Yesterday, I was reading about laugh tracks in Robert Cialdini’s, Influence. Robert writes about laugh tracks and how everyone he asked about their opinion of canned laugh tracks disliked them. Then Robert had a question, “If everyone dislikes canned laugh tracks, then why do television executives still place them into shows. It all had to do with a social proof about wanting to be in on the joke. It’s the idea that a show and jokes are presumed to be funnier when people here canned laughter. Even though we realize it’s stupid and fake. The research, at the time, showed that canned laughter can help improve performance of all jokes, especially poor ones. This was all television executives need to hear. For years, TV executives would insist on putting canned laughter into shows even though the public and the people creating the show didn’t want it included.
This made me think of the shows I used to watch growing up in the 90s that either had laugh tracks or were performed in front of a live audience, who were singled to laugh. I remember the line an actor read just before the show started, “This show was filmed in front of a live studio audience.”
It made me think about why don’t shows do this anymore. I imagine a new research study was done saying canned laughter had a negative effect on viewership. Otherwise we’d still be hearing canned laughter on all our favorite shows over the past few years like Big Bang Theory, The Office, or Modern Family. A funny idea would be to insert canned laughter into some of the dramas on today like Mad Men or Game of Thrones. Can you imagine Tyrion Lanister telling a joke and then hearing canned laughter.
Canned laughter was a good example of a business not listening to their customers. Even though everyone was saying they didn’t want canned laughter. The business kept covering their eyes and quoting a research reports about the positive effects of canned laughter. Television executives choose to accept the positive aspects of canned laughter but refused the negative aspects which ultimately won. It’s usually a good rule to listen to the marketplace. They’ll usually dictate what they want.
Day 7 of 100 #100dayproject