While we're discussing comedy principles, one the best is from Michael Palin. I heard him on a radio show a while back say that the following Python sketch might have been his favorite - saying that his favorite comedy principle is delusions of power.
Sergeant: Two civilian gentlemen to see you ... sir!
Colonel: Show them in please, sergeant.
Sergeant: Mr Dino Vercotti and Mr Luigi Vercotti.
(The Vercotti brothers enter. They wear Mafia suits and dark glasses.)
Dino: Good morning, Colonel.
Colonel: Good morning gentlemen. Now what can I do for you.
Luigi: (looking round office casually) You've ... you've got a nice army base here, Colonel.
Luigi: We wouldn't want anything to happen to it.
Dino: No, what my brother means is it would be a shame if... (he knocks something off mantel)
Dino: Oh sorry, Colonel.
Colonel: Well don't worry about that. But please do sit down.
Luigi: No, we prefer to stand, thank you, Colonel.
Colonel: All right. All right. But what do you want?
Dino: What do we want, ha ha ha.
Luigi: Ha ha ha, very good, Colonel.
Dino: The Colonel's a joker, Luigi.
Luigi: Explain it to the Colonel, Dino.
Dino: How many tanks you got, Colonel?
Colonel: About five hundred altogether.
Luigi: Five hundred! Hey!
Dino: You ought to be careful, colonel.
Colonel: We arc careful, extremely careful.
Dino: 'Cos things break, don't they?
Luigi: Well everything breaks, don't it colonel. (he breaks something on desk) Oh dear.
Dino: Oh see my brother's clumsy Colonel, and when he gets unhappy he breaks things. Like say, he don't feel the army's playing fair by him, he may start breaking things, Colonel.
Colonel: What is all this about?
Luigi: How many men you got here, Colonel?
Colonel: Oh, er ... seven thousand infantry, six hundred artillery, and er, two divisions of paratroops.
Luigi: Paratroops, Dino.
Dino: Be a shame if someone was to set fire to them.
Colonel: Set fire to them?
Luigi: Fires happen, Colonel.
Dino: Things burn.
Colonel: Look, what is all this about?
Dino: My brother and I have got a little proposition for you Colonel.
Luigi: Could save you a lot of bother.
Dino: I mean you're doing all right here aren't you, Colonel.
Luigi: Well suppose some of your tanks was to get broken and troops started getting lost, er, fights started breaking out during general inspection, like.
Dino: It wouldn't be good for business would it, Colonel?
Colonel: Are you threatening me?
Dino: Oh, no, no, no.
Luigi: Whatever made you think that, Colonel?
Dino: The Colonel doesn't think we're nice people, Luigi.
Luigi: We're your buddies, Colonel.
Dino: We want to look after you.
Colonel: Look after me?
Luigi: We can guarantee you that not a single armoured division will get done over for fifteen bob a week.
Colonel: No, no, no.
Luigi: Twelve and six.
Colonel: No, no, no.
Luigi: Eight and six ... five bob...
Colonel: No, no this is silly.
Dino: What's silly?
Colonel: No, the whole premise is silly and it's very badly written. I'm the senior officer here and I haven't had a funny line yet. So I'm stopping it.
Dino: You can't do that!
Colonel: I've done it. The sketch is over.
Watkins: I want to leave the army please sir, it's dangerous.
Colonel: Look, I stopped your sketch five minutes ago. So get out of shot. Right director! Close up. Zoom in on me. (camera zooms in) That's better.
Luigi: (off screen) It's only 'cos you couldn't think of a punch line.
Colonel: Not true, not true. It's time for the cartoon. Cue telecine, ten, nine, eight...
(Cut to telecine countdown.)
Dino: (off screen) The general public's not going to understand 'this, are they?
Colonel: (off screen) Shut up you eyeties! I concur. The deep comedy here is not cruelty, but self-delusion of influence over others. (And refering the post below, comedy is a great weapon for human equality - a comment sure to suck all the fun out of it. Deal.) It's a fantastic script, of course. The politeness of the colonel, the just-off skew of the setting fire threat. Video starts here at 1:53 in. Speaking of which, over there right now at the coffee shop, the type of guy recognizable to anyone's who has lived in the Haight, complete with scruffy blond beard and beach hat, just said the following in complete seriousness,
"So what happened in World War II is, Hitler landed a UFO on the White House lawn, and then he went to Roosevelt he said 'We are going to end this war right now.' And people have never seen this so they don't know it."
I certainly didn't. Rock on, Stoner History Dude.