Very interesting wiki article the history of the laugh track

Laugh track

Definitely interesting stuff. But I maintain my view that, like aluminum baseball bats, the laugh track was invented by Satan himself.

I have a very difficult time taking any show with a laugh track seriously. While there are very few exceptions, the constant insult to the audience “HEY GUYS, LAUGH HERE” makes what might be borderline shows unwatchable.

In fact, my bias is now “comedy with no laugh track = probably good” and I bet I’d overrate some run of the mill stupid sitcom that didn’t use a laugh track.

I have mentioned this before, but way back when, I was given a pass to see the taping of the first episode of Perfect Strangers. It was not particularly funny.

However, at that taping the writers filled the back rows with friends and they were guffawing and screaming from laughter at lines like “Hello!”…it got so obnoxious that people in the first rows were turning around to see what maniacs escaped from the asylum and were allowed to watch this in the back rows. There were, as usual, microphones hanging above the audience to get their reactions and I am sure in the final mix they “upped” the sound from the back rows.

That may be true SenorBeef, but Douglass had a good point. The inconsistency of a live audience can make or break a performance. Unfortunately, he either didn’t have the technology, ability, or desire to not make is SOUND like canned laughter. Hence, your bias.

Most shows, even live ones use some sort of laugh track. Lucie Arnaz wrote in a book about her mother how shows, like “I Love Lucy,” which used studio audiences, would keep track of things and then record laughs and put the laughs back in if something happened.

For instance, if a very funny joke was spoiled by an actor and it had to be a retake the next time the audience wouldn’t laugh (or laugh as much) so the laughs were put back in.

Also she says that often times, the studio audience would get distracted by technical things like camera and boom operators so they would put laughs in.

Old time radio (OTR) is a better indicator of audience laughs as everything was live. OTR used to do two shows, one for the East (and sent to the Central) time zone and then another for the West coast market a few hours later. Due to musician union rules that no recorded music could be used, they had to do the two shows. The first show was recorded on a record (back then they didn’t use or have tape). So you couldn’t splice in bits. Once in awhile they would have to use the recording of the first show is something happened to prevent them from going live for the second. (For example one time Dinah Shore lost her voice and couldn’t sing properly or talk well). Then the’d allow a transcribed show (as they called a record back then).

I recall the bit from “Burns and Allen” on a live broadcast

George) Wait…

Gracie) For what? No one’s laughing

George) You didn’t give it enough time

Gracie) OK let’s wait

Geroge) Skip it… (audience laughs). See Gracie I told you I’d get a laugh from that joke.

I find it helps me when I’m not quite in the mood for laughing. Or if the jokes aren’t my cup of tea. I still want to laugh at those, as the whole reason I watch a sitcom is to laugh, and I don’t care how they get me to do it. (Okay, so I do care if the jokes are too “edgy”, and, with a lot of people thinking edgy=funny, the not edgy shows often suffer in the humor department.)

Does anybody know where the original Laff Box wound up after Douglass died? It seems like the sort of thing that should be in the Smithsonian.