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Death of the Laugh Track / Live Studio Audience

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Mike Cohen
Death of the Laugh Track / Live Studio Audience
on May 13, 2014 at 2:16:06 pm

Arrested Development, The Office, Parks and Rec, The Goldbergs, Louie, 30 Rock - the list goes on of single camera comedies NOT shot in front of a studio audience. It is left up to the viewer to find something funny or not, rather than letting a live audience or a laugh track dictate the comedic moments. Definitely an improvement.

There remain some popular or not popular sit-coms with a live audience. Big Bang Theory is the only one I have seen, which is genuinely funny, but sitcoms always come in blocks of two or four half-hour shows, so there are others if you consult your local listings.


Some questions for the experts:

Was the inclusion of laughter (real or pre-recorded) ever helpful? While recorded in front of an audience, most sitcoms are hardly recorded live in one continuous take, so by the fourth take it is doubtful the laughter is as genuine.

Likewise, why was the laugh track implemented in the first place?

Late night TV is now the only place to find authentic audience reaction, although they do have people and signs prompting the audience on live shows too - so how authentic is it?

I included the new show The Goldbergs in my list of non-laugh-track shows because I don't find it very funny.

Then you have comedy shows, mostly on pay cable, such as Entourage, which can be quite funny, but are not situation comedies since they generally have more of a narrative approach. Does a sitcom need to have a laugh track?

Finally, shows like The Flintstones (laugh track), Simpsons and Family Guy are sitcoms, comedies, or just funny cartoons?

Talk amongst yourselves.

Mike Cohen


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Mark Suszko
Re: Death of the Laugh Track / Live Studio Audience
on May 13, 2014 at 4:44:20 pm

I'll speculate it was carried over from radio. Then, too, there is an effect on live audiences in novel situations where they get nervous about laughing or applauding at the appropriate time: think classical or jazz concerts and stage plays. It was not at all uncommon to position someone way in the back to start the clapping and signal to the initiates that it was okay to go ahead at that point. Early studio TV was certainly a novel environment for audiences, so I imagine these techniques were used and then they just sort fo stuck and became pro forma.


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Mark Suszko
Re: Death of the Laugh Track / Live Studio Audience
on May 13, 2014 at 6:27:00 pm

These are interesting







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Jeff Breuer
Re: Death of the Laugh Track / Live Studio Audience
on May 14, 2014 at 2:28:24 pm

I'm sure the evolution was a natural progression as you mentioned. I think the trick works today because it allows people to feel like they are surrounded by friends as they sit home alone watching TV. In a world growing more physically isolated but digitally connected, this seemingly dated practice appears to maintain some relevance.

And on that, I give you an updated Woody Allen gag (sorry Mark)



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Mark Suszko
Re: Death of the Laugh Track / Live Studio Audience
on May 14, 2014 at 4:05:10 pm

Nice editing there.

From a Sorkin profile on an inside.com article: 'When executives insisted on adding a laugh track (to "Sports Night"), Sorkin, in a truculent New Yorker interview, likened the move to dressing in a tuxedo and cuff links "and the last thing I do before I leave the house is spray Cheez Whiz all over myself."'


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Jeff Breuer
Re: Death of the Laugh Track / Live Studio Audience
on May 15, 2014 at 3:38:43 pm

Haha! Yea, Sports Night was a single camera show, which has no business using a laugh track. Same with MASH. The only way a laugh track works is when the show is clearly shot on a sound stage. There has to be a frame of reference for an audience actually being there otherwise the deice doesn't fit and doesn't work.

I don't know if you have seen the documentary Exporting Raymond where the creator of Everybody Loves Raymond tries to translate his show for the Russian audience, but it does a great job tackling this phenomenon. We get a great explanation of why it works, and when the Russians can't figure it out or pull it off.



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Mark Suszko
Re: Death of the Laugh Track / Live Studio Audience
on May 15, 2014 at 5:16:15 pm

That looks awesome, will stream it this weekend.


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Mark Suszko
Re: Death of the Laugh Track / Live Studio Audience
on May 16, 2014 at 5:49:45 pm

The movie did not disappoint. The entire family dug it.


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