The Laugh Track – One of Those 1950s Things That Made it an Awful Time

Having a great time reading “The Comedians: Drunks, Thieves, Scoundrels, and the History of American Comedy” by Kliph Nesteroff.

He notes something absolutely stunning about the sad and sick development of the laugh track, first in radio and then in television and its ubiquity in broadcasting because it comforted executives that didn’t know what was funny and projected that audiences wouldn’t either.

Nesteroff says that the laugh track was almost adopted in movies as well.  Unthinkable huh?  Imagine the great movie comedies of the 50s and 60s with laugh tracks.  Better yet, don’t.

The film Cat Ballou, a 1965 comic western with Lee Marvin and Jane Fonda actually created a version of the film with an added laugh track.  They sent it to a handful of  drive-in theaters (remember them?) to see if that would fly.  Thankfully it didn’t.

That was almost as disturbing as anything I’ve read about our government, war, finance or any of those lesser issues of our time.

God I hate laugh tracks.

For extra credit:  the first sit-com on network TV to not use a laugh track in the modern era was a 1973 show called “Adam’s Rib” with Ken Howard and Blythe Danner based on the Hepburn/Tracy movie.  It was cancelled after one season.  It was ballsy and sadly didn’t take at that time. Many great shows in that early 70s era like “All in the Family” and “Mary Tyler Moore” were shot in front a live audience and “sweetened” with laugh tracks.  It wasn’t until around 2000 that shows trusted the audience enough to do one camera shoots with no laugh track.  See “Malcolm in the Middle”, “30 Rock” et al.


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