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Laugh Tracks: Love 'Em or Hate 'Em?

Living 2011/09/26 21:50:25
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Ah, the ever-so-recognizable laugh track.

You know what we're talking about. It's the canned laughter that you notice playing while a character on a TV show cracks a particularly cheesy joke or another one trips and falls smack on their face. Pretty hilarious, right?

Wrong. Laugh tracks are awful.

But according to some experts, they work. And that's why certain new shows, like "Whitney" on NBC and "2 Broke Girls" on CBS, have decided to keep on with the tradition.

"We're much more likely to laugh at something funny in the presence of other people," Bill Kelley, a psychology professor at Dartmouth College, said. In fact, according to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 1974, people were more likely to laugh at jokes that were followed by a laugh track.

Still, there are studies that show otherwise. In his own research, Kelley compared his student's reactions while watching "Seinfeld," which has a laugh track, to those watching "The Simpsons," which doesn't have a laugh track. Brain scans showed that the same regions of the brain lit up whether they heard others laughing or not.

And with more documentary-style TV shows like "The Office," "30 Rock" and "Modern Family" surfacing, the popularity of canned laughter may take a dip.

But for now, we'll just have to get used to canned laughter staying strong in certain sitcoms.

Do you love laugh tracks or hate 'em?
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Top Opinion

  • findthelight2000 2011/09/27 15:15:38
    Hate 'em
    findthelight2000
    +10
    I may hate "canned" laughter, but I am all in favor of genuine laughter. Genuine laughter is what is heard on shows that are taped in front of a live audience. So to the Producers of comedy series I highly recommend taping in front of live audiences for that genuine effect. Trust me..., we can tell the difference!

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Opinions

  • IsraelysTorres 2011/09/28 04:22:36
    Hate 'em
    IsraelysTorres
    not all shows have good laugh tracks...
  • rph636 2011/09/28 04:13:37
    Hate 'em
    rph636
    +1
    It's like a lie, I hate any thing that is phony and that includes implants. Everything should live on it's own merits, it's sort of like having someone that laughs at every joke you tell when you know it not funny and you realize they are just kissing up.
  • RS 2011/09/28 03:55:47
    Love 'em
    RS
    I grew up with 70's comedies!
  • sally 2011/09/28 03:55:24
    Hate 'em
    sally
    +1
    It doesn't make the joke as funny when I finally get it after hearing everyone else laugh. I feel stupid because of that stupid thing.
  • Ben 2011/09/28 03:48:49
    Hate 'em
    Ben
    +1
    I refuse to watch anything with a laugh track. When I was younger (80s and 90s) I didn't notice as much. But now, canned laughter is a serious distraction from the show. It also showed us just how not funny the show really was by prompting us when to laugh.
  • James 2011/09/28 03:36:21
    Hate 'em
    James
    +1
    If it can't play on it's own, it doesn't need to be played. "All In The Family" didn't need laugh tracks. They tried them for a while and realized the they didn't need them. Barney Miller was the same way. They were so funny, laughing was normal.
  • jerry.alan.carroll 2011/09/28 03:09:52
    Hate 'em
    jerry.alan.carroll
    Hate is a strong word, but i think I know when something is funny on my own.
  • nefertari 2011/09/28 02:52:16
    Hate 'em
    nefertari
    +1
    So fake....canned laughter at times when it's really not that funny
  • mikeyllo 2011/09/28 02:03:45
    Hate 'em
    mikeyllo
    +1
    Either something is funny or it's not. Hearing other people laugh doesn't make me feel like something is more humorous. Because a co-worker watched Witney and recomended it, I watched it and never even chuckled despite the laugh track. If I don't find something amusing, hearing or seeing other people laugh has no influence on my response.
  • danno 2011/09/28 01:57:38
    Hate 'em
    danno
    +1
    thats why i never watch sitcoms. having a producer tell me (with the laugh track) that i am supposed to laugh, pisses me off. if its funny, ill laugh. if its not, i dont like someone trying to fake me out.
  • gldynmd BTO-t-BCRA-F 2011/09/28 01:20:26
    Hate 'em
    gldynmd BTO-t-BCRA-F
    +1
    I don't need someone telling me something is funny. I can figure that out on my own.
  • don nh 460 2011/09/28 00:59:59
    Hate 'em
    don nh 460
    +1
    always seems to "cheapen" the show.
  • kate 2011/09/28 00:53:08
    Hate 'em
    kate
    It just IS!!
  • Philip ... kate 2011/09/28 13:17:42
    Philip Sterk
    true that....... just as I IS i is
  • Merf75 2011/09/28 00:52:43 (edited)
    Love 'em
    Merf75
    Personally, I'm quite fond of laugh tracks, but usually I like them much better if it's a live audience laughing, I find it nice to feel like other people are laughing with you. But I wil admit that laugh tracks are sometimes over-done and to dramatically hysterical.

    Still, I love 'em. :)
  • Mario 2011/09/28 00:52:41 (edited)
    Hate 'em
    Mario
    +1
    Married with children used to have this guy who laughed like a horse f-ing a Hyena, I noticed the laugh every episode. I don't know if they show was live or not, but that laugh was also in some episodes of the Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

    So yeah, live laughter is better but not all the time.
  • EmilyRutkowski 2011/09/28 00:37:41
    Hate 'em
    EmilyRutkowski
    +1
    They make me less likely to laugh at a joke, considering how often they are used. Why don't they prevview it to others to determine which jokes they SHOULD use a laugh track on, and which ones NOT to use, like the stupid ones no one laughs at?!
  • Jim 2011/09/28 00:32:55
    Hate 'em
    Jim
    +1
    Nothing worse then laughter at something that isn't funny.
  • Dave 2011/09/28 00:07:19
    Love 'em
    Dave
    It spices up the show, when something sad happens in life you don't want to laugh because it wasn't controlled. But once played out on television its enjoyable, you want to laugh because you know its going to be ok. Plus you can laugh later about something that went wrong but turned out alright, relating to whats going on in the show.
  • Claire Bird 2011/09/28 00:03:09
    Hate 'em
    Claire Bird
    I once watched this one show that had a laugh track that sounded like a toilet flushing. Urg.
  • Philip ... Claire ... 2011/09/28 13:20:04
    Philip Sterk
    +2
    Hold that thought for a minute. toilet
  • Master 2011/09/28 00:01:49
    Hate 'em
    Master
    Is this a trick question?

    Laugh tracks have been the bane of the television viewer since day one! There were a few years relatively free of the cursed things, but they are worse than ever, now!
    Of course, television programming has become so bad, and the commercialism so intrusive, that I have not---and will not---buy a "digital TV": There is nothing on television worth the price of a new receiver!

    I use the internet, instead. There are interesting people in the internet: People who are real. And not a one has a laugh track!
  • Philip ... Master 2011/09/28 13:22:30
    Philip Sterk
    Why you so grumpy? I no grumpy. I happy. happy
  • Kigan 2011/09/27 23:49:09
    Hate 'em
    Kigan
    +2
    Always better when the laughter comes from a live audience.
  • sockpuppet 2011/09/27 23:10:21
    Hate 'em
    sockpuppet
    +2
    I like Britcoms that don't tell the audience when to laugh.
    When you get used to that, the American stuff is a real irritation.


    Some of the noise mixed into laugh tracks isn't even laughter. Weird.
  • luckyike2 2011/09/27 22:38:32
    Hate 'em
    luckyike2
    +1
    good for majorities
  • luckyike2 luckyike2 2014/05/23 13:37:26
    luckyike2
    yeah good for majorities
  • Aspect of B 2011/09/27 22:30:19
    Hate 'em
    Aspect of B
    +2
    If I have to be told when to laugh at a comedy, I know what I'm watching can't be all that funny.
  • Master Aspect ... 2011/09/28 00:03:17
    Master
    Got it in one!
  • Will McDowell 2011/09/27 22:27:05
    Hate 'em
    Will McDowell
    +3
    it's annoying in the first place, and downright creepy once you realize the fact that it's dead people laughing!
  • Dayeana 2011/09/27 22:11:21
    Love 'em
    Dayeana
    laugh tracks are ok on some shows, and not ok on others.
  • coach k 2011/09/27 22:10:58
    Love 'em
    coach k
    they have been around for ever i don't even hear them anymore
  • Diddley Squat 2011/09/27 21:19:38 (edited)
    Hate 'em
    Diddley Squat
    +2
    Hey, I haven't watched a laugh track show since M*A*S*H* - which went off the air about 1979. I detest laugh tracks and ask people to them off even when I'm just visiting. A funny joke doesn't need a pretense that there's laughter.

    I really, really, really can't stand laugh tracks! Get rid of them!

    Great question, by the way. Thanks for asking.
  • Big Benedict 2011/09/27 21:17:04
    Hate 'em
    Big Benedict
    +1
    It's distracting and ruins the mood of the TV shows without a proper live audience. If it's a sitcom done in a studio, you don't need a laugh track. Unlike iCarly and Drake & Josh, they do have laugh tracks. Seriously, back in the 90s, Kenan and Kel is really a sitcom. Their final episode wasn't 'cause it's actually a TV movie set outside the studio without needing the laugh track. I like the cheering, the laughing and "woooo" on Married With Children. Scooby-Doo? Awful, just awful. The laugh track did happen on Family Guy during some occasions, but they didn't need all of it to cue on all episodes. The laugh track makes the people unintelligent to tell when to laugh. Without it can help you when to laugh at one part. As much as the voters hate the laugh track, I strongly disagree with Anna E.

    This is the 21st century, we're not living in the 1960s and the 1970s anymore. I rather watch Adventure Time with only me laughing.
  • Bob 2011/09/27 21:14:50 (edited)
    Hate 'em
    Bob
    Can all the canned laugh tracks & TV's much more enjoyable!Fortunately, with the advent of digital TV,we get NBC,ABC,CBS,FOX,PBS,TBS & the CW;& NBC's alternate channel RTV,now called Me-TV,ABC's alternate channel called THIS & MY-TV, WOSU's regular PBS broadcasts,plus their alternate channel sometimes carriying ONN & WOSU's alter- nate channel,Create-TV;24-hr.weather on the alternate CBS channel,& an alternate FOX channel carrying a poor man's version of MTV. CW,which used to be the WB,*does*have an annoying"star"every yr & carries mostly old reruns of previously broadcast shows; but,once in a while there's a new show not seen elsewhere!Since we can pick & chose,we watch many TV shows we either didn't get to watch when they were new,or didn't get to see then!All this is with an indoor,amplified combo of VHF rabbit ears & UHF loop,out here in the"boondocks"where there's no cable.Since we can't afford a dish,this is an unexpect- ed bonus!A few examples we get to watch are Daniel Boone,Outer Limits,Star Trek,the Next Generation,Twilight Zone,I Spy,Magnum PI,Peter Gunn,The Rifleman,Perry Mason, Dragnet, Bonanza,Gunsmoke,many old movies,One Step Beyond,Highway to Heaven,My Name Is Earl,Frasier,Old Christine,'70s Show,old movies,etc.With the mute button on our remote,we don't have to listen ...&
    Can all the canned laugh tracks & TV's much more enjoyable!Fortunately, with the advent of digital TV,we get NBC,ABC,CBS,FOX,PBS,TBS & the CW;& NBC's alternate channel RTV,now called Me-TV,ABC's alternate channel called THIS & MY-TV, WOSU's regular PBS broadcasts,plus their alternate channel sometimes carriying ONN & WOSU's alter- nate channel,Create-TV;24-hr.weather on the alternate CBS channel,& an alternate FOX channel carrying a poor man's version of MTV. CW,which used to be the WB,*does*have an annoying"star"every yr & carries mostly old reruns of previously broadcast shows; but,once in a while there's a new show not seen elsewhere!Since we can pick & chose,we watch many TV shows we either didn't get to watch when they were new,or didn't get to see then!All this is with an indoor,amplified combo of VHF rabbit ears & UHF loop,out here in the"boondocks"where there's no cable.Since we can't afford a dish,this is an unexpect- ed bonus!A few examples we get to watch are Daniel Boone,Outer Limits,Star Trek,the Next Generation,Twilight Zone,I Spy,Magnum PI,Peter Gunn,The Rifleman,Perry Mason, Dragnet, Bonanza,Gunsmoke,many old movies,One Step Beyond,Highway to Heaven,My Name Is Earl,Frasier,Old Christine,'70s Show,old movies,etc.With the mute button on our remote,we don't have to listen to all the almost overwhelming commercials & infomercials, esp.those late at night.When we get our rotating outdoor antenna hooked up,we'll have even more choices to watch,san asinine laugh tracks.PTL!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!...
    (more)
  • DebraDeJonge 2011/09/27 20:43:04
    Hate 'em
    DebraDeJonge
    +3
    It's so idiotic that they'd think that we have to be prompted to laugh. I find it to be annoying as hell and I rarely watch comedies anyway. I wish they'd can canned laughter.
  • MichaelWolfe 2011/09/27 20:18:29
    Love 'em
    MichaelWolfe
    I had to go with love'em because I think they are okay and do what they are supposed to do. They tell people with no sense of humor when it's time to laugh, groan, etc. I can pretty much take them or lose them. It's not like they haven't been around since the dawn of television. Although the first shows were all shot in one take with a live studio audience, even they had applause signs.
  • * ~ ..Ju!¡@.. ~ * 2011/09/27 20:03:40
    Love 'em
    * ~ ..Ju!¡@.. ~ *
    I love laughing! :D
  • H-Dizzle 2011/09/27 20:03:16
    Hate 'em
    H-Dizzle
    +2
    They seriously tried to compare Seinfeld with the Simpsons!!? Now I know that study was crap.
  • Lis H-Dizzle 2011/09/27 21:59:05
    Lis
    They weren't comparing the shows to each other, but how people reacted when the laugh track was present and when it wasn't. They were comparing the brain scans, not the shows.

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