Here's Why TV Laugh Tracks Don't Match How Funny The Joke Is, And I'm Shocked

It's not why you think.
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We’ve all been there ― you’re watching your favourite sitcom and hear a huge, gut-busting laugh that’s way too big for the joke it follows.

If you’re wondering why that happens, you’re not alone. Writing in the comments of TV writer Michael Jamin’s TikTok account, an app user complained, “I’ll hear a line that’s just barely humorous [and] the ‘audience’ is laughing uncontrollably.”

“I know what you’re talking about,” Michael responded. “Sometimes I’ll watch a show and the laugh seems disproportionate to how humorous it is.”

But there’s a reason for it, he adds.

Which is?

Well, first things first ― having written on multiple laugh-tracked sitcoms like Just Shoot Me, Rules of Engagement, and more, he says “these shows are shot live before a studio audience” and don’t use canned laughter.

So, what’s the deal then?

Part of the unexpected belly laughs’ cause is that audience members are often fans of the show and are frankly just excited and happy to be there, Michael says.

“Laughter is contagious,” he adds. “It’s like, when one person yawns, they all yawn. Laughter’s the same way.”

“At home, you don’t have that,” he adds ― that in-studio giddiness may make audience members laugh more because they’re likely more excited than you are to be there.

That’s not all, though

On top of that, Michael says writers can sometimes use audience responses as a prompt to change the script ― and the shock of that leads to disproportionate laughter.

“Sometimes, when a line doesn’t work on say, take two or three, the writers will huddle and we’ll pitch an alternate line and we’ll throw it in,” he said.

“And now [the audience members] laugh uncontrollably on this new line ― not because it’s necessarily funny, but because it’s new and it’s fresh and they weren’t expecting it.”

They may also feel more “in on the joke,” the former King of the Hill writer shared.

The more you know, right?


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