It only takes one MP to go a bit silly for a minute, and the whole House can end up being quite dippy all afternoon, as Parliament was yesterday after Paula Bennett tried to make light of the unemployment statistics.
OPINION: They were, she said, "bouncy, like me!" This was as distinct from economic growth, which was grumpy like Bill English, the social development minister said of her colleague the finance minister.
And with that, it was all on. "Who's Dopey?" chorused Labour MPs, riffing on Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.
By the end of question time, the Opposition had decided Associate Education Minister Craig Foss was Dopey, Attorney-General Chris Finlayson was Nasty, and Justice Minister Judith Collins was vainly styling herself as Snow White.
Snoozy and Drippy designations were also proposed but left mercifully unassigned, apparently for too much richness of choice.
Well, it amused them. Just as much as it amused National MPs to celebrate what they claimed would be a leadership coup in the Labour Party at this weekend's party conference. Prime Minister John Key managed to quote the far-Right Fox News and the far-Left The Standard blog as his sources of information.
Employment Development Minister Steven Joyce "revealed" that only the previous night, a large group of Labour MPs had met in a private room of Bellamys to plot the coup with a prominent New York consultant in attendance.
This was a reference to a perfectly innocent caucus dinner with former prime minister Helen Clark, briefly home from her United Nations job, but it would have been a pity to let the facts spoil a good teasing.
Nick Smith even detailed how he and Government colleagues had helped the "coupsters" find the plot meeting, as many had wandered round Bellamys lost. David Cunliffe had arrived looking like the Messiah in search of his apostles, so Dr Smith said he had given him directions to the private room. He had also assisted Jacinda Ardern.
"You grunted through a mouthful!" she contradicted him.
"You can't even organise a proper coup without help from National MPs," Dr Smith crowed.
Most helpful was "Nasty", Mr Finlayson, who used his general debate speech to assist Labour MPs' appreciation of their own history.
With several having attended a conference last weekend on the legacy of the late Labour prime minister Norman Kirk, he took the opportunity to correct the conference's spelling of people's names and several errors, and to remind them of some Kirk contemporaries whom they seemed to have "airbrushed out" of their retrospective, "including Roger Douglas, who was such a fine postmaster-general!"
The conference had been convened by the Fabian Society, which Mr Finlayson claimed was run by "a self-styled historian who runs a dairy in Mt Roskill".
It had also been attended by Green MP Kennedy "I charge you with eco-cide!" Graham. "Lovely guy, just a shame he immatures with age," Mr Finlayson sighed.
If they felt disrespected or patronised by Mr Finlayson's comments, Opposition members had been reassured, during a question time exchange, about his motives. "I dwell in the land of high emotional intelligence!" he told Parliament with a theatrical flourish. "I speak from the heart."
They probably dared not think what a Finlayson speech from the liver or spleen would be like.
- The Dominion Post