I watched two more television shows without laugh tracks last night. If there’s no laugh track telling me to laugh is it still a funny show? I have my doubts.
The laugh track has been around since the beginning of commercial television networks. Early comedy shows had an audience. When something funny happened, the audience laughed.
Viewers sitting at home knew when to laugh, of course, but often did so simply because everyone else laughed. In the 60s, 70s, and 80s television audiences were replaced by recorded laugh tracks. Following the Vietnam era, situation comedies ruled television and everyone was laughing at everything, whether it was funny or not.
Saturday Night Live debuted live television. Again. The audience laughed. We laughed. Laughter is contagious so the top comedies were filmed or taped before a live studio audience to capture the flavor of real laughing, sans the recorded laugh track.
After 911 comedies were out of favor for many years, replaced by police and crime investigations and the so-called reality show. Sorry, no more laugh tracks.
Since Arrested Development and other sophisticated comedies aired a few years ago, television networks have experimented with comedy shows without the comedy. And, no more laugh tracks. Seriously, some comedy programs these days are so not funny that a laugh track is necessary just so you’ll know it’s a comedy.
Maybe it’s too expensive to have a live studio audience around to record a simultaneious laugh track. Maybe it’s just too difficult to create funny situation comedies, and no laugh track means lower costs. Maybe the lack of a laugh track is the trend du-jour. If so, I’ll just wait and comedy will swing back toward my tastes in a year or two.
Whatever the reason, I miss the laugh track. From Andy Griffith and the folks in Mayberry to Seinfeld, Cheers, and Friends, the laugh track is part of American culture. Of course, the more the laugh track, the less cultured the comedy.