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Laugh-Track Off-Button

Turn off the braying donkeys
  [vote for,

A few years back BBC2 re-showed the entire run of M*A*S*H*, a classic tv series and perhaps one of the first to subtly fuse comedy and tragedy. All but one episode were shown here without a laugh track; the British audience didn't want canned laughter, didn't like it. That one episode, though, wasn't available - for some reason - without the tacked-on guffaws of an entirely fake "audience". When it was shown there was an uproar. It was quite simply horrendous. The switches from bitter pathos to belly-laughs became crunching stop-start gear-shifts. Wry ironic jokes were turned into zany buffoonery, ruined by the crassness of the fake "reaction".

I'm sure there's other shows out there right now, being ruined because network executives have such a low opinion of the populace they think their audience needs to be told when to laugh. On the other hand, maybe some people do prefer the added atmosphere of studio audience laughter (Don't ask me why, but... to each their own). I think we have the technology now to give people the choice.

Some digital tv providers already give viewers the facility to select camera angles at sporting events and such-like. It can't be that much harder to provide a digital facility that would switch laugh-tracks on or off. Broadcast both sound-tracks; let the viewer select by calling up their digital menu. Americans might even be able one day to watch M*A*S*H* the way it was broadcast here. Believe me. It's an improvement.

Guy Fox, Aug 07 2001

TV Commentator Mute http://www.halfbake...0Commentator_20Mute
Same principle, different sound. [bookworm, Jun 09 2002, last modified Oct 05 2004]

DirectShow Laugh Track Removal filter http://cnx.org/content/m15641/latest/
I tried it but it doesn't really work as well. [chime, Dec 20 2009]


       There's no reason why this should not be possible with digital broadcasts. Even with good old analog RF, the laugh-track could be encoded in similar way to NICAM stereo, and could thus be switched out by the receiver.
angel, Aug 07 2001

       Its possible to supply the laugh-track as a seperate track. I was wondering if you could do it with signal processing. Probably not, unless you want to lose some of the other sounds. But it may be easier than removing, for example vocals from music, as the laughter on a comedy will be in little discreet bursts.   

       I wonder how long it`ll be before the news has noises in the background, to encourage empathy with the (usually) suffering people being covered.
Pallex, Aug 07 2001

       And "ahhhh" noises for the cute kitten/puppy story that the local news always ends with...
CoolerKing, Aug 07 2001

       Laugh tracks are also easier to remove because while the laugh track is playing, nothing else is happening. (Did M*A*S*H have awkward pauses after every joke?)   

       Personally, I think any digital broadcast should have at least (probably at most, so as not to confuse most viewers) two audio tracks - one for essential sound (diegetic sound in narrative shows, in-game sounds in sporting events, music in music videos, etc.) and one for nonessential "overlaid" sound (laugh tracks, play-by-play announcers, VJs, etc.) Only problem I see is that production staff might not like having the mixing decision taken from them. Of course, shows could always be broadcast with the same sound on both tracks if necessary.
bookworm, Aug 08 2001

       Don't watch television so I can't vote on this...Can I get a laugh-track off button for when everyone at the office is laughing at me? *sigh* I thought not.
Dog Ed, Aug 08 2001

       This would be great in the other direction too - during newscasts where corporate swine are fawned over or police brutality glossed or (fill in the thing that annoys you here), you could add a custom laugh track. Perhaps a pattern recognition circuit too, that would add cascades of uproarious laughter at every mention of George W. Bush.
stavrosthewonderchicken, Aug 08 2001

       [bookworm]: //Did M*A*S*H have awkward pauses after every joke?//   

       No more than you get between lines in a Marx Brothers movie or a drama series like ER. It runs smoothly and naturally. The awkward silences came in, for me, in the one episode I've seen with the laugh track, where they'd have a serious scene sandwiched between humorous ones; you'd get a sudden grinding switch of tone because the complete absence of manic laughter after each line was so noticeable in comparison to the hilarity you got after even dark, DARK, bitterly ironic jokes in the funny scenes.   

       [stavrosthewonderchicken] Don't you hear cascades of uproarious laughter at every mention of Dubya, anyway? I know I do. But that's just my own.
Guy Fox, Aug 08 2001

       Not so much a problem with M*A*S*H, but I find too many sit"coms" are broadcast with the *humor*-off button engaged.
beauxeault, Aug 08 2001

       The purpose of laugh tracks appears to have changed over the years. Originally they were to give the impression that you were in a theatre audience; people tend to laugh more readily if other people are also laughing. Now it seems that they are used to indicate 'This is a joke'; the indication is necessary because a lot of the time the 'jokes' are so not funny that you wouldn't recognise them without the canned giggles.
The Marx Brothers created their acts in Vaudeville, and the early films were simply stage routines performed in front of a camera. Later, they tweaked the scripts by rehearsing in front of a live audience, and adjusting the script according to what got the best response.
angel, Aug 09 2001

       :::: applause ::::
sdm, Aug 09 2001

       It might be a pleasing idea to return to the theater ambience, especially in dealing faithfully with the putrid pap offered by the sitcom mills. In checking on the hoohah coming from the television my son was watching, I found that he was transfixed by the scene of a couple of immobile overdressed dummies exchanging amazingly lame one-liners and mugging at one another during the long pauses for the subsequent noise. The laugh track was louder than anything else. Dead silence punctuated by rustling, murmuring, the occasional imperfectly suppressed belch, perfunctory applause, sniffling, and a bit of whining with shushing would be a great improvement.
hagfish, Oct 26 2001

       How about a live audience feature where you could turn on mics that people have next to their sets? Then you could hear real laughing, (or not) in real time.   

       With enough people on line you could probably drown out the occasional troll shouting profanities. Unless of course everybody started shouting the same thing at the same time a-la the Rocky Horror Picture Show, which could get interesting.   

       I picture news broadcasts with this feature soundling like Parliament. (The political body, not the band). "In today's news, a new tax on physical attractiveness has been announced" (angry audience) "RABBLE rab RAB abb rabBLErabb RABBLEabble RABBLE!!!!"   

       Yelling at the tv would have slightly more impact I guess. Maybe not.
doctorremulac3, Dec 21 2009


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