Tension and Release
Tension and release is great for sketch and film work. You control the audience by making them as uncomfortable as possible by creating tension, then releasing that tension with a joke just at the right time. The members of Monty Python were masters of this format.
On their 1972 album Monty Python's Previous Record there is a sketch called “Travel Agent,” where a man (Eric Idle) walks into the office of a travel agent (Terry Jones) to arrange a vacation. The man drones on about all the problems with his past trips, not letting the exasperated agent get a word in edgewise. It's funny at first, then it's funny because it's gone on too long, then it gets annoying, then it ends up being really annoying. It actually makes the listener squirm in his seat, wondering when it's going to end. Finally, the travel agent literally begs the listener to lift the needle off the album to end his torment. Now that's connecting with the audience!
For more great examples of tension and release sketches, check out the following Monty Python sketches: “Anne Elk,” “The Cheese Shop,” and, of course, the famous “Dead Parrot Sketch.” Also, check out the comedy album Bob & Ray: A Night of Two Stars, which features probably the best example of the tension and release format, “The Slow Talkers of America.”