'Canned Laughter' Page 5

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T.W.

  • Tuesday 1st December 2009, 5:04am [Edited]
  • England
  • 15,786 posts
Quote: Chappers @ November 30 2009, 11:57 PM GMT

Like Last of the Summer Wine.


Yes, but in the case of the studio audience of LOTSW, most of them are only laughing because they've managed to beat Death for another day.

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AidanMcComedy

  • Monday 28th October 2013, 9:27pm
  • Leeds, England
  • 21 posts

I think canned laughter is an art in itself. Ben Elton defended his recent show as having real laughter, but it still sounded canned even if it was filmed in front of an amused audience. Some shows, like Red Dwarf and I'm Alan Partridge, have authentic sounding laughter, others (even great ones) often don't.

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Ian Wolf

  • Tuesday 29th October 2013, 4:01pm
  • Stockton-on-Tees, England
  • 2,837 posts

Here's an extract from the QI website about the early use of canned laughter:

If the gags don't work there's always 'Canned Laughter'. The use of this on American sitcoms and cartoons like Scooby Doo and The Flintstones is an art.

The inventor of canned laughter was Charles Rolland Douglass, a broadcast engineer at CBS. The machine he used was called 'The Laff Box'. The machine was built like a keyboard, with each key connected to a separate tape loop of laughter, and he would play the laughter like a music piece as he heard every punchline on the show. At the bottom was a pedal that would either increase the volume or fade it out. Reportedly, the earliest laughter samples used for the Laff Box came from a Marcel Marceau performance in Los Angeles in 1955.

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Alfred J Kipper

  • Saturday 2nd November 2013, 7:47am [Edited]
  • Aldershot, England
  • 6,362 posts

It should be banned, it's now become a barrier to enjoying anything that might be genuinely funny in a sitcom because its prevalence now makes you dismiss the humour as being deemed unworthy of genuine laughter from the outset. So it's now defeating its own purpose. Its overuse by meddling over-producers who don't trust the audience anymore to find current sitcom material funny is cast iron proof of the increasing weakness of sitcom scripts. Sitcoms have become less funny and so the prats in TV conspire to subvert this truth with jiggery pokery enhancement techniques instead of looking for and encouraging funnier scripts. Tossers! Angy Sorry, that's TOSSERS! Angy

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Gussie Fink Nottle

  • Thursday 9th April 2015, 7:03pm
  • United Kingdom
  • 320 posts

Actually, I am a defender of 'canned laughter'.

(I'm afraid I cannot read the original article by David Baddiel, because it's behind a subscription wall.)

Laughing is very much a communal affair. 'Canned Laughter' where there is none can prove the signal for release.

I have heard plenty of people raving against canned laughter/augmented real laughter in time.
But generally these complaints tend to boil down to the supposed joke not being worth the overlaid laughter.

But if these methods were good enough for Benny Hill and Ronnie Barker, are we really going to write them all off per se?

True, laughter as we had it in 'Up the women' can make a non-joke excruciating, but that does not really negate the principle.

Simply put, if you really like the joke, you won't mind the 'canned laughter'.
But if the gag is only worth a chuckle, a cacophony of laughter can put some off.
It's therefore a matter of proportionality.

A friend of mine objects to the hyping up of studio audiences prior to recording.
He objects to sitcoms like 'The Big Bang Theory' because the laughter of the audience (no doubt worked on prior to recording to get them excited) seems too strong at times for the actual humour on offer.

I can see where he's coming from, but I still prefer too much laughter to none at all.

I think some TV comedies in recent years have at times suffered from agonising silences after the punchline.

So yes, long live 'canned laughter'.

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Chappers

  • Thursday 9th April 2015, 8:03pm [Edited]
  • Surreyish., England
  • 31,512 posts
Quote: Gussie Fink Nottle @ 9th April 2015, 7:03 PM BST

Actually, I am a defender of 'canned laughter'.

Laughing is very much a communal affair. 'Canned Laughter' where there is none can prove the signal for release.

Do you have to be told when to laugh?

Quote: Gussie Fink Nottle @ 9th April 2015, 7:03 PM BST

But if these methods were good enough for Benny Hill and Ronnie Barker, are we really going to write them all off per se?

Were they definitely using canned laughter?

I can see the use if there are so many takes necessary that the audience no longer narurally laughs but laughter from the audience is always better than mechanical laughter.

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Gussie Fink Nottle

  • Thursday 9th April 2015, 9:22pm [Edited]
  • United Kingdom
  • 320 posts
Quote: Chappers @ 9th April 2015, 8:03 PM BST

Do you have to be told when to laugh?

Well yes, odd as it sounds, I think I do.

First off, let me say that to me just about all laughter track is canned laughter.
Whether it's live audience laughter, library laughter or laughter from the audience taken from another attempt that night. It's the 'laughter track'.

Laughter is not something we really perfectly understand.

It isn't something proper intellects can do independently, whereas lesser people need to be told when.
So it's not a matter of superiority or inferiority.

Though it seems to follow certain rules, we don't really know why humans actually engage in laughter.

But what is known is that we prefer to laugh in a group.
The sound of others laughing can act as a spark.

Ever sat in a cinema next to someone with an infectious laugh?
I have. It's near lethal.

Actors can corpse - if with other people who are equally amused.
But hard to corpse on reciting a line, when you're on your own.

Canned laughter can act as a starting gun, whereas a wall of silence after a joke can leave you feeling as though you can hear the wind pushing by the tumbleweed.

Canned laughter cannot make a bad joke funny. Hence my earlier reference to 'Up the women'.
To make you laugh, a joke must be funny.

But canned laughter can make a difference to your reaction to a funny joke.
It may make the difference between a wry smile or a throaty laugh.

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Chappers

  • Thursday 9th April 2015, 9:58pm
  • Surreyish., England
  • 31,512 posts
Quote: Gussie Fink Nottle @ 9th April 2015, 9:22 PM BST

Well yes, odd as it sounds, I think I do.

Laughter is not something we really perfectly understand.

I think we do. It's when we find something is amusing.

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Hercules Grytpype Thynne

  • Thursday 9th April 2015, 10:23pm
  • England
  • 17,904 posts

I remember some American friends in the 70s being happy that M.A.S.H., when it came out in the UK on the Beeb didn't have a laughter track as it did in The States. They reckoned it was much better without.

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Gussie Fink Nottle

  • Thursday 9th April 2015, 11:05pm [Edited]
  • United Kingdom
  • 320 posts
Quote: Hercules Grytpype Thynne @ 9th April 2015, 10:23 PM BST

I remember some American friends in the 70s being happy that M.A.S.H., when it came out in the UK on the Beeb didn't have a laughter track as it did in The States. They reckoned it was much better without.

I can see how that would be.
MASH would seem rather odd with a laughter track.
But if that proves anything then only that it's a matter of horses for courses.
I'll gladly concede that for some material a laughter track would seem odd, or maybe even completely unsuitable.

But I'll still stand firm on the point that for most sitcom out there it can be a very handy technique.

The idea that it is a thing of the past simply because the likes of The Thick Of It and The Office didn't use it, I find takes following fashion to a new level.

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Chappers

  • Thursday 9th April 2015, 11:17pm [Edited]
  • Surreyish., England
  • 31,512 posts

M*A*S*H is repeated on True Entertainment (Freeview 61) every night and sometimes they show with and sometimes without laughter track. It gets bloody annoying when they include it.

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Rood Eye

  • Friday 2nd August 2019, 1:02pm [Edited]
  • England
  • 4,103 posts

Laughter from a studio audience is often entirely genuine but it is frequently as fake as canned laughter.

Canadian comedian Norm Macdonald was at one time a writer and subsequently story-editor on Roseanne. When he started on the show, he complained that the script just wasn't funny and that the audience was going to boo everybody off the stage.

He was assured that everything would be okay and, when recording started and the audience wasn't laughing, the warm-up guy stopped the show and berated the audience for their failure to laugh.

He instructed them, "When somebody stops talking, you laugh!"

And they did.

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Michael Monkhouse

  • Monday 5th August 2019, 9:07am [Edited]
  • Eternal City, Italy
  • 5,554 posts
Quote: Chappers @ 1st December 2009, 4:57 AM

Like Last of the Summer Wine.

Good show, but they ended it too soon. So much more mileage in those characters.
Studio laughter is real but it isn't. Audiences are pumped full of adrenaline before the show even starts, there's a warm-up (wo)man, you get a prize if you laugh the loudest etc etc... Plus the mentality is different. If you're in a studio you WANT to laugh because you want to feel part of the fun; Open Mics in pubs are totally different.
For an interesting lesson in what a difference the laughter track makes, I could refer you to the Boosh pilot (with laughter track) and the broadcast ep (without). Or I could just shut up.
If that is the real David Baddiel, would you please ask Melanie C when she is finally going to pluck up the courage to propose to me? We all enjoy the thrill of the chase, but it's been 23 years, and I cannot propose myself due to Girl Power. Thanks mate.