Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Canned Laughter - How I hate thee

I love to laugh. Raucously. I also love to giggle, chortle, titter, guffaw and come dangerously close to busting a kidney when trying to suppress a chuckle at an inappropriate time and/or place.

Give me comedy films and television shows and I’ll happily watch, leaning forward, eyebrows arched, waiting to fall for a witty one-liner, cringe-inducing set-up or gut-splitting pay-off.

Whether watching spoon-fed slapstick or intelligent dialogue sing out of the performers’ mouths, I pretty much find the moment I should smile or laugh out loud naturally – on my own. I’m a big boy that way.

This brings my diatribe to its inexorable point. Why, oh why haven’t TV laugh tracks gone the way of the dinosaurs? Forced explosions of ill-matched laughter controlled by someone who presses a button once to start the noise and once more to stop it. Granted, these days they’ve gotten more sophisticated with layers of laughter, types of laughter, genders of laughter and the age of those laughing, who gladly lend their instrument to the ill-conceived recording. But a good knock off of a Louis Vuitton handbag is still a fake, no matter how you look at it.

I adore sitcoms that choose to record their shows in front of a live studio audience (if they're looking for authentic audio participation). Somehow their gasps, giggles and out-and-out laughter truly adds to the hi-jinks on set and adds volume to my own audible, happy expressions. I realize editing and sound mixing is still a part of it but all in all it’s a happy marriage. Saying that, one of my absolute faves on TV is Modern Family, which needs no audio special effects that scream "laugh here".

So to all those current sitcoms that shamelessly use (overuse) the laugh track, take heed. It actually makes the show less funny and ultimately makes people who share my sensibility change the channel. Who's with me?


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