Max Bialystock: How could this happen? I was so careful. I picked the wrong play, the wrong director, the wrong cast. Where did I go right?

– The Producers (1967)

When was the last time you experienced rib tickling laughter? When was the last time you actually rolled on the floor laughing? One lazy evening, watching a few stand-up routines on YouTube, I stumbled upon this comedy sketch that had me in splits. I fell off my chair laughing and my ribs hurt from the laughter.

Naturally, I shared this fountain of laughter with other people. But to my surprise, it didn’t garner the same reaction; which confounded me. How could these people not be as amused as I was? Everyone agreed it was funny, but they didn’t roll on the floor laughing! Their ribs dint hurt in the same way as mine did.

One possibility was I may have built up the expectation. However I don’t think that was quite it. I later decided to analyze the sketch myself and pinpoint why I reacted the way I did. But before we get to that analysis, the video for your enjoyment.


First and foremost, the sketch is performed by two renowned comedians Rowan Atkinson (of Bean fame) and Monty Python member John Cleese. The sketch itself is pythonesque and is in a similar vein as the ‘how to irritate people’ sketch that the Monty Python troupe so frequently performed. As per my research, the script was written by John Cleese in the 60’s.

The ‘how to irritate people’ sketch is simple. Annoy the person (in this case the interviewee) with absurd mannerisms, but all the time making sure the person accepts and complies with the mannerisms. The discomfort the person undergoes and his attempts to adapt, translates to comedy and hilarity.

There are two moments that positively send the sketch over the top. The first is when the interviewee apologizes to the interviewer for saying the word ‘lifespan’ even after being warned. It’s hilarious because the interviewee has accepted the outrageous mannerisms and is now dealing with something he shouldn’t even be bothered about, to the extent of apologizing. Everything up to that point is funny too, but that moment just sends it over the top. The second moment of hilarity follows soon after, when the interviewer says “I am practicing for a word you are about to say very soon”. The premise of practicing is in itself funny, but the Mexican stand off that ensues, to find out which word its going to be, is even more so. The word we find out is pollen.

I think, I was on the floor when the first moment occurred. I still can’t be sure what ticked me off. It could be my brain processed the absurdity of the situation as I watched the sketch unfold and thus heightened the comedy. If you didn’t find the video as funny the first time, try watching it again with this explanation and let me know if it ticks you off.


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