Laugh track

Charles “Charley” Douglass

“A laugh track (or laughter track) is a separate soundtrack for a recorded comedy show containing the sound of audience laughter. In some productions, the laughter is a live audience response instead; in the United States, where it is most commonly used, the term usually implies artificial laughter (canned laughter or fake laughter) made to be inserted into the show. This was invented by American sound engineer Charles ‘Charley’ Douglass. The Douglass laugh track became a standard in mainstream television in the U.S., dominating most prime-time sitcoms from the late 1950s to the late 1970s. … CBS sound engineer Charley Douglass noticed these inconsistencies, and took it upon himself to remedy the situation. If a joke did not get the desired chuckle, Douglass inserted additional laughter; if the live audience chuckled too long, Douglass gradually muted the guffaws. This editing technique became known as sweetening, in which recorded laughter is used to augment the response of the real studio audience if they did not react as strongly as desired. … As the medium evolved, production costs associated with broadcasting live television escalated. Filming in a studio with an audience, as I Love Lucy or The Ed Sullivan Show did, had its limitations as well: half the audience could not see the show from where they were sitting. Douglass was brought in to simulate reactions from scratch for the duration of the entire show. … Most television sitcoms produced during the 1950s and 1960s used the single-camera technique, with a laugh track simulating the absent audience.[7] Producers became disenchanted with the multi-camera format; consensus at the time was that live audiences were tense, nervous and rarely laughed on cue. … Sitcoms had different types of laugh tracks edited onto their soundtracks, depending on style. Outlandish or fantasy shows, like Bewitched, The Munsters, I Dream of Jeannie and The Beverly Hillbillies, were virtual showcases of Douglass’s editing skill. The more outlandish the show, the more invasive the laugh track. Conversely, subdued programs, like The Andy Griffith Show, The Brady Bunch and My Three Sons, had more modulated laughter. … By the mid-1960s, nearly every U.S. sitcom was shot single-camera and was fitted with a laughter track. Only a handful of programs, such as The Joey Bishop Show, The Dick Van Dyke Show and The Lucy Show used studio audiences and turned to Douglass to edit or augment the real laughter via sweetening. …”
SLATE: The Man Who Perfected the Laugh Track (Audio)
YouTube: June Auction-Charlie Douglass “Laff Box”, Useless History: Laugh Tracks

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