise during his fight (aside from the lightning strikes that occur when he attacks.) He also doubles as The Unintelligible, since everyone acknowledges that he's indeed communicating, but only Raine can actually understand what he's "saying".
Raincloud from Friendship is Witchcraft. Never speaks, and doesn't even have any expressions (because she's literally a rain cloud), yet she's somehow able to have a "conversation" with Rainbow Dash in her first scene.
Viktor in Lackadaisy speaks, but communicates more effectively with facial expression. In this preview comic, he and Mordecai have a mild argument. Victor never says a word. Mordecai reacts entirely to Viktor's facial expressions.
TouhouJournal brings us Silent Reimu, able to hold kindly conversations with other characters without ever speaking a word. There are other characters who are also silent, such as Kisume, fellow miko Sanae, and Unzan, all of which identify very strongly with Reimu. The speaking characters often lampshade this.
Balabalalde in the "Improfanfic" series Dark Heart High has so many bandage shaped PowerLimiters over his entire body and face, he communicates exclusively by blinking his right eye and moving his head. This is played straight and funny throughout the series.
A minor character from the Avatar: The Last Airbender series, called Longshot. He's an expert archer who is part of Jet's group. At first he's just a background character, but when Jet reappears in Season 2, intent on reforming himself and making a new life, Longshot is one of only two characters from the group with him, and although he never speaks the others frequently react to his looks as though he is. (Often with replies like "That's deep", or "Good point", and so on). Probably a bit of a Silent Bob homage. (Like Bob, he does break his silence, but only at the very end, when Jet is dying and he tells the main character's group to go ahead of them and catch the Evil Chancellor responsible).
This trope was specifically mentioned in the Avatar: The Abridged Series and called "Silent Bob Syndrome". Because he couldn't object, Jet called him by whatever insulting name he could think up.
Gromit, of Wallace & Gromit fame. While he does not say anything, apart from rare yelp or bark, he remains nonverbal but his single eyebrow speaks volumes.
Mayor Edsel from Transformers Animated, who communicates solely with body language interpreted by his aide.
Perry is an even better example, given that he can't speak, only purr. And, though Doofenshmirtz has shown to be able to understand what he "says", Perry is mostly just understood by facial expressions and some small actions (like greeting with his hat, pointing or even facepalming). In the episode "Minor Monogram," however, Doof expressly states that he pretends Perry is talking about recent movies he's seen.
In The Simpsons episode "Lisa's Wedding", teenage Maggie is described as being a chatterbox - but then she merely rolls her eyes at her father in silence.
She's also supposed to have an angelic singing voice, but she gets cut off just as she's preparing to do so. All the audience gets is the sound of her inhaling.
Lampshaded in "Three Gays of the Condo" where Homer says that his only worthwhile creation was Lisa. When Maggie takes offense, Homer replies with "Prove me wrong, Silent Bob."
Notably, Maggie has said exactly two words in actually canonical episodes: her first word, "Daddy" and later, "Ja."
Don't forget when the kids were fostered by the Flanders and nearly baptized...on the way to the river, Maggie spins her head around ala The Exorcist and says "Daddily doodily!"
Boomhauer in King of the Hill isn't silent, exactly, but his complete and utter unintelligibility goes unnoticed by most characters, especially Hank, who according to Bobby often quotes Boomhauer's wisdom.
In Theodore Tugboat, some of the docks are characters who only ever say a certain phrase - like "Uh-huh," or "Nope," which often leads to the character facing a moral dilemma in the story extracting profound wisdom.
Ms. Mimi in one episode Angelina Ballerina: The Next Steps communicates with the titular character and her friends through writing notes, head shakes, and music. All because she has laryngitis.
In fact, early in the episode, an yogurt selling mouse greets Angelina and Vici by using a bell in his cart and waving his hand on them.
DJ Pon-3 is depicted this way in her Rainbow Rocks animated short, communicating solely with gestures. In the novelization, she uses text messages.
Possibly for fear of more Unfortunate Implications, Derpy's comeback role in "Rainbow Falls" was left unvoiced, although she nonverbally expressed herself rather well.
Courage from Courage the Cowardly Dog tends to do this when trying to explain something to Eustace or Muriel by shapeshifting into various things. The only sounds he makes in these events are various... grunts, for the lack of a better term. However, he tends to talk normally otherwise.
The ironically named Teller of illusionist duo Penn & Teller. Teller is small, silent, subtle and extremely polite, while Penn is big, loud, flashy, long-winded and obnoxious. Penn behaves like this in every public appearance and never breaks character, giving them a unique advantage as magicians: everyone's so used to Penn's distracting behavior, it never occurs to them it's deliberate misdirection.
Teller does, however, speak freely when he is not "in character", i.e. after shows to fans and in print and radio interviews (though in the latter he often jokes that he can't be the real Teller - because, of course, Teller never talks). In stage and television appearances he is always silent, though on some rare occasions he has been shown speaking in documentaries with his face obscured.
In interviews, Teller has said his silence on stage goes back to his early years of performing at frat parties; if he remained silent, people were less inclined to heckle and throw beer and instead focused on his performance. Today, if you see him perform one of his solo tricks, you may have trouble discerning whether you're watching magic or performance art; his silence just makes it that much more poignant.
Additionally, Penn Jillette has said that in their magic shows, Teller talks at least once during every show - but it has to be a gimmick. Things like being inaudible because a loud woodchipper is drowning out his voice, or speaking audibly but while pretending to be an animatronic puppet of himself, or simply arguing with Penn off-mic.
This tradition continues in Penn & Teller: Bullshit!, too: Penn jokes in one episode about how Teller yells at him a lot. In the opening of another episode, Penn brands Teller, who is just barely offscreen, causing him to scream "MOTHERFUCKER!", and Penn to exclaim "Hey cool, he can talk!". And the episode on hypnosis starts with Teller speaking in a loud and dramatic voice for a good 35 seconds (he's trying to hypnotize Penn), though he's only seen from the neck down as the camera focuses on Penn lying down.
To show just how powerful the Silent Bob effect is: Once, while hosting at a magic convention, they switched roles. They were introduced as "Teller & Penn", and Teller spoke while Penn stayed silent. It brought the house down.
Teller: "My name is Teller, and this is my partner Penn Jillette: we are Teller & Penn."
Audience: *goes wild*
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, went from February 22, 2006 through January 14, 2013 without speaking to the lawyers before him, a streak of close to seven years. He broke his silence to say, according to official transcripts, "Well - he did not" in response to a joke before being drowned out by the noise of the courtroom.
Boston Legallampshaded this when Denny and Alan had to go before the Supreme Court (naturally played by lookalikes). Denny bets Alan that he can't get Justice Thomas to talk. Alan ends up winning the bet, with his standard behavior that would never fly in a real court.
American president Calvin Coolidge (nicknamed "Silent Cal"), who famously was told by a woman at a dinner party that a friend of hers had bet her she couldn't get Coolidge to say at least three words to her all evening. Coolidge's response? "You lose."