Laugh track

Laugh track

A laugh track, laughter soundtrack, laughter track, LFN (laughter from nowhere), canned laughter or a laughing audience is a separate soundtrack invented by Charles Douglass, with the artificial sound of audience laughter, made to be inserted into TV comedy shows and sitcoms. The first television show to incorporate a laugh track was "The Hank McCune Show" in 1950. [ Pollick, Michael: [ What is a Laugh Track?] , Retrieved on May 31, 2007]

History and usage

Before television, audiences often experienced comedy, whether performed live on stage, on radio, or in a movie, in the presence of other audience members. Television producers attempted to recreate this atmosphere in its early days by introducing the sound of laughter or other crowd reactions into the soundtrack of television programs.

Sweetening is a technique in which pre-recorded laughter is used to augment the response of the real studio audience if they did not react as strongly as desired. Laugh tracks have been used in some traditionally animated television series, which do not have live audiences. "The Flintstones" and "The Jetsons" originally aired with laugh tracks, but later aired with the laugh track removed. [ Glenn II, Ben: [ The Laugh Track] , Retrieved on August 12, 2007] Other cartoons that at least originally had laugh tracks include "The Pink Panther Show", "Scooby-Doo", "Josie and the Pussycats", "The Banana Splits Adventure Hour", and the very first episodes of "Rocky and His Friends".Fact|date=February 2007

In parts of East Asia, laugh tracks are often loud and exaggerated in comedy-variety shows despite them being filmed with small live audiences. The Hong Kong game show "Minutes to Fame" is one of the recognizable shows that uses a large number of laugh tracks, which sometimes cover up the singing or dialogue.

A well-known gag often used in satirical comedy is the use of a laughter track which cuts off unnaturally abruptly after each burst of laughter or applause, emphasizing its artificial nature and therefore its implied insincerity. Shows such as "Monty Python's Flying Circus" pioneered this gag. The sound of laughter has even been portrayed as emerging from a can marked 'Canned Laughter' as if it were a product. The sound emerges whenever the can is opened.

In some cases, laugh tracks are used as a source of humor in themselves. For example, the video game "Mystical Ninja Starring Goemon" features a laugh track after certain lines of text dialog used for humorous effect, particularly since having a live audience would be impossible for a video game.Fact|date=January 2008

Laugh-track-free production

Larry Gelbart, creator of the TV series "M*A*S*H", has said that he initially wanted the show to air entirely without a laugh track ("Just like the actual Korean War," he is said to have remarked dryly). However, CBS rejected the idea. Eventually a compromise was reached, and the producers of the series were not required to include a laugh track on operating room scenes on the show. As a result few scenes in the operating room contain canned laughter. Certain episodes omitted the laugh track completely, as did some international and syndicated airings of the show; the DVD releases, meanwhile, give the viewer a choice of laughing or non-laughing soundtracks. [ [ ] ] [ [ Another MASH DVD review mentioning audio choices ] ] Gelbart was not the first producer to refuse to use a laugh track on a CBS show, however. That distinction belongs to Ross Bagdasarian of "Alvin and the Chipmunks" fame. When he created "The Alvin Show" in 1961, Bagdasarian refused to use a laugh track, reasoning that if the show was funny, the viewers would laugh without being prompted.

In a similar case, "Sports Night" premiered with a laugh track, against the wishes of show creator Aaron Sorkin, but the laugh track became more subtle as the season progressed and was completely removed at the start of the second season. In some cases a laugh track was needed to maintain continuity, as portions of each episode were filmed in front of a live audience, the remainder being filmed without an audience present.

Alan Spencer's "Sledge Hammer!" aired with a laugh track for the first 12 episodes including the pilot, but Spencer was not impressed by ABC editing the episodes. Later on, the video releases had all the laugh tracks removed. [ [ SHOW HISTORY] , Retrieved on May 31, 2007]

Though the use of canned laughter reached its peak in the 1960s, the trend began to reverse with the 1971 debut of "All in the Family". As proclaimed over the closing credits each week ("All in the Family" was recorded on tape before a live studio audience." and later "All in the Family" was played to a studio audience for live responses.") the sitcom relied solely on live, unprompted audience response.

Laugh-track-free production has been gaining ground in the US since the early 1990s. "The Larry Sanders Show" won critical praise for not including a laugh track. [Judge, Michael [] , Retrieved on May 31, 2007] Such shows are often produced in the more expensive single camera style usually reserved for one-hour drama, using on-location shooting and high production values, as opposed to the standard multi-camera sitcom sound stage. Recent live action North American sitcoms that adopted this style include "Arrested Development", "Psych", "Malcolm in the Middle", "Curb Your Enthusiasm", "My Name Is Earl", "The Bernie Mac Show", "The Office", "Trailer Park Boys", "Scrubs", "30 Rock", "Samantha Who?", "Billable Hours", "Flight of the Conchords", "My Boys", and "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia".

In the United Kingdom prior to the 2000s most sitcoms were taped before live audiences to provide natural laughter. Other comedies, such as the "The Royle Family" and "The Office" which are presented in the mode of cinema verite rather than in the format of a traditional sitcom, do not feature any audience laughter.

"The League of Gentlemen" was originally broadcast with a laughter track, but after the first two series this was dropped. [ Andrews, Scott: [ Review - The League of Gentlemen's Apocalypse] , Retrieved on May 31, 2007] The pilot episode of the satirical series "Spitting Image" was also broadcast with a laughter track. This idea was quickly dropped as it was felt that the series worked better without one. Fact|date=February 2007 Some later editions, in 1992 (Election Special) and 1993 (two episodes) did use a studio audience, and therefore a laughter track, as the format of these editions included a spoof "Question Time".Fact|date=February 2007

Although some contemporary Canadian sitcoms are laugh track-free (e.g., "The Newsroom", "Corner Gas", etc.), many still rely on laugh tracks in some form. "Air Farce" and "The Red Green Show" both tape in front of a live audience, and in the latter's case the audience itself is incorporated into the format of the program ("Red Green" is a show about a show).

Additionally, some programmes have been shown to a live audience, though they were not filmed live. Many scenes of the BBC's "Last of the Summer Wine" are filmed outdoors but the show's producers, while confirming that the show is filmed without an audience, point out that that the laughter is not "manufactured" but instead is a recording of the genuine response of a studio audience to whom the completed episode is shown. This is a technique which is frequently used for programmes that feature a lot of location filming (for which an audience could obviously not be present) or which involve a lot of post-production effects work. A prime example of this is "Red Dwarf". The first six series of which were shot partly in front of a live audience and, due to special effects scenes, filmed but shown to the audience later. This caused a lot of problems and series 7 was filmed without an audience but was shown to one to get 'live' laughter. Series 8 saw the return of the live audience.


Laugh tracks have been derided by some criticswho? as insulting to the intelligence of the viewers of a show, because it seems to tell the audience when they should laugh, as though they could not figure it out for themselves. Some also feel that laugh track placement and intensity serve as strong suggestions as to how certain real-life situations should be viewed and handled. The ability to tailor specific audible elements within a laugh track, as well as careful placement and timing, are viewed by some as subliminal messages that relate to the subject matter being used.


Executive producer for Sid and Marty Krofft, Si Rose, convinced the Kroffts to use laugh tracks on their puppet shows such as "H.R. Pufnstuf", "The Bugaloos", "Lidsville", and others. In a recent interview, he states "The laugh track was a big debate, they (the Kroffts) said they didn't want to do it, but with my experience with night-timers, night-time started using laugh tracks, and it becomes a staple, because the viewer watches the program and there's a big laugh every time because of the laugh track, and then when you see a show that's funny and there's no laugh because of no laugh track, it becomes a handicap, so I convinced them of that. Good or bad."Fact|date=November 2007|date=November 2007. Later in another interview, Marty Krofft confirmed that he and Sid were initially reluctant to use a laugh track on their shows, but agreed that it was a necessity.

In a 2007 DVD interview, Filmation producer/founder Lou Scheimer praised the laugh track for its usage on "The Archie Show". "Why a laugh track?" Scheimer asked. "Because you feel that you are watching the program with a group of people instead of being alone." Scheimer confirmed that "The Archie Show" was the first Saturday morning cartoon to utilize a laugh track. [2007 Interview with Lou Scheimer from "The Archie Show: The Complete Series (1968)" DVD, Disc 2]

ee also



External links

* [ - The Laugh Track] [ - Charles Douglass]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • laugh track — n recorded laughter that is used during a television show to make it sound as if people are laughing during the performance …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • laugh track — laugh′ track n. sbz prerecorded laughter added to a recorded radio or television program to feign or enhance audience response • Etymology: 1960–65 …   From formal English to slang

  • laugh track — n. recorded laughter, applause, etc. added to a soundtrack, as of a TV program, to simulate the responses of a studio audience …   English World dictionary

  • Laugh track — Dieser Artikel wurde aufgrund von inhaltlichen Mängeln auf der Qualitätssicherungsseite der Redaktion:Film und Fernsehen eingetragen. Dies geschieht, um die Qualität der Artikel aus dem Themengebiet Film und Fernsehen auf ein akzeptables Niveau… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • laugh track — noun prerecorded laughter added to the soundtrack of a radio or television show • Hypernyms: ↑soundtrack * * * noun : recorded laughter that accompanies dialogue or action (as of a television program) * * * a separate sound track of prerecorded… …   Useful english dictionary

  • laugh track — a separate sound track of prerecorded laughter added to the sound track of a radio or television program to enhance or feign audience responses. [1960 65] * * * …   Universalium

  • laugh track — noun Date: 1962 recorded laughter that accompanies dialogue or action (as of a television program) …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • laugh track — noun The soundtrack of laughter sounds that accompanies a television show Syn: canned laughter …   Wiktionary

  • laugh — {{11}}laugh (n.) 1680s, from LAUGH (Cf. laugh) (v.). Meaning a cause of laughter is from 1895; ironic use (e.g. that s a laugh) attested from 1930. Laugh track canned laughter on a TV program is from 1961. {{12}}laugh (v.) late 14c., from O.E.… …   Etymology dictionary

  • track — I. noun Etymology: Middle English trak, from Middle French trac Date: 15th century 1. a. detectable evidence (as the wake of a ship, a line of footprints, or a wheel rut) that something has passed b. a path made by or as if by repeated footfalls… …   New Collegiate Dictionary