The premiere of Silicon Valley’s fourth season brought the return of the whole
Pied Piper PiperChat/New Internet gang. Included among the bunch was the one and only Gilfoyle, whose monotone voice you can probably imagine in your head right now—you know, it sounds like somebody’s who’s perpetually annoyed with the stupidity of the world but too worn down from said stupidity to do anything about it.
But Gilfoyle is only one of many great deadpan characters from television who have delivered punchlines and even heartbreaking sentiments while sounding like a lazy drying machine. So in the spirit of the literal definition of deadpan—”deliberately impassive or expressionless”—here is a top 10 list of television characters from the past few decades who’ve managed to make our amygdalae light up while seemingly having theirs be totally inactive.10. Wayne Jarvis, Attorney at Law (Arrested Development)
When your family has committed some light treason, you can’t go with a joke for an attorney. You need a professional. You need Wayne Jarvis, Attorney at Law. Jarvis, one of a long lineup of hilarious lawyers on Arrested Development, was by far the best deadpanner on the show… except maybe for Anyong. His look was always serious, and whatever happened, he took it without any cause for distorting his face. He probably charges for use of those muscles.
9. Phoebe Buffay (Friends)
You can’t make a list of deadpan TV characters without including Phoebe Buffay from Friends. While she did show emotion throughout the show (hence her status on the list), she still managed to not be all that affected by huge life moments that would otherwise rock a normal person’s world. Somebody needs to put a bun in her oven? No problem, let’s do it. Fluent in French? Yeah, you’re not? Hanging out with Stabby Joe later? OK, great.
8. Gilfoyle (Silicon Valley)
Gilfoyle from Silicon Valley does not care. Instead of ATCG for base nucleotides in his DNA, he has IDGAF. Try to imagine Gilfoyle sporting a big smile—it’s not going to happen. The man’s face veins run cold as ice, and his prescription glasses allow his eyes to judge all before him as inferior. He doesn’t care about anything except for writing solid code and hating on Dinesh…. which is more than can be said for some of these other characters, which is why he’s only number eight.
7. April Ludgate (Parks and Recreation)
Imagine a live-action Daria— literally if you want—and you have yourself April Ludgate from Parks and Recreation, the character that managed to breakout while simultaneously showing next to no emotion. Her larger ideology essentially boils down to not wanting to do things, and that shows on her face. But so do joy and sadness sometimes, usually pertaining to her beloved husband Andy or the occasional pooch.Image: NBUniversal television
6. Jaqen H’ghar (Game of Thrones)
Anybody who’s still alive in Game of Thrones—it’s down to so few—is still breathing thanks to the grace of Jaqen H’ghar, the faceless man from Braavos who can kill any person at any time and not be affected by the act in the slightest. The man who can literally peel his face off again and again like he’s grabbing some Kleenex still manages to, in every facial iteration he chooses to display, show no emotion. In fact, it’s hard to find any fault with his deadpan demeanor. BUT! Technically, Jaqen is dead, according to Jaqen himself. So he’s at number six.
5. Mike Ehrmantraut (Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul)
Mike Ehrmantraut may look like a kindly grandpa who just loves playing with his granddaughter in the park—which he does actually love, to be fair. But the killer whom we first met on Breaking Bad continues to break noses and perform general acts of badassery on Better Call Saul, where the man still shows zero emotion. Mike’s last words before biting the dust on Breaking Bad were, “Shut the fuck up and let me die in peace.” And he said them without a skosh of emotion on his face.
4. Ron Swanson (Parks and Recreation)
Who could possibly beat out two stone-cold killers but a man who is surely 92% bacon, whiskey, and beard? Ron Swanson from Parks and Recreation. The Swansonator’s scowl is something that haunts many a deer’s nightmares, but that’s the way he looks at everything. His face is frozen in the I could kill you with my bare hands if I wanted to position. He could have alcohol poisoning and look like he was sitting through an eye exam. But still, even woodsmen have hearts, and every once in a while a smile perks up beneath his ‘stache… Leslie Knope will do that to you.
3. Data (Star Trek: The Next Generation)
We’re talking about characters here, not people, so Data’s face, from Star Trek: The Next Generation, still definitely counts as deadpan even though he’s not human. And he is where it counts anyway, right? (Talking about that Tasha-ship!) Data also looks like he’s in immense physical pain when he even tries to smile, plus he can’t use contractions. He does try to emulate human emotion though, and since the definition of deadpan includes the “deliberate” qualification, he does not take the top spot!
Daria is the definition of deadpan. Instead of the description noted above, the dictionary should just have a picture of Daria’s completely emotionless face. A tsunami could rise a thousand meters into the air in front of Daria Morgendorffer, and all it would elicit for a response would be a very flat, “That wave’s such a beach.” Daria is the concept of deadpan anthropomorphized. She is the very essence of the quality. But she is still only number two!
Because the number one most deadpan TV character is—
1. Scruffy from Futurama
Scruffy don’t need no description.Image: 20th Century Fox via the Morbotron
Who do you think are the best deadpan characters from the past few decades of television? Let us know in the comments below!
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