"Open up! Zis iss ze Gestapo!" is no longer funny.

CHCH Channel 11 unveiled their new Retro daytime lineup this week. Now I can watch shows from the last 70 years from morn 'til late afternoon.

I was, however, puzzled as to why I wasn’t laughing as hard at Hogan’s Heroes as I used to. Finally I realized I must be watching a remastered version with no laugh track.

Oy, what a difference a laugh track makes! I almost feel like I’m watching MASH***, except Bob Crane is hardly Alan Alda* and Werner Klemperer ain’t McLean Stevenson.

I remember back in the first season of The Odd Couple, the home audience was invited to participate in a “unique experiment” by voting on whether they preferred episodes with or without a laugh track.

It’s amazing how conditioned we are to laugh on cue when watching TV. Even when shows are filmed or taped before a live studio audience, the producers will add canned laughter when a joke doesn’t get the response they’d hoped for.

Someone once told me all of the laughter we hear on Monty Python was canned. I found that hard to believe, but now I’m not so sure.

*Good thing, too. I detest Alan Alda! :mad:

I got weaned off laugh tracks with the run of cynical single-camera comedies like Arrested Development, Malcolm in the Middle, 30 Rock, Corner Gas etc

Now they seem intrusive and distracting to me unless the comedy is very good, Cheers/Frasier/Taxi/WKRP good. Sitcoms prior to these almost never were. Sorry, Hogan.

Corner Gas wouldn’t be Corner Gas if it had a laugh track. It took me a long time to get into it, but I now find it quite amusing. Very Canadian!

Really, we’re conditioned to laugh when other people are laughing. The laugh track is just designed to take advantage of this conditioning.

Movies never have laugh tracks, because they’re designed to be watched in a room full of lots of other people. If the movie’s funny, the audience will ideally be laughing and feeding off of each other’s laughter.

My other theory is that a laugh track distances us from what’s happening on screen (which could be positive or negative). When we hear laughter—whether it’s canned laughter, a live studio audience, or people who are with us in person—it reinforces that we are watching a performance rather than reality.

Bob Crane made a series of other shows without laugh tracks.

Scooby-Doo having a laugh track was the most bizarre one

Weather reports should have them.

My MAS*H DVD set provides me the ability to turn off the laugh track, and I do. I prefer no laugh track, but I don’t mind as much as others do when it’s there. My wife refuses to watch any laugh track show at all anymore. I’m too much of a classic sitcom fan to take it that far.

Laugh tracks are ridiculous. If something’s funny, I’ll laugh.

The laugh track on The Big Bang Theory is annoying as hell and makes the show almost unwatchable.

I hate laugh tracks.

Uh-oh… I’ve just received the complete series of The Twilight Zone and its '80s reboot. I’ll have to check them.

He was a very dedicated videographer; he spent a LOT of his own money to obtain state of the art equipment for use in his own productions. His passion for this activity eventually negatively affected his health and led to his premature death.

“You like it when the studio audience laughs at your jokes? Well, the studio audience will laugh at everything you say and do. This is the other place!”


Yeah, but home video porn typcially doesn’t need a laugh track…although some yackety sax from Benny Hillmight be appropriate.

Without the laugh track, the show is completely unwatchable. It’s even less funny than King of Queens or According to Jim.


I believe that’s because the shows’ acting is paced to allow for laugh tracks. I’ve watched some scenes of Frazier and Cheers on Youtube with the laugh track deleted, and there are all these pregnant pauses where nothing is happening and nothing is said, that are normally filled with the laugh track. The shows that are made without laugh tracks don’t have that weird pacing.

I’m pretty agnostic about whether shows should have them or not, although if there is going to be laughter I prefer a live audience.

Even the live audience ones are augmented with laugh tracks.

I’d forgotten how annoying laugh tracks were until I started watching The Big Bang Theory. I guess I just mostly didn’t watch comedies, for some years prior to that.

The laughter on Monty Python is not canned. I am my own cite as I was in the live audience for a few shows and my big brother was at every single recording. What the BBC did do was to tweak the sound somewhat but the laughing is real,

Laugh tracks had been going out of style since the mid-‘Nineties, but because The Big Bang Theory is a traditional multi-camera sitcom that follows the standard sitcom format with the “nerd” aspects glommed on, the laugh track is necessary in order to prompt the audience as to when to laugh, especially since they may not recognize some of the punchlines. I have not talked to anyone on the writing staff of The Big Bang Theory but I did talk to a bunch of writers on other sitcoms in an entertainment production survey course at USC, and sitcoms are basically the writer’s ghetto of jobs; the format is set and there is very little room for any creativity other than creating novel gag humor and filling up the ‘trick bag’ with jokes.

The show people wanted to work on was Arrested Development because it actually created stories that would extend over several episodes to lead to a punchline, and lampshading and that was more than just rote repetition of the same inane gag. The irony was that while Arrested Development (or Curb Your Enthusiasm) were really popular with writers, they’ve never done particularly well with the viewing public, so the best shows to work on creatively were the worst from a career standpoint.

On the other hand, Charlie Kaufman came from the sitcom ghetto and became one of the most unique writing voices in the industry. There is a rumor he wrote an episode of Ned & Stacey in which all the characters end up in a killing one another in a murderous, Saw-like trap, sort of like the end of War of the Roses.


I’ll go you one better: The first series of Rocky and Bullwinkle back in 1959 had a laugh track. I was four years old at the time, and I knew then it was kinda weird.

I don’t remember if it did later, but I’m pretty sure The Flintstones had one too in the early episodes, back before Barney’s voice changed.

The practice of adding canned laughter to that of a live studio audience is called “sweetening,” BTW. I don’t think Big Bang even has a studio audience anymore. The first time I remember hearing just canned laughter was back when they were playing ping-pong in Howard’s (I think it was) garage.