People Are Just Realising Why TV Shows Use Laugh Tracks And No, It’s Not Just To Indicate Jokes

It makes perfect sense.
Warner Bros Studios

It’s a key part of classic sitcoms but what does the laugh track actually do?

Previously, I’d always assumed that it was there to tell you when to laugh, which actually kind of annoyed me, because shouldn’t the jokes and quips be obvious without an invisible audience alerting you to them?

Well, it turns out that laugh tracks were created to provide more than just a cue for laughter.

Why laugh tracks are added to TV shows

So, laugh tracks are actually part of a process called ‘sweetening’ and have actually been used in television since as early as the 1940s. These tracks aren’t just laughter, they’re offering hollering, and of course, the crucial “OOOH” sounds when the will-they-won’t-they couple finally kiss

According to Britannica: “Laugh tracks originated as not only a fix, and sometimes replacement, for an unengaged live audience but also as a way to engage an at-home audience into a more-traditional, communal, and theaterlike experience.”

So, more than a cue, these laugh tracks or ‘sweeteners’ are actually bringing us, the audience, more into the show and taking us from our sofa to directly in the audience, surrounded by people who are happy and laughing.

As for those of us that find them annoying? Well, we may actually be in the minority. Britannica added that shows that use these tracks tend to have higher ratings and increased audience retention.

Why were laugh tracks invented?

Of course, we could feel like we’re in the audience just with live recordings of audiences laughing, so why bring laugh tracks into it at-all?

Well, because one sound engineer hated the way live audiences laughed. Yes, really.

Charley Douglass was a sound engineer who worked at CBS in the very early days of television and he really hated the way that audiences laughed in recordings. He felt they too often laughed at the wrong moments, didn’t laugh at the right moments or even laughed too loudly or for too long, according to the BBC.

The BBC said: ”[Douglass] took a page from radio producers before him who had pioneered the use of recorded laughter, most notably when Bing Crosby began pre-recording his show – which allowed his engineers to add or subtract the laughs in post-production.”

The more you know!


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