Big Bang minus the laugh-track theory

So what's a sitcom like without the laugh track added?

So what’s a sitcom like without the laugh track added?

Umm not very funny.

Check out this clip of The Big Bang Theory without the required mirth.

I once saw an entire episode of Get Smart without laughs. And it went to air too. It was really weird…. Some shows the laugh track is clearly a character in itself and just not the same without it. Someone MASH fans may be able to confirm: did they have some eps without the laugh track too?

Meanwhile by way of contrast, here’s a clip of The Wire with laughs added in. Thanks to the Hollywood Reporter for this one.

And WARNING: Language, guys, language….

30 Responses

  1. Haha! Those two clips were awesome!

    I wondered a similar thing recently when I saw some particularly painful musical stand-up comedy (like the awful Tripod) acts live. Imagine if some of these “comedians” lost their guitars & simply said, instead of sung, some of their so called jokes? They would fall like a lead ballon! Yet, add music & you can instantly double your laughs.

    Back to TV sitcoms; I think there’s some shows that *really* need a laugh track, like Scrubs – where are the jokes? I can’t believe there’s so many people out there that find that show funny. The only time Scrubs made me laugh was when I heard it got the green light for a second season. I expect to get flamed now…

  2. @Goonies, you do realise 2.5 Men and Big Bang Theory are both created, written and produced by the same guy.

    And yes i do place them in the same cruddy league because neither are funny, but put a laugh track in, people will laugh, and then tell themselves its funny, not because it is funny, but because they perceive it to be because they laugh along with laugh track..

    I put Seinfeld in that league too, never found it funny and don’t get why so many people love it.

  3. @aznfratboy says:: “they all spend 85% of their time inside, if not more, because it would be difficult and expensive to build a set resembling the outside, and expecting the live audience to wait for it.”

    Sorry, why would it be expensive building a set that resembles the outside? I hated Raymond, and one thing that annoyed me the most is that the set did not in anyway resemble the exterior. It is not hard to build a set to match that exterior.
    – What are the live audience waiting for?

    @Rob says:
    “There were two episodes of Hogan’s Heroes last weekend on Go without laugh tracks, and i found it bizarre to watch.”
    – Please, please, please don’t watch HH, we need GO! to move back to the decent channel it was in the first 6 weeks. The less people watch of this rubbish, the sooner they will learn their programming mistakes.

  4. I have seen a few Seinfelds without the laugh track – makes absolutely no difference.

    @ Jed – do you really think BBT is in the same cruddy league as 2.5 idiots? Says more about you than BBT me thinks.

  5. Bang on the money there chk chk – A good example is Red Dwarf, which was recorded in front of a live audience for its first six seasons, and then for the seventh, it had an added laugh track. On Back To Earth, there was no laugh track, and so you can see the acting style for that is different, whereas for seven, it’s similar to the first six, pausing for the anticipated laughs.

  6. BBT looks crappy without laugh track because the actors are told to wait for the laugh track, so there’s that silent pause every five or six seconds. The Wire edited in lauygh track sounds moronic, like Double Take or whatever Channel 7 did, they couldn’t even laugh at the right times….

    Multi-cams will always be more successful than single-cams, sure because directors like James Burrows far outrank the likes of Bill Lawrence, Burrows being a multi-cam specialist, Lawrence being a single-cam specialist, but networks go through peaks and troughs, in the US, when there are peaks, there is generally a block of good quality multi-cam sitcoms, NBC in the 80s and 90s, Cosby Show, Cheers, Seinfeld, Friends, Frasier… CBS in the 70s, All in the Family, Mary Tyler Moore Show, Dick Van Dyke Show and ABC with a couple of multi-cams in the late 70s, Happy Days, Three’s Company, Laverne and Shirley…

    Look at the Neilsen ratings chart for 2008-2009 season, shows like Two and a Half Men and Big Bang Theory, all outrank shows like The Office and 30 Rock.

    The reason single-cams are existing more and more now is because now, comedies have the freedom to explore the outside world, multi-cams generally are one, maybe two studio sets these days, look at Raymond, Cosby Show, Friends, Cheers and such, they all spend 85% of their time inside, if not more, because it would be difficult and expensive to build a set resembling the outside, and expecting the live audience to wait for it.

  7. Because i have nothing better to do, i decided to try and do a tigher edit of the scene. Got rid of about 10 seconds, which is a lot for a 40 second clip.


  8. I’m glad Better of Ted does not have a laugh track. I think the Brady Bundy used to have a laugh track off and on.
    I remember seeing an ep of Bewitched in mirror image. It was not supposed to be.

  9. There were two episodes of Hogan’s Heroes last weekend on Go without laugh tracks, and i found it bizarre to watch. There were even awkward pauses where they’d usually be waiting for people to stop laughing before the next line. Though, i’ve seen Get Smart (years ago) without a laugh track, and it seemed fine. I guess because of the slapstick humor and good comic timing, rather than just jokes. It would depend on the show as to whether it works without a laugh track.

  10. Only some shows like Arrested Development, 30 Rock now Modern Family work without a laugh track (or studio audiance told when to laugh) ITA it wakes them more worthy but it’s not to say shows like Friends or Seinfeld are any lessor for having them.

  11. I’ve seen a couple of eps of MASH on Seven without the Laugh Track, was a few years ago though. Hardly watch it so no idea if they still show them.

    It was probably 10 minutes into the episode before I worked out “what’s wrong” and why it seemed different.

    Probably never enjoyed an episode so much – a completely different show.

    Unfortunately it made you think which is obviously no good for TV.

  12. The reason Big Bang Theory sounds wrong without a laugh track is that they are pausing for the laughs they’re getting from the live audience. If it was cut tighter, like Better Off Ted (a great show, check it out) it would work much better. Plus, they would write differently for that approach, knowing full well that facial expressions and close ups work better in a single camera comedy than a three camera studio-based sitcom.

  13. I believe laugh track is part of the whole athmosphere of the show, if you remove it just for the sake of removing it, then that is not fair. I believe, if there is no laugh track, the dialogue and the delivery of it would also be very different thus comparing two comedy shows just on the basis of a laugh track would be totally ludicrous.

  14. In the UK market at least, MASH always aired without a laugh track. On one occasion the BBC accidentally played the laugh track and received hundreds of complaints.

    You may be correct, however, that some episodes in the later seasons had no laugh track at all.

    The DVDs all feature “laugh track” and the “laugh free” audio tracks.

  15. According to the Wikipedia article on M*A*S*H, CBS in America wanted the laugh track; when M*A*S*H aired in the UK, it was laugh track-free; and any scenes in the operating room were laugh-track free.

    Also according to the Wikipedia article, there is an option on the DVDs to watch the episodes with or without the laugh track. I’ve never owned or watched a M*A*S*H DVD, so I don’t know if that option’s been carried over to Region 4.

  16. I still laughed at the BBT clip 🙂

    Strangely enough, The Wire clip with a laugh track didn’t sound out of place. Maybe that’s because I hadn’t seen the show before.

    Thanks for sharing David!

  17. The MASH DVDS give you the option of having the laugh track switched on or off. Apparently the shows were originally run in some markets, most notably the UK, without a laugh track. It’s kind of strange, it plays more as a drama featuring a wisecracking doctor than as a comedy without it.

  18. I think that’s mainly due to the lack of background noise and the fact that they are pausing for laughter – nothing to do with the absence of laughs in my opinion. If the background noise wasn’t cut out along with the laugh track and there was no pausing it would seem perfectly normal.

  19. Well Big Bang Theory isn’t funny so of course they need a laugh track. That’s also why 2.5 Men does so well, idiots will laugh when told to, and then come to the conclusion that oh this show is heaps funny because i’m laughing, yet they’re only laughing with a laugh track.

    Arrested Development and 30 Rock are two of the funniest comedies in years, brilliant shows, critically successful yet no audience. People need approval to laugh

    Heck sitcoms with a laugh track i’ve even been laughing when the ‘audience’ isn’t. I don’t need to be told when to laugh.

  20. That was really awkward. That is exactly why I hold sitcoms like Modern Family, Scrubs, 30 Rock etc. in much higher regard, because they don’t rely on a laugh track for the audience to find the content funny. Could you just imagine how horrible 2.5 Men would be without a laugh track. It’s brain dead audience wouldn’t know what to do!

Leave a Reply