Most of the laugh tracks were recorded on television in the early 1950s. These days, most of the people you hear are dead laughing. ”
So writes Fight Club author Chuck Palanyuk about the so-called canned laughter in his novel Lullaby (2002). Although his poll is half true, he puts his finger on something most people know:
There is just something scary about canned laughter. This is despite studies showing that jokes are more fun than without them.
Can laugh (Canned Laughter) Arose out of rarity: American sound engineer Charles Douglas was annoyed by the audience’s inability to laugh at the right time. In 1953, he invented The Laff Box – a typewriter-like play that was played as a member and included labels like “Housewife Nails” and “The Man Who Takes a Joke Early”.
Although his invention was seen by his colleagues as an insult to the intelligence of the television audience, he had given him the work for decades. No one was allowed to touch the Legendary Box, except for Douglas’ immediate family. TV series like Bewitched, The Beverly Hillbillies, and The Brady Bunch are examples of Douglas’s work.
In the 1980s, canned laughter was considered increasingly outdated. And great ’90s sitcoms like Friends and Seinfeld used a mix of live audiences and canned laughter.
Perhaps the last death knell for canned laughter was when director David Lynch used it in the series Bunnies (2002). Three actors in rabbit costumes read dangerous nonsense lines interrupted by canned laughter in the “wrong place” – as opposed to seeing Douglas. In Rabbits, the strangeness described by Pallanuk flourishes in his novel.
Today we stand again Faced with scarcity. The Coronavirus pandemic prevents us from being crowded into groups, and the world’s TV producers are producing in unison to solve the question of how to do TV entertainment without an audience.
In some Latin American countries, laughter has always dealt with the laughter – the laughing – men and women who have been employed to laugh at a particular cue. The job description looks as old as the description of a crying woman, but recently this phenomenon has become very localized in Sweden as well.
In the entertainment program Svenska Nyheter, the studio replaced Emma Ichloff the audience laughed alone. På Spåret, who premiered on Saturday, on recent programs (taped after tight restrictions) convinced a handful of SVT’s colleagues to act as fans.
However, it is doubtful whether SVT laughs can replace the entire arena audience. Ahead of us awaits the party season with giant productions such as Sports Gala, P3 Gold, Golden Bug Gala and Mello.
Empty squares can feel completely desolate. The question is whether or not that old laughing box is starting to look fun again.