Compensation: A 10-Minute Sketch

One of T.F. Torrey’s screenplays

A Comedy Sketch

It started with the prompt: an unusual weapon. It became a short comedy sketch that builds up to a great punch line.

Perfect for a small troupe

The sketch has three characters, and though all are male in the script, having one or two of them be female would be an interesting twist. It has one set: a military planning room. It has few props: a table, a map, and a large foil square.

Give it a listen, but be prepared

I uploaded the script to ReadThrough.com to test their wares, and they gave me back a recording with all parts read by computer voices. The result is … unique. I kind of like it, but most people won’t. It might be good enough to listen to as you read the script below, though.

The complete script

FADE IN:

EXT. MILITARY PLANNING ROOM – DAY

GENERAL RICHARDS stands alone in a military planning room, looking down at a MAP on a table.

GENERAL RICHARDS

Johnson! Pain! Get in here!

COLONEL JOHNSON enters at a trot. COLONEL PAIN enters more hesitantly.

COLONEL JOHNSON

Yes, sir!

GENERAL RICHARDS

I want a full report about how Operation Soft Talk is going.

Colonel Pain and Colonel Johnson look warily at each other.

COLONEL JOHNSON

It’s not quite a success, yet, sir.

COLONEL PAIN

That’s putting it mildly.

GENERAL RICHARDS

What do you mean?

COLONEL JOHNSON

We’re a bit weak to the south, sir---

COLONEL PAIN

We’re being completely overrun all along our southern flank.

GENERAL RICHARDS

What?!

COLONEL PAIN

The second and third battalions have both lost a lot of men, as well as a lot of ground, sir.

General Richards turns to Colonel Johnson.

GENERAL RICHARDS

Is this true?

Colonel Johnson looks at the floor.

COLONEL JOHNSON

It’s true, sir.

GENERAL RICHARDS

Has my secret weapon been deployed as I instructed?

COLONEL JOHNSON

Exactly as you instructed, sir.

COLONEL PAIN

To the letter.

GENERAL RICHARDS

You put enough men into the fabrication effort to create the number of the weapons that I specified?

COLONEL JOHNSON

Yes, sir.

GENERAL RICHARDS

And you diverted the attack helicopters to drop the weapon as I put down in the plan?

COLONEL JOHNSON

Yes, sir.

GENERAL RICHARDS

And it hasn’t had any effect?

COLONEL PAIN

(dryly)

I wouldn’t say that, sir. It has cost us a lot of men.

GENERAL RICHARDS

That can’t be!

General Richards paces thoughtfully for a second.

GENERAL RICHARDS

I’m going to get a current situation report from the battalion commanders. I’ll be right back. You two stay here.

General Richards exits.

COLONEL PAIN

Listen, we have to do something about this.

COLONEL JOHNSON

About what?

COLONEL PAIN

About General Richards’ so-called plan. We have to talk him out of it.

COLONEL JOHNSON

Why?

COLONEL PAIN

Why? How about because it doesn’t make any sense? How about because the whole thing is idiotic!

COLONEL JOHNSON

No, I wouldn’t say that. I think it has some good points that we can build on---

COLONEL PAIN

Listen. The reality of the situation is that we are fighting a war, and we have to make a plan that will connect to the reality of fighting a war. General Richards’ plan doesn’t even begin to connect to that reality.

COLONEL JOHNSON

Well, a lot of people would disagree with you about that. His plan is based on some really good ideas that a lot of other people support.

COLONEL PAIN

We can’t fight a war with good ideas if they don’t connect with reality.

General Richards enters, looking grim.

GENERAL RICHARDS

Well, it’s true, we’re being overrun in the south. You know what this means?

COLONEL PAIN

Yes, I do, sir. It means---

GENERAL RICHARDS

It means we have to redouble the effort of Operation Soft Talk right away!

COLONEL JOHNSON

Right away, sir!

GENERAL RICHARDS

We’re going to need to put more men into the fabrication effort. I want you to pull another company of men off the line and get them working on my weapon.

COLONEL JOHNSON

Right, sir!

GENERAL RICHARDS

We’re going to need to divert more helicopters away from the bombing and support roles, get them to work dropping the weapon.

COLONEL JOHNSON

Right, sir!

GENERAL RICHARDS

(thoughtfully)

Maybe we can remove the guns from the helicopters, make more room for my special weapon.

COLONEL PAIN

No, no, no!

GENERAL RICHARDS

What?

COLONEL PAIN

I think we have to try another plan, sir.

General Richards looks very unhappy.

COLONEL JOHNSON

I think what Colonel Pain means, sir, is that the plan for Operation Soft Talk has a lot of good points, but maybe we just need to tweak it a little.

COLONEL PAIN

No, no, no! I’m saying we need to try a completely different approach. A direct assault with real weapons.

GENERAL RICHARDS

Are you saying that you don’t understand the weapons of Operation Soft Talk?

COLONEL PAIN

Weapons? Weapons?

Colonel Pain reaches down to the table and holds up a RECTANGULAR PACKAGE.

COLONEL PAIN

Sir, an oversize condom is not a proper weapon of war!

GENERAL RICHARDS

You watch your tone, Colonel, or I’ll have you brought up on charges of insubordination.

COLONEL PAIN

Sir, our men are trained to fight. We should develop a plan that lets them fight---

GENERAL RICHARDS

You listen to me. I’ve been an officer in this man’s army for twenty-seven years, and I’ve forgotten more than you’ll ever know about good combat plans.

COLONEL PAIN

How do you see this as a good plan for combat?

GENERAL RICHARDS

You’ve got a lot to learn about psychological operations.

COLONEL PAIN

With all due respect, sir, I’m highly trained and experienced in psychological operations---

GENERAL RICHARDS

Well, you clearly don’t understand what’s going on here.

COLONEL PAIN

Oh, I think I do, sir.

General Richards takes the oversize condom from Colonel Pain and holds it up admiringly.

GENERAL RICHARDS

The enemy puts a lot of stock in penis size, Colonel. When they see these condoms, and they think they’re our regular condoms, they’ll be too intimidated to fight. They’ll surrender in droves.

COLONEL PAIN

I understand the concept, sir---

GENERAL RICHARDS

Well, it doesn’t seem that you do.

COLONEL PAIN

If your plan is so good, sir, then why isn’t it working?

GENERAL RICHARDS

It isn’t working, Colonel, because I’m constantly being undermined by people who don’t know how to fight a war!

COLONEL JOHNSON

We need more respect for the chain of command!

GENERAL RICHARDS

Exactly. Now, Colonel Johnson, I need you to get those extra drums of latex and sawed-off baseball bats to the fabrication area right away.

COLONEL JOHNSON

Right away, sir.

GENERAL RICHARDS

COLONEL PAIN, I need you to get more troops to the fabrication effort.

COLONEL PAIN

You want me to take more troops away from the battle, to make condoms?

GENERAL RICHARDS

Right. And pull back some more of the attack helicopters. We need a lot more air support to get these things into the battle.

COLONEL PAIN

Sir, I really believe that we should develop a plan to let our men fight like they know how to fight. Get them to the front, get them ammunition and air support, and stay out of their way.

General Richards stops his activity and slowly turns to Colonel Pain.

GENERAL RICHARDS

You still don’t see the method to my madness?

COLONEL PAIN

I don’t see ... any method ... at all, sir.

General Richards is disappointed and almost so angry as to be shaking.

GENERAL RICHARDS

Go and get me the latest situation reports.

Colonel Pain opens his mouth to speak, slowly changes his mind, turns, and exits.

GENERAL RICHARDS

Forget him. If he doesn’t see the light by now he’s an idiot anyway.

COLONEL JOHNSON

He should learn to trust the judgment of his superior officers.

GENERAL RICHARDS

Now, we’re going to need a lot more latex. Have you got those reserves I ordered up yet?

COLONEL JOHNSON

It’s standing by, sir.

General Richards turns thoughtful.

GENERAL RICHARDS

Perhaps it would help some if we made them ... bigger.

COLONEL JOHNSON

Whatever you say, sir.

Colonel Pain enters carrying a PAPER and looking grim.

COLONEL PAIN

Well, it’s over.

GENERAL RICHARDS

What?

Colonel Pain holds up the paper as evidence.

COLONEL PAIN

We just got a message from Washington. The President’s ordering a complete withdrawal. The war is over.

General Richards grabs the paper and studies it.

GENERAL RICHARDS

That can’t be!

COLONEL JOHNSON

We were so close to winning! General Richards’ plan was bound to work!

COLONEL PAIN

Bound to work? We had the chance to really do something, to attack, to use the skills and training of our soldiers to really fight---

GENERAL RICHARDS

You listen! I’ve been a commander in this man’s army for twenty-seven years---

COLONEL PAIN

Yes, yes, we’ve all heard, twenty-seven years. And what has all that experience gotten us?

Colonel Pain picks up one of the oversized condoms.

COLONEL PAIN

All your so-called wisdom has gotten us is defeat, and a bunch of condoms that won’t even fit anybody but me.

Colonel Pain exits dejectedly. General Richards and Colonel Johnson are silent for a moment.

COLONEL JOHNSON

That was insubordination if I ever saw it.

GENERAL RICHARDS

He obviously doesn’t understand psychological operations.

COLONEL JOHNSON

He should be more receptive to the experience of his superior officers.

GENERAL RICHARDS

He damn well should. But forget him for now. I’ll make sure his next post is commanding latrine detail in Alaska.

COLONEL JOHNSON

It’s better than he deserves.

GENERAL RICHARDS

Now, about this withdrawal. I’m sure it’s just a temporary tactic to confuse the enemy. We’ll modify the plans to leave the condoms behind as we withdraw, and when we return, the enemy will be too afraid of us to pick up a rifle.

COLONEL JOHNSON

Right, sir. We’ll just modify the plans slightly to compensate for the withdrawal.

GENERAL RICHARDS

That’s right. It’s just a little matter of compensation.

BURN TO BLACK.

THE END <

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