Dictionary.com defines "deadpan" like so: "marked by or accomplished with a careful pretense of seriousness or calm detachment." Think Bob Newhart, think Charles Grodin, or (best of all) think of the stock-still and dead-serious face of Leslie Nielsen as he's asked to deliver some of the silliest comedy material ever devised. Deadpan is not easy, because it requires a comedian to have a layer of authority at the base, and that's what allows their comedic frustrations, eruptions, or pratfalls to work so damn well.
The deadpan school of comedy has lost a true master today; we sadly note the passing of Canadian actor Leslie Nielsen, who died in a Florida hospital at the age of 84.
Best known for his work in spoof comedies like 'Airplane!,' 'The Naked Gun' and 'Police Squad,' Mr. Nielsen was not always a bumbling yet endearing authority figure. Between 1950 and 1980 the man appeared in dozens of films and television programs (he was in 'Forbidden Planet,' 'The Poseidon Adventure,' 'Day of the Animals,' 'Creepshow' and 'Prom Night'!), but it was the comedy smash 'Airplane!' that re-invented the well-regarded character actor. So wonderfully weird was his deadpan approach to the '50s-style doctor he played in 'Airplane!' -- his career was transformed almost overnight.