I am running a game with 3 players, and we're about 5 sessions in, and everyone is beginning to feel comfortable. This is fine, this is where I want my players to be.
However, with a comfort zone, a collection of crude humor and sassy jokes has also arrived. In everyday conversation, this would normally be fine, I too can have a bit of a laugh at a terrible joke, but when I'm trying to create an environment, and a certain type of character, it's very distracting.
For example, after the party saved a celebration from being mauled by zombies, the next morning, an NPC approached them to hire them, and make use of their talents.
You step out of the tavern, and you immediately spot a rather fancy carriage across the road. The carriage driver appears to be watching the entrance, and as soon as he spots you, he crosses the road to meet you.
In a rather well refined accent, the carriage driver announces himself; "Good morning, sir and madams. My master wishes to speak with you, in private. Would you care to follow me?"
This is where the group immediately started with "don't take candy from strangers in vans" jokes. Eventually, they calmed down, and agreed to enter the carriage.
As you all sit down on the available seat, you get a proper look at the man the carriage driver was referring to. From a quick glance, you can clearly tell that this an is rich, if not a noble. A red velvet jacket, a crisp white shirt, and shined black shoes. His long brown hair greased back into a ponytail.
"I thank you for joining me."
And immediately the group once again started with the abduction humor, and even escalated to possible sodomy.
When this carries on, I let most of it slide, but if it continues, and is holding up the game, I eventually take it as PC chatter (with appropriate warning). Sort of like the "in-character lamp" technique. The players understand this, and accept it.
In all honesty, I did my best to try and have this NPC remain "shocked" in response to all this, but after a short while, I began to get frustrated, because they weren't taking the situation seriously. I considered throwing them out for their "disrespectful behavior", but if I did so, the party would likely get upset because they are only having fun, and the game would effectively be brought to a halt.
Additionally, I'm not exactly a "quick thinker", so coming up with an alternative way to trigger the planned story line is a bit of struggle for me.
I don't want to force them to change their sense of humor, or "reel it in" at all. I feel that would stifle the fun. I have no problem with their jokes, only the way that it doesn't fit with my role playing.
Is there any way that I could handle this situation a bit better, in terms of role playing, or perhaps creating encounters that may be a bit more accommodating to the group's sense of humor? I don't want to ask them to stop, I just want to keep the game going more smoothly than I have been.