I’m the kind of guy who can be turned off from an entire experience over one little thing.
For example, a blister on my foot has prevented me from streaking across the football field for the last eight Super Bowls, lack of money in my bank account has prevented me from buying tickets for those last eight Super Bowls and for reasons I’ll soon explain, a studio audience constantly ruins my television-watching experience.
You’d think I, a child raised on television, would be used to hearing the laugh track of the studio audience when Mork stands on his head while riding in Mindy’s Jeep or when Norm makes a Vera joke while sitting on his bar stool at Cheers.
However, that’s not the case as the studio-audience laughter always sounds exactly the same to me and after a few jokes, I find myself straining to listen to the studio audience for any kind of variation to confirm if I’m listening to a live studio audience or a pre-recorded laugh track played over and over. Then, before I know it, I’m ignoring whatever I started watching.
I remember when shows told you at the start of an episode if it was filmed before a live studio audience after they tried filming it before a dead studio audience, but found that it was a downer to everyone involved as the audience was suspiciously mute and the smell was unbearable during the summer months.
It’s pretty much assumed that any laughter you hear during your favorite sitcoms are from a live audience, but in my opinion, some of the funniest shows like “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” or “Curb Your Enthusiasm” or “Dateline NBC” are hilarious without the aid of a studio audience or a laugh track.
When I watch newer shows like my wife and kid’s obsession of “Fuller House” on Netflix, I can’t but help to think the studio audience, if live, is made up of recently-cured amnesia patients as they seem suspiciously ecstatic over forced nostalgia.
The best example is when a character from the original show makes an appearance on the rebooted show, and the audience looses their collected poo-poo.
To properly set the scene, Uncle Jesse (“Full House” Uncle Jesse, not “Dukes of Hazard” Uncle Jesse) walks into the room and the reaction is translated to: “Whoooooooo!!! I remember him!!! Wooooooooo!!! He was in a previous episode that also made me go wooooooooo!!!!”
Other than that, everything sounds the same over and over again, no matter how funny or unfunny the character’s line happens to be. It’s like the script reads...
UNCLE JESSE: Not my hair!
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If the joke goes over really well during a show’s taping, I want to hear mixed with the audience laughing a guy crying out, “I’m wetting myself over here!” or a woman cackling like a bird. Then I would feel like my reaction to a joke is validated rather than feeling like the standard audience laugh is telling me that I should laugh, too--aka naudience laughsn.
Or even better, when a joke totally fails or during a tender “Awe” moment, I need to hear someone utter, “Lame!” or a teenager oblivious to everything saying, “Whatever” or a confused elderly person proclaiming a little too loud, “What? What did she say?! Turn the channel, Marjorie!”
Then I’d at least get a laugh out of a stupid moment that doesn’t belong in a sitcom. Save that tender smut for something like “A Million Little Things,” which is the rip-off show of “This is Us,” which is the rip-off show of “Thirty Something,” which is the rip-off show of “NYPD Blue” because time travel is real.
If the studio audience is real, then the producers must screen those eccentric people in some way—maybe telling them a knock-knock joke to gauge their reaction. Those who fail are escorted to the studio that houses the crazy talk-show audience, the game-show audience or infomercial audience, which are sub-genres of audience members to be explored for another column.
And normally I end these columns with a joke or a deep thought that just happens to be funny if you live in an asylum, but laziness is a crippling affliction and so I leave you with this...
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According to Hofmann is written by staff reporter Mark Hofmann of Rostraver Township. He hosts the “Locally Yours” radio show on WMBS 590 AM every Friday. His book, “Stupid Brain,” is available on Amazon.com.