Does Letterman’s show have an applause or laugh sign?

Sometimes his audience will laugh or applaud at times that seem odd. They’ll applaud for a slight pause or laugh when it isn’t really funny. I’m aware of exceptions like Joaquin Phoenix or Michael Richards (hilarious awkwardness) but I’m talking generally. Does Letterman’s audience just love him or does he have an applause or laugh sign? I’ll have to visit Ed Sullivan Theater the next time I’m in NYC.

Disclaimer: I have never been to Letterman’s show, but since this isn’t GQ…

I have been an audience member on shows where we were told ahead of time when to applaud, when to laugh, when to gasp, when to shout, and when to rise to our feet. They didn’t use signs because almost every part of the studio was on camera at some point, but the audience response was still tightly managed and choreographed.

I can’t believe Letterman’s audience isn’t prompted in some way, whether by sign, human, or prior instruction. I’ve been to enough comedy shows to know people don’t normally clap after every joke. You may get some applause when people think something is especially brilliant, but the natural human response when something is funny is to laugh. One thing I admire about Craig Ferguson is his tendency to cut off applause after a

I’ve seen tapings of his show a few times. There are no applause signs but his staffers do instruct you to laugh or applaud only; they say their microphones are very sensitive and will be distorted by stuff like whistling or whooping or booing. So if Dave mentions your favorite (or least favorite) football team, the staffers say, no screaming “Yeah!” or booing or wolf whistles.

And this was kind of funny. During the last commercial break (right before Dave comes back and thanks his guests), the staffers run through the audience and instruct you not to applaud when the show comes back on the air. OK, fine. Well, when I was there and the cameras were turned back on, Dave said something like, “Wow, wasn’t that an amazing performance by our musical guest?” Members of the audience were confused. What do we do? The staffers ran back through the audience, frantically gesturing that it was OK to applaud. Awkward.

ETA Also, if you go to his show and you want a good seat, wear something colorful. My friend wore a simple t-shirt one time and the staffers buried him in the middle of an aisle. I was decently dressed so they sat me right on the aisle. I guess Dave doesn’t want his audience to look like regular slobs or something.

I saw David Letterman when he was on NBC’s Late Night in '87, and there was no prompting whatsoever that I can recall. He was so funny that it wasn’t necessary.

Right. Yet that was more than twenty years ago. Dave Letterman 2009 is but a shell of what he was in the 80’s. He is now exactly what he back then used to parody.

The natural reaction to something funny is to laugh. Dave’s audience today, seems to rarely do that, instead they clap at his attempts at humor. I can never understand this.

I’ve always felt that during his Late Night days back at NBC, Dave’s version of the monologue if not his entire show, was more of a satire on the genre. As a result with its kitschy humor (Larry Bud Mellman, anyone?) and edginess it made just the coolest show out there. The fact that Letterman made a name for himself working out of a 12:30 in the freakin’ morning time slot was incredible.

Fast forward many years later and you have this. His audience’s responses to his humor are never: “Hey, look here’s something funny! Allright!” it’s more “Hey, look here’s something that’s supposed to be funny! Allright!”

I swear Dave’s been merely going through the motions and treading water for more than a decade now.

As to the OP --now what were we talking about? As to a “Laugh” sign, I have no idea but a “Laugh, goddammit” sign might be just what the show could use.

When I went years ago one of the staffers came out a pimped for laughs. Basically she said that Letterman’s night depends on how good of an audience we were and if we weren’t sure if a joke was funny, laugh anyway and figure it out on the way home. I was seriously disillusioned.

Laughter at the wrong moments seems more like evidence of a lack of prompting. I’d bet it does exist, though; it was there in 1982.