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Thread: frequency of laugh tracks in sitcoms

  1. #1 frequency of laugh tracks in sitcoms 
    Forum Radioactive Isotope sculptor's Avatar
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    psychology:

    Does anyone know of any studies done into the frequency(timing) of laugh tracks in sitcoms?

    Is there a standard formula/format?
    Test audience monitoring?

    If there is a set pattern:
    Is timing replicated in other mass communication media entertainments and events?


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    Life-Size Nanoputian Flick Montana's Avatar
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    If I'm not mistaken, the job of "re-recording" artists are kept rather secret. Chuck Lorre has come out against laugh tracks, as I saw during a Big Bang Theory special. Unfortunately, that's the extent of my knowledge on the topic. I just know the guys aren't particularly open about their craft other than saying some shows do it, some shows don't.


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  4. #3  
    Forum Radioactive Isotope sculptor's Avatar
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    Nothing into psychological testing of effects of varying frequencies ?
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    Life-Size Nanoputian Flick Montana's Avatar
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    There was a study ages ago that showed that adding a laugh track did sometimes provoke more laughter with test groups, but that's it.
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  6. #5  
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    comes from the concept that laughter is contagious
    then, surely must have something to do with marketing

    amazing lack of information on something which I imagine has been thoroughly studied
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    I despise laugh tracks, seems like a desperate attempt to salvage a poorly executed/written joke. I do believe that most shows no longer use it, perhaps there are negative aspects greater than the slight increase in audience laughs?
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    Quote Originally Posted by sculptor View Post
    comes from the concept that laughter is contagious
    then, surely must have something to do with marketing

    amazing lack of information on something which I imagine has been thoroughly studied
    I'm sure the TV industry has done studies. They have no particular reason to make them public. It would be like saying, look at you dumbasses, we can make you think a joke is funny by adding a laugh track. Also, if someone paid for a study, they wouldn't want to share the results with competitors, so they're probably all proprietary.
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    Quote Originally Posted by sculptor View Post
    amazing lack of information on something which I imagine has been thoroughly studied
    Like Harold said, they don't want that info out there. They would rather you just THINK that 2 Broke Girls is funny.
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    That brings back memories. One of Australia's well-known comedy teams did a fantastic send-up series in the lead up to the Sydney Olympics. Very funny. But a tv executive from (presumably) America was completely flummoxed by the lack of a laugh track.

    John Clarke, who both wrote and performed, responded "We've been watching television since the 1960s. We know when to laugh."

    I think it's really a remnant of the days when these shows were originally performed live in front of an audience, just as similar radio shows were. Those that were done without an audience used a laugh track to give the same impression. After all, we don't have laugh tracks in films.
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    I remember watching a show about odd jobs a long time ago and professional laugher was one of them. Apparently back when shows were filmed in front of live audiences they would plant these professional laughers that would bust up laughing at designated moments, as well as any other that they spontaneously couldn't resist in order to get the audience to feel more comfortable with laughing out loud. Something to do with breaking the tradition of audiences keeping a respectable silence during a play so as to not to distract the actors.
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    Forum Ph.D. stander-j's Avatar
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    Laugh tracks are employed to suit a myriad of purposes. While it certainly may have an influence on whether or not viewers end up laughing at a joke, I think its main purpose is to disarm the viewer, and help inform the course of the story. It exists not to encourage a viewer into laughter, but rather to tell the viewer that something is meant as a joke, or to inform the viewer that an action was atypical of a character, it just highlights which parts are intended to be humorous and which parts are to be taken seriously.I think that is primarily why it has fallen out of favour too. Show runners have changed attitudes because televised drama has become subtler in recent years. The way a show is presented must reflect its style of writing. New series will often emulate the popular styles in droves as it will increase the chances of success.
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    I perform live theatre. We don't have "laugh tracks", we are rather responsible to getting the comedy points across, all in our skill sets. New concept.
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    Quote Originally Posted by babe View Post
    I perform live theatre. We don't have "laugh tracks", we are rather responsible to getting the comedy points across, all in our skill sets. New concept.
    Theatre is ballin'. Kind of apples and oranges though. Comparatively, Theatre has a lot more to work with when it comes to comedy. Televised series don't have Theatre's calibre of complexity of means - and completely lacks the immediacy and ephemerality. Theatrical performances have that intimate experience between the actors and audience, and a room to work with - which can have its downside too. The audience in a theatre gets feedback from itself just as it provides the actors with feedback - it provides additional context and helps release the build-up of tension from the performance. Television series, if not before a live audience, have to find a way to bridge that gap - as it works with a collection of smaller audiences. Even when televised comedies don't resort to canned laughter, they often try to find a way to provide that missing context: think Malcolm in the Middle (Asides), or Arrested Development (Narrator).

    The Laugh Track, if I remember correctly, can trace its roots back to radio performance - where the live audience provided context for the at-home listener. I think it more-or-less still works in that way. This is a good example of how canned laughter can change -or- provide the intended context for a televised series/serial:

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  15. #14  
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    Quote Originally Posted by sculptor View Post
    comes from the concept that laughter is contagious
    then, surely must have something to do with marketing

    amazing lack of information on something which I imagine has been thoroughly studied
    Wiki had a very good page on laugh track's. With a few explanations for their usage.

    In early television, most shows that were not live television used the single-camera filmmaking technique familiar from movies, where a show was created by filming each scene several times from different camera angles. Since it was not possible for an audience to be present during single-camera filming, there could be none of the live audience laughter that audiences had come to expect from radio comedy, and which was still offered in the many shows broadcast live with audiences laughing in the studio.[2] In addition, live audiences could not be relied upon to laugh at the "correct" moment. Other times, the audiences would laugh too long or too loud, sounding unnatural and forced or throwing off the performers' rhythms.[2]



    CBS sound engineer Charley Douglass noticed these inconsistencies, and took it upon himself to remedy the situation.[3] If a joke did not get the desired chuckle, Douglass inserted additional laughter; if the live audience chuckled too long, Douglass gradually muted the guffaws. This editing technique became known as sweetening, in which recorded laughter is used to augment the response of the real studio audience if they did not react as strongly as desired.[3] Conversely, the process could be used to "desweeten" audience reactions, toning down unwanted loud laughter or removing inappropriate applause, thus making the laughter more in line with the producer's preferred method of telling the story.


    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laugh_track
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  16. #15  
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    Quote Originally Posted by stander-j View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by babe View Post
    I perform live theatre. We don't have "laugh tracks", we are rather responsible to getting the comedy points across, all in our skill sets. New concept.
    Theatre is ballin'. Kind of apples and oranges though. Comparatively, Theatre has a lot more to work with when it comes to comedy. Televised series don't have Theatre's calibre of complexity of means - and completely lacks the immediacy and ephemerality. Theatrical performances have that intimate experience between the actors and audience, and a room to work with - which can have its downside too. The audience in a theatre gets feedback from itself just as it provides the actors with feedback - it provides additional context and helps release the build-up of tension from the performance. Television series, if not before a live audience, have to find a way to bridge that gap - as it works with a collection of smaller audiences. Even when televised comedies don't resort to canned laughter, they often try to find a way to provide that missing context: think Malcolm in the Middle (Asides), or Arrested Development (Narrator).

    The Laugh Track, if I remember correctly, can trace its roots back to radio performance - where the live audience provided context for the at-home listener. I think it more-or-less still works in that way. This is a good example of how canned laughter can change -or- provide the intended context for a televised series/serial:

    I have done much more live theatre than anything else.....and it is much more difficult. There is no TAKE 2 or 3 or 4 or 20...you fuck up, you simply bite the bullet and go on.
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  17. #16  
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    Quote Originally Posted by babe View Post
    I have done much more live theatre than anything else.....and it is much more difficult. There is no TAKE 2 or 3 or 4 or 20...you fuck up, you simply bite the bullet and go on.
    A theatrical production has many coherent risks that have an immediate impact on a performance, the risks not solely relating to a thespian's performance. A lot of things can go wrong - a stage manager might misjudge the timing, an actor may fumble a line or make a beat sound awkward, there might be a sound or light malfunction, and something might go wrong with the set. These are all problems and risks that can have an immediate impact on the performance of a stage production. That, however, is also something that is accounted for in the production of a theatrical performance, is it not? Production usually begins months before the premiere. Actors may not neccessarily receive several months to learn their lines, but typically they are affordered a reasonable amount of time to work with the role. They also usually have two rehearsals, with at least one being a full dress rehearsal, and sometimes even have a preview before the premiere. This is in stark contrast to how sitcoms are produced.

    Usually there is not enough time take several months in the production of an episode for a sitcom. The standard season run is around 20 episodes, even though some sitcoms are ordered for half-seasons. Anyway, 20 episodes a year means an episode needs to be pumped out every 2.6 weeks - and that doesn't account for days off during the week, vacation time, and other stipulations.

    Typically an episode will have a start date and a completion date. There will usually be a daily quota for the amount of usable footage produced within a filming session. Televised sitcoms have a table read, and then begin filming after whatever neccessary alterations have been made to the script - if any. So acting in a sitcom, that doesn't have a live audience, usually does not include rehearsals. They read their lines, and shoot "takes" - because they don't have the time to memorise their lines as fully as they could in a stage production.

    The average sitcom is filmed within a week, and then goes to the editing room - it is not prepared over several months. Therefore the difficulties involved are very different, and not comparable to the difficulties faced in a theatrical production. One is an issue of performing a fine-tuned, highly orchestrated, production that has been well-practised. The other is an issue of producing a collection of entertaining works -- using the same characters, but in new, preferably original, circumstances -- of the highest quality possible with the given time constraints - it's an endurance run.

    So I would disagree, one isn't tougher than the other - they are incomparably difficult in their own ways. They each have to live up to their own unique, and extremely demanding, standards.
    Last edited by stander-j; July 17th, 2013 at 06:45 PM.
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  18. #17  
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    Quote Originally Posted by stander-j View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by babe View Post
    I have done much more live theatre than anything else.....and it is much more difficult. There is no TAKE 2 or 3 or 4 or 20...you fuck up, you simply bite the bullet and go on.
    A theatrical production has many coherent risks that have an immediate impact on a performance, the risks not solely relating to a thespian's performance. A lot of things can go wrong - a stage manager might misjudge the timing, an actor may fumble a line or make a beat sound awkward, there might be a sound or light malfunction, and something might go wrong with the set. These are all problems and risks that can have an immediate impact on the performance of a stage production. That, however, is also something that is accounted for in the production of a theatrical performance, is it not? Production usually begins months before the premiere. Actors may not neccessarily receive several months to learn their lines, but typically they are affordered a reasonable amount of time to work with the role. They also usually have two rehearsals, with at least one being a full dress rehearsal, and sometimes even have a preview before the premiere. This is in stark contrast to how sitcoms are produced.
    Usually there is not enough time take several months in the production of an episode for a sitcom. The standard season run is around 20 episodes, even though some sitcoms are ordered for half-seasons. Anyway, 20 episodes a year means an episode needs to be pumped out every 2.6 weeks - and that doesn't account for days off during the week, vacation time, and other stipulations.

    Typically an episode will have a start date and a completion date. There will usually be a daily quota for the amount of usable footage produced within a filming session. Televised sitcoms have a table read, and then begin filming after whatever neccessary alterations have been made to the script - if any. So acting in a sitcom, that doesn't have a live audience, usually does not include rehearsals. They read their lines, and shoot "takes" - because they don't have the time to memorise their lines as fully as they could in a stage production.

    The average sitcom is filmed within a week, and then goes to the editing room - it is not prepared over several months. Therefore the difficulties involved are very different, and not comparable to the difficulties faced in a theatrical production. One is an issue of performing a fine-tuned, highly orchestrated, production that has been well-practised. The other is an issue of producing a collection of entertaining works -- using the same characters, but in new, preferably original, circumstances -- of the highest quality possible with the given time constraints - it's an endurance run.

    So I would disagree, one isn't tougher than the other - they are incomparably difficult in their own ways. They each have to live up to their own unique, and extremely demanding, standards.
    I have been on stage when we blew a light circuit and lost all our stage lighting and did the first act with flashlights, that were thankfully a prop. You are correct to some degree i.e. preparation. Usually you get a script, you have six weeks to memorize it, however you don't have 30 or 40 lines you may have 40 or more pages of them...(in one show I had 78 pages of lines, and the script was 78 pages long). to memorize verbatim, and in that time you are also blocking the script, you are learning the score, you are being taught choreography and rehearsals are done daily, usually at least 5 days a week starting then last two weeks 7 days. You have a tech and prop introduction, (run through) and then you have a dress rehearsal, a premiere, and then opening night. I have never done a sitcom, so I don't know that process, and do not feel I could fairly comment on it. I have done a little film and some television, but mostly musical and comedic theatre. I agree they have their own inherent challenges and am not attempting to take anything away from either process, however I felt you had oversimplified what goes into a stage production.
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    I believe early-on it was called "canned laughter". I noted a few days ago that the audience cackling in a very old movie sounded absolutely identical to that of a current sitcom.

    Maybe because I'm deaf? jocular
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    Quote Originally Posted by jocular View Post
    I believe early-on it was called "canned laughter". I noted a few days ago that the audience cackling in a very old movie sounded absolutely identical to that of a current sitcom.

    Maybe because I'm deaf? jocular
    Laugh Track, Canned Laughter... I've also heard people refer to it as Dead People Laughing. Nothing kills the mood more than recognizing stock laughter you've previously heard on a different show - except for the Wilhem and Howie Screams... Those are just awful.
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    Quote Originally Posted by stander-j View Post
    Nothing kills the mood more than ... the Wilhem Scream...
    Seconded.
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