Laugh it up, Fuzzball!

posted by Sarah Vesely on 10/29/2015

Chortle, titter, guffaw, chuckle. No, those aren't names of new Pokemon,
[audience laughter],
those are wonderful synonyms for my favorite ab/core exercise: Laughing!
[audience cheering].

Laugh tracks are audio recordings of audience laughter that is typically
added to TV shows to enhance it, or "sweeten" it, as it were. This technique
of audio mixing was implemented in the 1940's, adding the recordings to
various comedy TV shows to give the home-viewers a theatre-like audience
experience. In the 1950's, Charley Douglass created the "laff box",
which was a machine hooked up to audio recordings, and could be played
similar to a keyboard of sound effects. This way, if the joke or TV show called
for a specific kind of laughter, such as a child, they could mix this in, versus
using a generic, over-used recording of a general audience.

We all know classic TV sitcoms, aka: situation comedies (fun fact!), that utilized
the laugh track, such as I Love Lucy, or even more modern shows,
such as The Big Bang Theory. But as the turn of the century approached,
the use of laugh tracks became a joke, (pun fully intended).
From Married... With Children, to Friends, to Home Improvement,
the market was oversaturated with shows that relied on a sound bite
rather than the script or improv.
Some TV shows began including text or a voice-over stating that
it was "filmed in front of a live studio audience", but that didn't help.
Fun fact #2- Though most shows  were most certainly filmed
in front of a live audience, there would be multiple recordings,
with multiple audiences, and the audio technicians would
often pull the best laughs/audience responses for their final edit.
[Sad trombone: wah wah].

But don't throw in the towel yet with TV shows! Thankfully around the early 2000's,
a newer trend popped up. TV shows ditched the laugh track and turned back to
their scripts and editing for quality comedy. With such shows as
Arrested Development and The Office, the punch line was enhanced not only
by delivery of good writing, (or great acting and improv), but also by quick cuts,
zooms, and witty editing. For some shows, they had to do this, seeing how
they weren't necessarily shot in a studio with a multi-camera setup, like traditional sitcoms.

So here we are, in the era of TV nearly trumping movies.
No longer are laugh tracks quite as taboo as they were 15 years ago.
No longer are we forced to sit through laugh track garbage like Seinfeld,
(sorry, not sorry), before we can watch The Simpsons.
Yes, my friends, TV has turned a new.... channel? leaf?
(sorry, very sorry), and has transformed into an entirely new
experience, full of memes, spoiler alerts, and movie-like quality
production and scripting.

TGFTV, amirght?
 


Is the laugh track retro enough for you to bring it back in style?
Want to make your own sitcom and film it in front of a live studio audience?
Get a membership, take a class, and get cracking (up) on a sitcom for GRTV!
http://grcmc.org/grtv/programming/submit

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