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Comedy Works Without Canned LOLs

By October 17, 2013 Wil & Testament No Comments
Crazy Ones

I’m really starting to wonder (okay, I have for many years now) why we still continue to have laugh-track sitcoms. I never really noticed it grating me back in the day when The Cosby Show or The Phil Silvers Show aired. (Okay, okay, Bilko is before my time, but I caught the re-repeats!). Even Seinfeld, Friends and The King of Queens seemed to have the audience laughter tuned to feeling natural to the production verses the over-tuned, obnoxious sweetening of the track that makes you just want to call Ralph on the Big White Phone. The sweetening of the audience has been around the 1950s but it has, in more recent years, made my ears want to bleed.

I can only think of one current show (The Big Bang Theory) where the laughter of the audience, most of the time, does not feel too out of place. (Yeah, I know, you can tell I’m deflecting and not totally convinced).

The Charlie Douglass "laff box" device was used during the 50s and 60s and appraised at $10,000 in June 2010 on a US episode of Antiques Roadshow.

The Charlie Douglass “laff box” device was used during the 50s and 60s and appraised at $10,000 in June 2010 on a US episode of Antiques Roadshow.

Any other show that is produced with canned chuckles just ends up making me want to punch a dragon. The likes of The Office, Community, The Crazy Ones show just how much pacier and creative the script, the actors and the production is when you don’t have to aim for cheap gags. It is really with special thanks to HBO who green-lit The Larry Sanders Show and Dream On without forcing the laff-box or a live audience onto the format that garnered the network and shows critical acclaim. Offhand I can only think of 20 or so comedies produced in the last 15 years that don’t use a laugh track (I’m sure there are more, the interwebz is out there ready for your Googling), and all of them are successful (either as mainstream or with cult followings) and make me want to, on (regular) occasion, laugh-out-loud.

I had to sit through five episodes of the Dads before I laughed. Actually, that isn’t quite true. I did laugh during the pilot episode, but I don’t think this commercial counts, does it?

[youtuber youtube=’http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bbRVMua0HUc’]

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