What are the techniques (if any by the book) that actors employ to control laughter in scenes that are highly comic in nature? Are there techniques or is it out of pure willpower and self control? The nature of question arises from the fact that I am planning a skit like "The Office" but my fellow friends are having a hard time not laughing while doing a scene. If we talk about the show itself, I assume the co-actors must have had a hard time controlling their laughter during specific scenes (and this might be true for other comedy shows also). Hence my question that what are some professional techniques used to control laughter?
Practise and familiarity.
The actors will already know the lines by heart. The first couple of blocking run-throughs, even before camera is set up, will let them get over most remaining giggles. You'd be amazed at how rapidly even a good gag can become just another line after repetition.
After that, if someone improvs something completely out of left-field, then either everybody manages to keep a straight face or not - there's always another take. Whether an actor corpsing in the middle of a scene is acceptable to be broadcast or not is entirely up to how the show itself handles such things. Some let them through, some re-take to keep the show itself dead-pan.
I spent a whole day last week being 'dead' in a chair whilst the jokes were flying around me. I only blinked once; the rest of the time was just a case of zoning out from the actual amusement and concentrating on the part.
It's the audience who needs to laugh, not the performers.
Keeping a straight face is of course preferable, but if you find yourself breaking, there are some ways to hide it. Covering your mouth with your hand or turning away from the scene can make it less obvious that you're laughing, and can also be played off as other emotions like surprise or disgust. It's tougher to do this if you are the center of the scene, but can be quite useful if you're in the background and find yourself breaking. It's funny you mention The Office, as you can sometimes spot some actors in the background doing this in order to avoid ruining hilarious takes - after many rewatches, I've noticed Mindy Kaling in particular can occasionally be seen covering her mouth to hide the fact that she's laughing, and does so very effectively.
Many of them do not control it well. Haven’t we all seen thousands of outtakes where each time they crack on a certain line or movement? It’s difficult to mention techniques because everyone is different, they may look like machines (some of them) but they are human. It’s self control really, but in addition to these fine answers, many actors are unable to stop laughter. Streep, for one.