Laugh Tracks: Nothing to Laugh About



Mrs. Wolowitz: Howard! Can you hear me?!
Howard: I can hear you without the phone!

This is a scene from the first episode of this season of The Big Bang Theory, along with the reaction from its lovely audience.

Big Bang happens to be one of my favorite shows on TV right now. Ever since a friend introduced it to me this summer, I can’t get over Sheldon’s quirkiness, Leonard and Penny’s love dilemma, and all the geniuses constantly mocking Howard for not having a Ph.D. From the time season six began early this fall, I have made sure to tune in to the new episodes every Thursday night, regardless of how much homework I have.
I would recommend this show to anybody…if you can get past the laugh track.
The storyline of Big Bang is so great on its own that it was easy to train myself to ignore it. But the laugh track itself is still quite irritating.
“They’re there to tell people that it’s time to laugh,” said Kayla Gitlin ’15. “And on a lot of shows, I’m just wondering why people are laughing because the jokes made on some shows aren’t realistic or funny.”
Upon doing some research, I learned that at the start of television, producers would add background laughter to comedies in order for viewers to experience the same entertainment satisfaction as they would from their fellow audience members in theatrical comedies. Many early sitcoms like I Love Lucy and Bewitched used laugh tracks, which back then were generally composed of a few slight chuckles in the background. Now, in many modern sitcoms such as Big Bang, Two and a Half Men, and a lot of Disney Channel shows, the laughing is so frequent and loud throughout the episode that it distracts the viewer from the actual show. But the only thing worse than these laugh track are the other background sound effects.

Here’s an example:  In Big Bang’s first episode this season, Raj uttered his heartfelt statement, “After everything you’ve been through, you can look into each other’s eyes and say I love you. And that’s beautiful,”  and it was met with an audience recorded chorus of “Awww.” Yes, I can agree that what Raj said was sweet, but I don’t need to hear other people’s taped and artificial reactions to it. Just hearing it in the background takes away the significance of the moment and only reminds us that the story is taking place on a set with actors.

To the creators of sitcoms out there, I have an important message for you. I will laugh when I want to laugh. I will “Awww” when I want to “Awww.” And I will gasp when I want to gasp. We live in a free country; don’t we?

Fortunately though, many sitcoms have not included a laugh track. Modern Family, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and 30 Rock are among the increasing number of shows that have made this smart decision and have received massive praise as a result.

All I can say is, kudos to them.