I want you to imagine something for me.
Imagine Batman. Not Bruce Wayne. Batman, geared up and ready to go face down whatever horrible scheme Joker has cooked up this time.
Now, imagine Batman grocery shopping. Or gardening. Or doing laundry.
Depending on your sense of humour, those images might’ve gotten anywhere from a small smile to a snort of a music to a few moment of high pitched giggling. What is it about Batman that makes imagining him doing these mundane activities hilarious?
It’s because he’s so damn serious.
A comically serious character is generally a stoic sort who, no matter what kinds of situations he gets thrown into, always tries to maintain his dignity and stern demeanor. Their responses to anything strange are deadpan and straight-forward. While they may not be totally serious one hundred percent of the time, it’s a sort of default for them. They aren’t usually mean or even unpleasant. They just take all the ridiculousness surrounding them in stride.
I absolutely love this type of character. There’s just something about the juxtaposition of comedy and stuffiness that makes me laugh and endears me to the character. They fit well into comedic scenes without having to be the “funny” character. But there’s a few things to making one work, and I think it bears some talking about.
The main thing to remember about a comically serious character is that they are comedic. This type of character wouldn’t have the same effect in a dramatic story, where you’re likely to encounter a lot of serious characters. The fun of this character is that their usually the odd one out in their group. They make an all-business approach to things seem like a whimsical quirk. But while this seriousness in a default state and what will be the reader’s first impression, they are not completely defined by this. Many have deeper facets to their personality that don’t come out most of the time. Depending on the situation, they can be generally kind or crafty or nurturing.
These characters never tend to be mean though, not truly. You might see the occasional hard-ass, but usually these characters are nice ones. Villains and anti-heroes may fall into this category somewhat if dealing with idiotic minions or incompetent sidekicks, but I find the heroic versions of this character to have more charm to them. Perhaps because I tend to find this type of character more effective without the cruelty of the villain or the brooding of the anti-hero.
One trait that I’ve found makes a comically serious character great is if they do show some of the silliness of the characters around them, in their own way. They participate in the gang’s antics, completely stoned-face. Or perhaps they give their small, amused smile as they tell one of the younger members of the group to totally do the ridiculous thing another character is saying not to do.
(For this reason, these types for often paired really well with a character who worries a lot and actively tries to stop the group from doing stupid things.)
A final note is that these types of characters are often wither really dignified or cool. If they’re not sophisticated and classy, they’ll look really badass or have a celebrity-type of flair to them. This is probably because the effect is greater when the character looks like they would absolutely not do anything undignified or silly. Being stylish is a must.
Comedy comes in many forms. Sometimes, those forms are nothing like you’d expect.