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View Full Version : I've come to hate laugh tracks!!



Luckmeister
2011-Sep-25, 02:46 AM
I like comedy and there are usually a couple of sitcoms on tv each season I enjoy watching, but I'm sick of the laugh tracks. Their overuse has become ridiculous. Virtually every pause in speech is now filled with, "haw haw haw," even if what's said is only a setup for a coming punchline.

Go to the oldies channel and watch an episode of M*A*S*H -- no laugh track -- very refreshing, and still funny; it manages to do fine without it. Of course that series was spawned from the movie, and movies don't use laugh tracks (at least I think none of them do yet).

LoneTree1941
2011-Sep-25, 05:21 AM
Same for me. If the show is really funny I no longer notice. It's that way for "Two and a Half Men," if I'm actually watching. If I happen to be in the next room and can hear it, I still find it annoying.

A show that you might be able to find on some oldies channel is SCRUBS. It was very funny, and no laugh track. The scenes are narrated with a "voice over" by the main character Dr. J.D. Dorian, and that's probably the main reason there are none. They did one show in the 8th season with a LT, just as a diversion.

It's adult humor, and finds it in the humanity and the foibles of the characters, much like in MASH. Some of it is quite moving, and provokes deep emotions, as death/dying and other human tragedies do.
Here are some scenes you can check out.

Scrubs (Zach Braff; done without canned laughter)
Scrubs - As good as it gets - My Last Day Ending (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4Jp-NRVodUM&NR=1)

Colin Hay - Overkill (from Scrubs; lyrically in sequence) (http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&v=jrGmcuj44DQ&feature=fvwp)

Scrubs - Dr. Cox destroys Colin Hay's guitar (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LzYjqQezxoQ&NR=1)

Gillianren
2011-Sep-25, 04:53 PM
I've hated laugh tracks for years. "Filmed before a live studio audience" is one thing. (And I've been part of one a couple of times.) But a laugh track? The issue is that people are more inclined to laugh if other people laugh, too, and so you'll laugh even if you don't find something all that funny.

peter eldergill
2011-Sep-25, 05:15 PM
I'm not sure if it's true, but I can't think of a (current) Canadian made sitcom that has a laugh track.

Pete

Jim
2011-Sep-25, 06:13 PM
What, they couldn't even get a tape recorder to laugh at them?

Oh, M*A*S*H started out with a laugh track but dropped it for scenes in the OR. They later just dropped it.

ToSeek
2011-Sep-25, 06:47 PM
My wife refuses to watch The Big Bang Theory because the laugh track is so grating. (The producers claim that it's all audience laughter, but if it is it's awfully forced.)

Gillianren
2011-Sep-25, 06:53 PM
It was in Alan Alda's contract that there would never be laugh track in the OR.

LaurelHS
2011-Sep-25, 07:31 PM
I'm not sure if it's true, but I can't think of a (current) Canadian made sitcom that has a laugh track.

Pete
Speaking of Canadian sitcoms (though it's not current anymore, sadly), that's one thing I like about Corner Gas - no laugh track.

Paul Beardsley
2011-Sep-25, 07:51 PM
IIRC, the majority of Chris Morris' ouevre has no laugh track. Mind you, that's probably because it's not always comedy. The Day Today, Brass Eye and Jam (or Jaaam) are as likely to disturb and upset as provoke laughter.

swampyankee
2011-Sep-26, 12:27 AM
Laugh tracks have been around for decades, probably since the early days of TV. They're probably more restrained now than they were in the 1960s or 1970s.

Van Rijn
2011-Sep-26, 09:09 AM
I don't mind a laugh track if I find the jokes funny. There are some cases though where I might have watched a show except that the laugh track made me pay more attention to profoundly unfunny lines.

Paul Beardsley
2011-Sep-26, 10:33 AM
They can add to the enjoyment.

In my favourite TV series about time travel, Goodnight, Sweetheart, there are moments where the writers explore the consequences of an ordinary man from the 1990s being able to visit the 1940s, carry items between the two eras, and even father a son decades before his own birth. On some occasions, you can hear a "oh yeah, I suppose that would happen" tone in the audience's reaction.

Not quite the same thing, I know, but when Tommy Cooper used to perform, there would be moments when a woman in the audience would laugh a little too loudly and at not quite the right time. Cooper would pause, look puzzled, and give the audience a look that said, "I don't know either!"

Gillianren
2011-Sep-26, 04:10 PM
I think there's a difference between the reactions of a studio audience and a laugh track.

Paul Beardsley
2011-Sep-26, 05:01 PM
I think there's a difference between the reactions of a studio audience and a laugh track.

Yes, you're right, I wasn't thinking straight and on reflection I can't believe I posted what I did. Indeed, you brought up the difference yourself in post 3.

Now my brain is back in gear... I cannot see any advantage to laugh tracks, except when they are used to send up bad comedy. Alexei Sayle had a series of sketches about Monsieur Aubergine (possibly a takeoff of Mr Bean) in which he merely had to sit on a park bench to have the fictitious audience screaming with laughter. The laughter started and stopped abruptly to make it clear it was recorded. The sketches in question were amusing, but Alexei was smart enough to avoid overusing the idea.

Taeolas
2011-Sep-26, 05:10 PM
I've pretty much stopped watching all sitcom's completely (in fact I have stopped watching sitcoms come to think of it) mainly due to how annoying and aggravating the laugh tracks, and just forced laughter in general have become. (or at least have become for my tastes). If I recall correctly, Malcolm in the Middle didn't have a laugh track and it was probably the last sitcom I watched regularly.

Luckmeister
2011-Sep-26, 05:13 PM
Yes, you're right, I wasn't thinking straight and on reflection I can't believe I posted what I did. Indeed, you brought up the difference yourself in post 3.

Now my brain is back in gear... I cannot see any advantage to laugh tracks, except when they are used to send up bad comedy. Alexei Sayle had a series of sketches about Monsieur Aubergine (possibly a takeoff of Mr Bean) in which he merely had to sit on a park bench to have the fictitious audience screaming with laughter. The laughter started and stopped abruptly to make it clear it was recorded. The sketches in question were amusing, but Alexei was smart enough to avoid overusing the idea.

Yep. Audience reaction can be an asset because good comedic actors play off it. It's one of the good things about live theater. The audience feels involved. That feeling of involvement can also extend to the tv viewer by utilizing a live audience.

Gillianren
2011-Sep-26, 05:32 PM
I suspect but cannot prove that there are certain shows which have used laugh tracks because studio audiences didn't laugh.

Fazor
2011-Sep-26, 05:59 PM
I suspect but cannot prove that there are certain shows which have used laugh tracks because studio audiences didn't laugh.

If you've been to filming, you probably know better than I, but I'd imagine the audience reaction isn't very natural if they're on their 8th take of the same joke, for instance. Tho I suppose in actuality you'd just mix in the original reaction recording with the 8th-take joke.

Gillianren
2011-Sep-26, 06:22 PM
I've been to a couple of filmings, and sitcoms don't usually do anywhere near as many takes as movies. I admit it's been a long time (eighth grade!), but I seem to recall that they only went through once or twice unless someone screwed something up--and they'd spent the entire week rehearsing. Filming in front of a studio audience is a lot more like a play than a movie. And The Carol Burnett Show used to run through the whole thing twice in front of two separate audiences and combine the best bits of the two.

peter eldergill
2011-Sep-27, 03:28 AM
And The Carol Burnett Show used to run through the whole thing twice in front of two separate audiences and combine the best bits of the two.

That actually seems like a reasonable thing to do rather than add a laugh track!

Pete

SkepticJ
2011-Sep-27, 04:05 AM
For as long as I've been cognizant of what they are, I haven't been able to stand them.

They're not quite as bad as taking a hearty draw just above a litter box, but they're virtually immediate channel-changers.

Gillianren
2011-Sep-27, 04:36 AM
That actually seems like a reasonable thing to do rather than add a laugh track!

It helped that it was awfully hard not to laugh at The Carol Burnett Show, of course.

Scriitor
2011-Sep-27, 08:03 AM
But without a laugh track, how are we supposed to know what's funny?

Trebuchet
2011-Sep-27, 02:51 PM
But without a laugh track, how are we supposed to know what's funny?

If you're in the studio audience, I think they'll put up helpful signs to let you know.

Gillianren
2011-Sep-27, 04:31 PM
And they have a stand-up comedian "warm up" the audience before taping.

HenrikOlsen
2011-Sep-28, 07:09 PM
I suspect but cannot prove that there are certain shows which have used laugh tracks because studio audiences didn't laugh.
There are scenes in Friends where the audience laughter were replaced with taped laughter to make a scene cut work better because the audience laughter tapered off too slow and would have halted the cut.

SkepticJ
2011-Oct-03, 11:48 PM
Why even have studio audiences for filmed fiction? I don't see the sense in it, would you allow an audience to watch the filming of a movie?

Who wants laughter (real or canned) or prompted applause layered over their entertainment?

Van Rijn
2011-Oct-04, 12:12 AM
My wife refuses to watch The Big Bang Theory because the laugh track is so grating. (The producers claim that it's all audience laughter, but if it is it's awfully forced.)

I wish I hadn't read that or this thread. I had noticed the laugh track before and found it annoying, but I didn't really think about it much. Now, I gave more attention to the laugh track when watching the new season episodes. While the show was humorous at places, they had laughter where there weren't jokes. I don't seriously believe people would be laughing that much unless they were being prompted. Then there's the occasional "ahhhh. . ." which is supposed to let us know how we're supposed to feel about the events. Ugh.

Noclevername
2011-Oct-04, 01:23 AM
Some shows, I'm convinced, use canned laghter for purely a practical reason-- they couldn't get a real audience to laugh at their so-called jokes.

Gillianren
2011-Oct-04, 01:49 AM
I suspect but cannot prove that there are certain shows which have used laugh tracks because studio audiences didn't laugh.


Some shows, I'm convinced, use canned laghter for purely a practical reason-- they couldn't get a real audience to laugh at their so-called jokes.

Great minds?

Noclevername
2011-Oct-04, 01:54 AM
Great minds?
:doh: That, and lack of thread reading on my part.

Taeolas
2011-Oct-04, 12:12 PM
Why even have studio audiences for filmed fiction? I don't see the sense in it, would you allow an audience to watch the filming of a movie?

Who wants laughter (real or canned) or prompted applause layered over their entertainment?

I think it comes from their origins in the theater, combined with the fact that most comedies especially come from Stand up comedians who are used to performing in front of audiences. The feedback they get from the audiences is a major help for them to tune their act (and the show), and is a mental boost too. (If you watch some of the Reality competition shows like America's Got Talent, you can see how a lot of comedians can falter badly when they don't have a big audience to give them feedback; usually their timing falls off and their delivery often falls apart)

So yes, there is a good reason (IMO) to have a live audience, especially for sitcoms. On the other hand, laugh tracks are just a crutch that I wish they would get rid of and let the shows stand on their own jokes.

ToSeek
2011-Oct-04, 04:11 PM
It helped that it was awfully hard not to laugh at The Carol Burnett Show, of course.

Which the performers sometimes found true as well. ;)

Gillianren
2011-Oct-04, 05:33 PM
Which the performers sometimes found true as well. ;)

There's this story I could tell you about two elephants with their trunks stuck together . . . .

starcanuck64
2011-Oct-04, 07:45 PM
My wife refuses to watch The Big Bang Theory because the laugh track is so grating. (The producers claim that it's all audience laughter, but if it is it's awfully forced.)

I wondered about that, I enjoy the show but sometimes the background laughter starts to grate.

Whenever there's a laugh track on a sitcom I always imagine a sound engineer pushing a button at the programed moment and it makes it next to impossible to get into the story.

Scrubs is a great example of a show that did fine without a laugh track as has been pointed out.

Luckmeister
2011-Oct-04, 11:23 PM
My wife refuses to watch The Big Bang Theory because the laugh track is so grating. (The producers claim that it's all audience laughter, but if it is it's awfully forced.)

That's the show that prompted me to start this thread. The producers could be telling the truth (sort of). They could take recordings of more than one audience (not necessarily watching that show) and mix them together. Every laugh starts and stops quickly and sounds almost identical. Real audiences don't respond like that. There is no wait by the actors for laughter to subside. It's just line .... laugh .... line .... laugh as fast as they can pump them through. They also produce Two and a Half Men. Same audience reaction -- same formula. :doh:

Delvo
2011-Oct-04, 11:43 PM
There are scenes in Friends where the audience laughter were replaced with taped laughter to make a scene cut work better because the audience laughter tapered off too slow and would have halted the cut.When I was a kid, one of my first "grown-up" shows was Night Court. Sometimes it had cuts that were obvious because of the audience reaction starting, ending, or changing abruptly. I never knew whether it was because the editors had just put the scenes in the order they wanted the scenes in without paying attention to the audience, or because parts had been cut out for reruns that had less time to fit into than when the same episode had been in first-run.

Noclevername
2011-Oct-05, 01:31 AM
On reruns of MASH, they recut the programs to cram more commercials in, but they often cut out punchlines or even whole jokes to do so. There'll be an awkward skip in conversation and you'll hear the tail end of laughter and see characters grinning. The most frustrating part is that they'll keep in thirty seconds of stock footage of a jeep driving across the camp in the same episode.