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The Comically Serious / Film

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  • Just about any character played by Christopher Walken.
  • Leslie Nielsen was a somewhat successful dramatic actor. When Zucker, Abrahams, and Zucker came along and had him act the exact same way in a crazy situation in their film Airplane!, it made him a comedy legend. The rest is history. Hence Leslie Nielsen Syndrome: it is difficult to impossible to watch older Leslie Nielsen films without stifling inappropriate giggles — including such classics as Forbidden Planet.
    • The entire movie is based on this trope. Only Johnny acts silly.
      Stryker: Surely, you can't be serious.
      Rumack: I am serious. And don't call me "Shirley".
    • Lloyd Bridges as Commander Cain in the original Battlestar Galactica can induce a similar reaction, having spoofed such military commander roles in Hot Shots!. The Hot Shot movies (done by one of the Airplane trio) treat everything completely serious, especially when Topper Harley (Charlie Sheen) ends up using a chicken as an arrow.
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  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail: Graham Chapman plays King Arthur completely straight through some of the most absurd moments in theatrical history, his stodginess in the face of carefree lunacy played for laughs.note 
    Tim: Follow. But! Follow only if ye be men of valour! For the entrance to this cave is guarded by a creature so foul, so cruel, that no man yet has fought with it... and lived! BONES of full fifty men lie strewn about its lair! So! Brave knights! If you do doubt your courage or your strength, come no further, for death awaits you all with nasty, big, pointy teeth... [makes fangs with his fingers and holds them in front of his mouth]
    King Arthur: What an eccentric performance.
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  • Terminator series: This trope is often the basis for gags involving the T-800 Terminators and their lack of social skills. Special mention goes to when they attempt smiling. In Terminator: Dark Fate, Carl the T-800 even notes he managed to get a surrogate family because he's "extremely funny".
  • Tommy Lee Jones in just about any movie, where he approaches even the most absurd scenes completely serious and deadpan. Except Batman Forever, where he is Ham and Cheese incarnate.
    • Such as in Man of the House, where he plays a Texas Ranger tasked with guarding a squad of neurotic University of Texas cheerleaders who witnessed a murder.
    • Men in Black: Agent K. So much so that when they were filming the first movie, Jones was worried he wouldn't be funny, and they had to keep reassuring him that Agent K would be funny in context. He was.
  • Death in Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey gets a creepy introduction when he arrives to take Bill and Ted to Hell. He promptly gets Melvined by them and spends the rest of the film desperately trying to regain his dignity, which is shattered over and over again the more time he spends with them (he eventually gave up and became their bass player).
    "Don't overlook *my* butt, I work out all the time. And reaping burns a lot of calories."
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  • Death is terribly serious in Death Takes a Holiday when he's being romanced and comically being dumped for analyzing his date.
  • Buster Keaton started his unfunny act young. Working with his father on the stage, he was continually told to "freeze the puss" because a puzzled or frowning face after a gag made the audience laugh harder. This later carried over to his film career - when he's on screen, his face is a worried blank, his body is ramrod straight but his legs do the talking. This gave rise to the Urban Legend that claimed that Keaton was actually contractually obligated to never smile (he wasn't).

    A biography of him explained this trope in action. As a child performer he wore a suitcase handle on the back of his jacket, allowing the adults to literally pick him up and toss him around the stage. The act ended with him getting shoved through a bass drum. If he emerged from the drum smiling and waving at the audience (to assure them he was unharmed), people assumed he was being abused and that the smiling was just something he had been ordered to do. If he kept his face deadpan throughout, he brought the house down every time.
  • Harry Potter: Alan Rickman's subdued performance as Snape is sometimes this, especially in the later films (Cormack puking on his shoes comes to mind). Rickman commented in an interview that the child actors would sometimes act up deliberately to see if they could get him to break character.
    • Rolling his eyes and pulling his sleeves back to push Ron and Harry's faces back into their work wouldn't have been nearly as funny if he'd had any change of attitude or expression.
    • There's this little gem from Order of the Phoenix, when Dolores Umbridge is conducting an inspection of the school:
      Umbridge: You applied first for the Defence Against the Dark Arts post, is that correct?
      Snape: Yes.
      Umbridge: But you were unsuccessful?
      Snape: [irritated but still deadpan] Obviously.
  • The Devil's Rejects: Oddly enough, Otis Driftwood is Comically Serious when he is in the company of Captain Spaulding and Baby Firefly.
  • Inception: Arthur, as he's the most serious in the Dream Team and smiles but twice in the whole film. He does have a sense of humour though.
  • Dragnet - Dan Aykroyd as Joe Friday.
  • Bruce Lee has a few moments as the comically serious in some of his movies. Noticeably, Jackie Chan invoked this trope as one of the reasons he chose to do action comedy: he once was speculated to be Lee's potential succesor, so he decided to do the exact opposite and step out of his shadow.
  • Margaret Dumont in the films of The Marx Brothers and others. So much so that for many years people believed that she really was that stuffy, and simply didn't understand the jokes. It's not true; she was well aware of how funny Groucho's lines were, but was a consummate professional and stayed in character. (In her 20s, she'd been a noted comedy actress.) The reason people believed that Dumont didn't get the jokes was that she was so professional that she kept in character even when she wasn't onscreen. In one television performance late in their careers, Groucho succeeded in making her corpse.note 
  • Moe Howard from The Three Stooges is cast as the most "serious" Stooge and often berates the other two to stop screwing around, but he is no less likely to get a pie in the face or clonked with a shovel than anyone else in the cast note . This is a natural extension of the much older role of the whiteface clown as a Straight Man to the more rambunctious auguste in professional clowning. Some people have trouble with smart clowns...
  • Morticia Adams in The Addams Family films. Anjelica Huston plays the character low-key, simply accepting the weirdness around her as perfectly normal. And it is hilarious!
  • Home Alone: Harry to a certain extent.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • In Iron Man 2, the tough, thuggish Ivan gives the brief and subtle yet highly amusing appearance of a Fish out of Water while joining Justin Hammer for an expensive, five-star meal.
    • Thor has his moments in the first Thor movie while he's on Earth, largely due to his Fish out of Water status. The most notable instance of this is when he very seriously asks a pet shop employee for a horse, and it turns out they don't sell horses.
      Thor: I need a horse!
      Pet shop employee: We don't have horses, just dogs, cats and birds.
      Thor: Then give me one of those large enough to ride!
    • Guardians of the Galaxy
      • Drax the Destroyer is the member of a race whose members are Literal-Minded. Most of the time, he has no sense of sarcasm, humor, or metaphors, leading to plenty of moments where his seriousness is played for laughs, particularly compared to the other team members, such as in the mid-credits sequence. Averted in the sequel, where he's laughing his head off at least once a scene, often at someone else's expense. (Granted, this is mostly because he's trying to develop a sense of humor and not be so literal, but isn't entirely succeeding.) But reinstated as "stoic to the point of hilarity" in Avengers: Infinity War.
      • Big Bad Ronan in the first movie is a Cold Ham as a deliberate contrast to the wacky Guardians. Especially at the end, when Peter distracts him from trying to destroy a planet by challenging him to a dance off, and starting to dance to '80's music.
      Ronan: [giving Peter a thoroughly bewildered look] ...What are you doing. WHAT are you DOING?
      • Nebula is so stoic and intense that once she's forced to interact with both the Ravagers and the Guardians, it leads to her saying or doing things that are crazy and ridiculous in a really funny contrast. It also happens in Avengers: Endgame, where she's paired with the Avengers - her very introduction has Nebula treating a paper football game with Tony Stark very seriously.
    • Once Peter removes a "Training Wheels Protocol" from his suit in Spider-Man: Homecoming, he unveils an female Benevolent A.I. not unlike Iron Man's F.R.I.D.A.Y., whom Spidey nicknames "Karen". She's not a snarker like J.A.R.V.I.S. (even if she's voiced by his wife), but still hilarious given Karen is either blunt ("Aw, my head!" "You appear to have a minor concussion."), obvious ("The F.B.I.?!" "The Federal Bureau of Investigation...") or endearing ("Your impressions are very funny!").
    • Doctor Strange (2016): Wong spends the majority of the film completely and utterly stone-faced, not cracking so much as a grin as Strange bumbles into his role as Sorcerer Supreme and cracks snarky jokes. At the end Strange makes a cheesy joke about reading the instructions and Wong explodes into uproarious laughter, much to Strange and Mordo’s confusion.
    • Avengers: Infinity War: Tony Stark, of all people, ends up playing the straight man to the group (consisting of Spiderman, Dr. Strange and the Guardians of the Galaxy) gathered on Titan. There's a good few moments where he's clearly thinking "wow is this how my friends feel when they're around me?".
  • Into the Storm (2009) features the real-life character of General Ismay, Churchill's military aide, who keeps a straight face through all of Winston's antics.
  • Pretty much everyone in Dr. Strangelove, but General Ripper and Col. Bat Guano take the cake.
  • The Secret Garden: Mary at the beginning of the 1993 movie. Particularly with jolly Yorkshire maid Martha as a contrast.
    Martha: [playfully pulls Mary's hat down over her eyes] There you are, Miss Mary!
    Mary: [teeth clenched] I can't. See.
  • Janeane Garofalo's character Heather Mooney in Romy and Michele's High School Reunion spends most of the film being a Deadpan Snarker, but whenever anyone mentions the subject of her old flame Sandy Frink, she becomes this. Because she was very much in love with him. Very much in love.
  • Marilyn Monroe, at least when she appeared in comedies, where she was usually not the main character and didn't get many laugh-out-loud scenes; on the surface, it's pretty obvious why she's there in the first place. This is especially noteworthy in the two films she made with Billy Wilder, The Seven Year Itch and Some Like It Hot (and in fact, she said she did not enjoy filming the latter precisely for the above reason). Which is not to say she wasn't comical to more than an incidental extent: George Cukor, another of her directors, pointed out that "she acted as if she didn't understand why it was funny. Which is what made it so funny."
  • Monroe's Spiritual Successor, Anna Nicole Smith, plays a similar role in Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult, even more so than Leslie Nielsen (see above) and the rest of the cast. As Tanya Peters, she is onscreen less often than the other major characters, doesn't talk much, and is primarily there to react with naive cluelessness about everyone else's antics (which, as the story proves, is just an act). On those rare occasions when she does get a funny line, it's more low-key than other characters'; and when she is the butt of a sight gag, it's more often just a cheap joke about her sex appeal than anything that makes her lose her dignity. Until her final scene in the film, where she strips naked and reveals that she is actually a man.
  • The female lead in any Adam Sandler picture tends to be this. An exception is Mr. Deeds, where Winona Ryder acts ditzy and falls into slapstick and other embarrassing situations — and, in an inversion, Adam's Mr. Deeds is actually quite dignified compared to previous Sandler portrayals.
  • Star Wars:
    • Rogue One has K-2SO, an Imperial droid that after being reprogrammed by the Rebels, ends up unable to hold his Brutal Honesty. Subsequently, nearly every line of his is or ends up funny.
    • The Last Jedi has General Armitage Hux, who becomes this as he spends the whole movie as the First Order's resident Butt-Monkey.
    • Solo has L3-37, Lando's co-pilot who's basically a Distaff Counterpart to K2SO, only instead of being jaded, she's idealistic and willing to rebel, so even when she's not snarking, it's funny ( "I found my true purpose, Lando. That's what I've done!").
    • Darth Vader has shades of unfunny that have since been exaggerated in popular culture. In addition to his stiff mannerisms and Basso Profundo voice, his helmet makes him look like a Perpetual Frowner and it's incredibly hilarious to have Vader in full costume doing mundane things (such as, mentioned on the main page, going to Disney World).
  • Star Trek Beyond has Jaylah, who in being serious and combative ends up often employed as a straight woman, per franchise tradition (see the Star Trek examples on the Live-Action TV folder). The broken English also helps.
  • Wonder Woman has the title heroine, who not only is a Fish out of Water, but earnest, idealistic and combative. Hence lots of funny moments with her attempts at socialization and\or understanding the non-Amazon world.
  • Hydrozagadka is the world of The Comically Serious, who deliver the most ridiculous lines with completely straight faces.
  • In Escape from L.A., Snake becomes so absurdly, monolithically cool and macho that he swerves right back around to being as ridiculous and camp as everything around him.
  • Bicentennial Man: Robin Williams takes the concept of a robot who doesn't understand humour to exercise other types of comedy. Andrew's Rapid-Fire Comedy delivery after first learning how to tell a joke is a great example since he still doesn't understand humour. He is also Literal-Minded, which combines well with his "serious" comedy. Sir tells Andrew that he will have to learn timing, and Andrew announces that "It's 10:15, Sir."


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