Editor: I read P.J. Benarski's column "Let's Be Real Funny" in the May 5 edition of BROADCASTING & CABLE. I am responding because ironically, this is about the fourth article I've come across since January that blasts the laugh track (the other three were written before laugh-track inventor Charles Douglass' death).
I don't think the problem with sitcoms today is a mechanical laugh machine. The problem is that, on most sitcoms, there is very little to laugh at, whether it is a live audience or artificial laughter. Rather than Hollywood being so ashamed and secretive of the laugh track, they should be focusing their time and energy on—well, making situation comedy actually funny.
I work in the entertainment business, and, having attended tapings of numerous sitcoms, I know for a fact that most of the laughter you hear in the finished film or tape is "canned." Even shows like Friends and Frasier, which typically film in front of an audience, use heavy "sweetening." And "sweetening" is more of an insult to the viewer.
The "funny" thing about the laugh track is not the sound of the obviously fake laughter itself, but it is humorous just to see where the show's producers feel a laugh should be and how loud they want it to be.
"Laughter is the best medicine" as they say. The world can never laugh too much. And, since most of our sitcoms aren't providing enough laughter, why is it such a federal case to provoke real laughter with artificial laughter?
Kevin Boles, Los Angeles, (Received via e-mail)